Short Story in a Song— The Nerves’ “Hanging On The Telephone” by S W Lauden

Power Pop, punk, Punk Noir Magazine, S.W. Lauden, Short Story In A Song, The Nerves, Writing

A lot of classic power pop songs revolve around telephones. This was the late 70s and early 80s, back when a hushed conversation on the family landline was the only way for lovesick teens to stay connected during long, lonely nights. Or maybe they snuck off to a phone booth, like the persistent protagonist in “Hanging on the Telephone” by West Coast power pop pioneers, The Nerves. Blondie polished the song into pop gold, but the original version is the raw material in all its jagged glory. This song would make a great short story.

Our protagonist is desperate to revive a romance gone sour. Posted up at the phone booth across from his ex-girlfriend’s house, he watches from the shadows as her family comes and goes. His intentions might be innocent, but his aggressive methods suggest some darker impulses. It’s possible to imagine a lost verse where the police are called or the girl’s father physically intervenes. Lucky for our protagonist, the object of his affection finally answers instead. Overwhelmed, he implores her to come outside to find him. It looks like everything might be okay again…at least for now.

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S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

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Short Story in a Song— Sonic Youth’s “Pipeline/Kill Time” by S W Lauden

Music, post punk, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Story In A Song, Sonic Youth

You know how there are certain difficult books you’re supposed to read in your teens and twenties? Or at least have a copy on your bookshelf. I’m thinking of tomes like Finnegans Wake by James Joyce or Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Growing up, there were certain bands like that for me too. Sonic Youth topped my list. Everything about them fit my tastes, but I wasn’t ready to tackle their music. That is until I got 1987’s Sister. To this day, my favorite song from that album is “Pipeline/Kill Time.” It would make a great short story.

Forbidden love can be many things—intoxicating, exhausting, torturous—but taboo trysts often end terribly. Our protagonist is in one of those relationships, intensely entwined in a futureless affair. Given no alternative to breaking things off, he carves out a dark place in his soul where the two of them can be together without shame. It isn’t enough, but will have to suffice. He’ll keep his lover’s memory trapped there forever.

 

s w lauden

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.
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Short Story in a Song— The Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You” by S W Lauden

Music, post punk, punk, Punk Noir Magazine, S.W. Lauden, Short Story In A Song, The Soft Boys

 

There has long been a powerful political undercurrent to punk rock. Starting with The Sex Pistols and The Clash, it spiraled outward across decades with bands like Dead Kennedys, Propagandhi, Pussy Riot and Anti-Flag. When it comes to politically charged punk, “I Wanna Destroy You” by The Soft Boys is an undeniable anti-Fascist anthem (underscored by singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock’s 2017 video). Whatever your political views, this song would make a great short story.

Our narrator is a man at odds with himself. Disgusted by the violent culture surrounding him, he comes unglued. Righteous indignation fuels his fury, pushing his murderous imagination to new extremes. The thinking here is nothing new (“desperate times call for desperate measures,” “fight fire with fire,” etc.), but thoughts are different than actions. Does that make him a hero or villain? That’s for the reader to decide.

Previous Short Stories in a Song:

“Price Tag” by Sleater-Kinney

“The Obituaries” by The Menzingers

“Ever Fallen In Love” by Buzzcocks

 

s w laudenS.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA. 

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Short Story in a Song— Sleater-Kinney’s “Price Tag” by S.W. Lauden

post punk, punk, Punk Noir Magazine, S.W. Lauden, Short Story In A Song, Sleater-Kinney

I’ve always enjoyed a dose of anti-consumerism with my pop culture, whether it’s Fight Club, George Carlin’s “Stuff” routine or Mr. Robot. The darkest and most demented lines from Idiocracy still bring a smile to my face (even as I type this on my MacBook at the local Starbucks). The same goes for songs like “Lost in the Supermarket” by The Clash, “Royals” by Lorde, “Pay To Cum” by Bad Brains and “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The Verve. When it comes to grappling with consumer culture, “Price Tags” by Sleater-Kinney is a favorite of mine. It would make a great short story.

Our protagonist is a 9-to-5’er with mouths to feed and bills to pay. Miserably stocking shelves for minimum wage, she wonders if people like her will ever pull themselves out of this discount spiral. Everyday is Black Friday now, with working class families battling for basement “bargains” that they can’t afford and probably don’t need. She questions the hidden costs of all those cheap choices and knows it’s time for a reckoning. Maybe she’ll be the one to finally trade in her rewards card for a pitchfork and a torch.

Previous Short Stories in a Song:

The Obituaries” by The Menzingers

“Ever Fallen In Love” by Buzzcocks

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

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Short Story in a Song— The Menzingers’ “The Obituaries” by S.W. Lauden

Blue Collar Noir, Music, Non-fiction, post punk, punk, Punk Noir Magazine, S.W. Lauden, Short Story In A Song, The Menzingers

Coming of age. Exploring independence. Adulting.

