RARA-AVIS: Hard-boiled music

Tue, 28 Jul 1998 09:25:18 -0400 <<I saw a book at the library a while ago which came with a music CD
to listen to, with separate tracks for different parts of the book and
different settings. I was wondering if anyone had heard what music
different classic authors in the genre were fans of, and what are some good
author/musician pairings.>>

I'm uninformed about authors and their music preferences, but Brian Long's
note prompts me to mention a possible thread I've been thinking about. As a
followup to my note about hard-boiled non-fiction, I've been considering
hard-boiled music. (Why do I pursue these weird themes? I dunno. It's in my
nature, I guess. My wife would simply roll her eyes and say I'm goofy.)

Side-stepping the whole gangsta rap scene, which I basically know nothing
about, we can all probably find a variety of jazz works -- including plenty
of standards -- that have some sort of hard-boiled association. The first
that pops to my mind is "Harlem Nocturne," which has so effectively served
as the theme music to the Mike Hammer TV series. But to stray from jazz a
bit, I've been mulling over various pop and rock songs and musicians that
fit the hard-boiled mold.

This is a bit tricky. For example, "Mack the Knife" comes to mind
immediately as a likely candidate, but the versions by Bobby Darrin and
Frank Sinatra that I've heard are so jaunty, I think more of Damon Runyon
than Dashell Hammet.

Likewise, some songs by British writer/performer Robyn Hitchcock have
hard-boiled elements -- "My Wife and My Dead Wife" and "The Veins of the
Queen," for instance -- but the performance by Hitchcock and his band, The
Egyptians, turns these tunes into black humor ("humour," I suppose, for the
Brits), veering away from the hard-boiled world.

More on-target are a number of songs by Warren Zevon, best known for
"Werewolves of London." More recently, on his album MUTINEER, Zevon
featured a song titled "Rottweiler Blues," co-written by Carl Hiaasen. The
narrator keeps "a Glock in the bedside table, a Kevlar vest for trips to
the store. . . He'll be mauling with intent to maim/Don't knock on the door
if you don't know my rottweiler's name." I think Hiaasen co-wrote another
song on the album, "Seminole Bingo."

On the album MR. BAD EXAMPLE, the narrator of the title track starts small
-- operating from his father's carpet store, he womanizes various
housewives and auctions off customer's furniture -- moves into bigger cons
until he goes international -- pauperizing Aboriginals working his
Australian opal mines. Elsewhere, in "Angel Dressed In Black," the song
describes a self-deluding loser's love for his drug-pushing junkie

There are others, but this note has gone long enough. If this post
generates any interest, I'll mention others. I'd like to see
recommendations by other folks on the list. -- Duane

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