No One You Know Playlist
1. Warren Zevon, “Carmelita,” from the original album, entitled Warren Zevon. At the book launch for No One You Know, legendary rock journalist Ben Fong-Torres showed up and sang a few lines of this song, just as he does in the book.
2. Rod Stewart, “Reason to Believe,” an old Tim Hardin tune which appeared on Rod Stewart’s classic 1971 album, Every Picture Tells a Story. It was the B-side to this single, “Maggie May,” which initially turned Rod Stewart into a household name.
3. Cat Stevens, “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” This song also originally appeared in 1971. It was featured in the great movie Harold & Maude, which, like No One You Know, celebrated the foggier side of the San Francisco Bay Area.
4. Cowboy Junkies, “A Horse In the Country” The original version appeared on the Black-Eyed Man album. It’s about a girl whose life isn’t so great, but she has a horse in the country, and she gets to see him “every second Sunday.” She dreams of getting on her horse and riding away.
5. Townes Van Zant, “To Live’s to Fly” This can be found on the soundtrack to the great Townes Van Zandt documentary, Be Here to Love Me, which was directed by Margaret Brown, a classmate of mine from Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama. Guy Clark did a beautiful version of this song a few years back on the tribute disc “Poet.”
6. Bob Dylan, “Most of the Time,” from Dylan’s 1989 album, “Oh, Mercy.” When people talk about their favorite Dylan songs, they tend to go back to his earliest albums. For me, though, this mid-career gem is one of his best.
7. Journey, “Lights.” This song first appeared on Journey’s breakthrough album, Infinity, and has been playing ever since on San Francisco radio stations. As with “Sweet Home Alabama” in my home state, and anything by Billy Joel in New York City, you can rarely turn on a car radio in the Bay Area and not eventually hear “Lights.” At the most basic level, you have to admire a song that works so hard to rhyme the words “city” and “bay.” Years ago, my husband and I put it an offer on an old, red, three-story house in the Outer Richmond district of San Francisco, where the band lived during their heyday. We didn’t get the house, but we ended up in the same neighborhood, a setting that has deeply influenced my novels.
8. Kings of Convenience, “Cayman Islands,” from the underappreciated 2004 gem Riot on an Empty Street. This is a song about memory, how single moments can seem so insignificant, only to be invested with meaning years later.
9. Lloyd Cole, “Rattlesnakes,” from the album of the same title. My husband and I saw several Lloyd Cole shows when we were living in New York City, and we see him every time he comes out to San Francisco. In No One You Know, Ellie is reminded of a line from this song while wandering around a Paris graveyard with Lila.
10. Lucinda Williams, “Here in California,” from the 1998 Kate Wolf tribute album, Treasures Left Behind. A melancholy song about my adopted state, where “the hills turn brown in the summertime.”
11. Billy Bragg and Wilco, “California Stars,” from Mermaid Avenue. An antidote to number 10: this one will make you feel good about California.
12. Nick Cave, “Into My Arms,” from the 1997 Nick Cave disc The Boatman’s Call. This song has a special place in my heart, as my husband played it for me many times on our cross-country road trip from Arkansas to New York City the same year it was released. On that trip we ran into a blizzard, got stuck in motel called The Bucksnort Inn on the opening day of hunting season in Bucksnort, Tennessee, and kept my husband’s Mitsubishi pickup truck running on love and hot chocolate.
13. Ron Sexsmith, “April After All,” from the 1997 disc Other Songs. I have a thing for Sexsmith’s voice, and I think more people should listen to him.
14. Richard Hawley, “Just Like the Rain,” from the wonderful 2005 disc, Coles Corner. Although this song came out just a few years ago, it conjures a musical world from another time.
15. Mountain Goats, “This Year,” from The Sunset Tree.
“I’m gonna make it through this year if it kills me.” Haven’t we all felt that way?
16. Ryuichi Sakamoto, “Put Your Hands Up” Sakamoto’s 2000 album “BTTB” includes this and two of my other all-time favorite piano instrumentals, “Energy Flow” and “Railroad Man.”
17. Walty, “Traveling Salesman Blues,” from Let it Out. Walty is a great a San Francisco musician who will actually respond to your emails. A song about feeling twenty-one years old, and waking up one morning only to discover that you’re forty-three. I’ve noticed that as I age, so do my narrators: Gracie in the The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress is twenty-something, Jenny in Dream of the Blue Room is 31, Abby in The Year of Fog is 32, Ellie in No One You Know is in her mid-thirties, and the narrator of my novel-in-progress is coming up on 40. I don’t keep a diary, but I suppose my novels comprise a fictionalized journal of female protagonists, growing up and growing older.
18. Young Marble Giants, “A Brand New Life,” which appears on the stripped-down classic 1980 album Colossal Youth. Just a guitar, bass, and a voice–simple, sublime, and timeless.
19. Sugar dePalma, “I Was in Love.” I met Joe Costa, the bassist and vocalist for this San Francisco band, at his wonderful shoe store in the Castro, de la Sole. I’d bought several pairs of dangerously tall shoes from him before I discovered that he was a musician.
20. Gram Parsons, “Return of the Grievous Angel.” This one takes me right back to my Southern roots. “I remember something you once told me, and I’ll be damned if it did not come true…” Perfect accompaniment to road trips, whiskey, and memories of all the boys you really shouldn’t have had anything to do with.
21. Young Marble Giants, “Brand New Life,” from Colossal Youth. A song about starting over, with a beat–just in case you want to dance at your book club meeting.
22. Barbary Coasters: “The Cruel Sea.” This is a surf instrumental by a terrific local band. I included it for double-header book clubs, as a segue into The Year of Fog.