“But the real flaw lies in the story’s continual explicit references to specific songs. You can perhaps get away with this if you’re writing about well-known canonical material like Dylan or the Beatles [sic], but name-checking four Evanescence album tracks within the space of a page as a means of describing a train of emotional thought runs the risk of losing the reader’s engagement unless they’re as equally obsessed with the band as the character is, of course,” quote from Paul Raven reviewing in “Strange Horizons”
It’s 2007 and, as the above reviewer suggests, am I really limited to writing about Bob Dylan or The Beatles if I want to write stories or poems that touch on rock music?
The story Paul Raven refers to is “First and Last and Always” included in “Extended Play” published by Elastic Press
“First and Last and Always” has been described as a story of “heartbreak and record collecting” and asks if we ever really get over our first love or merely adjust to its absence. Here, the section the reviewer writes-off as “name-checking four Evanescence album tracks” (even though she’s watching a live show!):-
“…Voices joined in with Amy Lee’s vocals.
My mind’s eye saw Oliver as I had last seen him: neck at an impossible angle, body slumped but stiff, chair kicked to one side, feet not touching the floor. It was an image I’d never lose. My heart skipped a beat. I grabbed the barrier, rode the rush of anxiety. But the panic attack didn’t come.
The crowd had got louder, joining in the chorus of “Going Under”. I didn’t join in but it gave me a focus. The crowd’s singing and arm-waving seemed to give the song a faster tempo and an urgency not in the studio versions. Finally, ready to join in, I was too late.
The collective mood mellowed with the quieter “Taking Over Me”. This was the song I’d add to my map: love lost, mourned, regained. I felt a chill on the back of my neck. I turned to look back. Three rows behind and about twenty people to my right, a tall, dark-haired man was looking in my direction, then got lost in the movement of the crowd. I shrugged: it probably wasn’t me he was looking at.
I focused on the stage. I sensed, rather than heard, the band launch into “Everybody’s Fool”. I remembered my ring and how alive Oliver had seemed when he gave it to me, the eagerness he had when he slid it on my finger. Why had he thrown that away? Wasn’t it strong enough to prevent him from being overwhelmed enough to take his own life? I felt tears well and pinched my ring finger. I didn’t care if I tore flesh, I was determined not to give in.
The cover of Korn’s “Thoughtless” always turned my thoughts to Ciaran and the usual how the hell did I ever get involved? I knew it was pointless, the past can’t be changed, but that doesn’t stop the mind running through a thousand what if permutations.
As strings swirled and surged through “My Last Breath”, my palms became clammy. My heart fluttered into a faster beat. I went light-headed, even though I hadn’t had a drink. I grabbed the crowd barrier as my knees weakened. My eyes caught the snaking movement of a wire as I bowed my head. I focused solely on that. All I could do was wait for it to pass….”
So, do I really have to stick to Dylan and The Beatles or should reviewers move on with the times and accept that it’s OK to write about today’s bands? And has no one else out there really heard of Evanescence?? Thoughts welcomed…
By the way “Extended Play” won the Best Anthology Award at the British Fantasy Society’s FantasyCon last weekend.