These are well-worn themes in the arts. A quick glance at the bookshelf reveals classics like The Catcher in The Rye by J.D. Salinger, Beloved by Toni Morrison and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Likewise, many bands have explored similar territory with songs like “Suburban Home” by Descendents,” “Burnout” by Green Day or “Photosynthesis” by Frank Turner.” Caught somewhere on the coming of age continuum between King Dork by Frank Portman and “West Coast” by Fidlar, “The Obituaries” by Pennsylvania punks The Menzingers is a melodic anthem that belongs on that list. It would make a great short story.

Our young protagonist is on a rooftop in Brooklyn, the whole world and his whole life spread out before him. The possibilities are endless, but slightly overwhelming to his wasted mind. Prematurely obsessed with death and decay, he reluctantly stumbles forward into the exquisite trap of adulthood. He tries to convince himself that everything will be fine while a confidence-shaking chorus of self-doubt repeats in his mind. Time ticks by as this internal debate rages on, oblivious to both his nightmares and his dreams.

Previous Short Stories in a Song:

“Ever Fallen In Love” by Buzzcocks

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

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Short Story in a Song— Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen In Love” by S.W. Lauden

Art, buzzcocks, Manchester, Music, Non-fiction, post punk, punk, Punk Noir Magazine, S.W. Lauden, Short Story In A Song, Writing

I recently read an excellent essay called “Playing House” in Heather Havrilesky‘s latest collection, What If This Were Enough? In it, she recounts a doomed relationship from many years ago. He pretended to be something he was not—happy, together—and though she saw through it, she pretended to want to share in his fantasy. She knew it was self-destructive from the start, but burrowed deeper into their mutual misery.

As I read it, the song “Ever Fallen In Love” by Buzzcocks played on repeat in my mind. The simple lyrics are broad enough to be interpreted in many ways, but the underlying themes are universal. Our protagonist has strong feelings for somebody who doesn’t feel the same way. It creates an unhealthy imbalance in their relationship (real or imagined?) that leaves him feeling abused. He knows this infatuation will destroy him, but he clings to it in the belief that love alone will save him. It won’t.

More Short Stories in a Song:

“Waiting Room” by Fugazi

“Weird Boy Next Door” by The Muffs

“Touch Me I’m Sick” by Mudhoney

“Throwaways” by Beach Slang

“Nervous Breakdown” by Black Flag

Bio S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

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Short Story in a Song/ Noir Songs: Randy Newman’s In Germany Before The War by Paul D. Brazill

Euro Noir, Films, Music, Noir, Noir Songs, Paul D. Brazill, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Story In A Song

For many years, Randy Newman meant very little to me although he had always been in my peripheral vision.

I knew Alan Price’s version of ‘Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear’ from when I was a kid and I was aware of ‘Short People’ but he was someone on the horizon; a writer of novelty songs. Of no interest to someone who grew up on glam rock and punk, then.

However, at some point in the eighties, during one of my longest periods of unemployment, I borrowed Nina Simone’s ‘Baltimore’ from the public library thinking that her voice could transform shit into shinola no matter what the song was. It was a ragged and occasionally brilliant album but the, (Newman penned), song ‘Baltimore’ impressed.

Some time after that, I visited the town’s premier second-hand record shop ‘The Other Record Shop’ where Newman’s ‘Little Criminals’ was always in the fifty pence section. The cover didn’t appeal but I bought it anyway.

A classic album, of course, but the strongest impact was from this one song. Lush strings, plaintive piano,  an aching nostalgic feeling. I loved it though I played it without really listening. So, I played it again. And listened.

In Germany Before The War

There was a man who owned a store

In nineteen hundred thirty-four

In Düsseldorf …’

Lovely sepia images. Snapshots and memories of somewhere that you’ve never been.

And more:

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea ..’

A sad, sense of yearning. But then something changes :

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray

Reflected in his glasses

As he watches her…’

The nostalgic melody starts to seem sinister. The lovely strings are like malignant clouds spreading across the sky. The river seems dark and dangerous .The plaintive piano seems to be stalking.

No, you think. It can’t be.

But then:

We lie beneath the autumn sky

My little golden girl and I

And she lies very still’

And you know it IS.

It chilled me more than any song had before. And maybe even since.

In Germany Before The War, it turns out, was inspired by the classic 1931 Fritz Lang film M, which featured Peter Lorre as a serial child killer.

This in turn was inspired by Peter Kürten who was known as the Düsseldorf Ripper, the Vampire of Düsseldorf or the Monster of Düsseldorf and was executed in July 1931 after confessing to nine murders.

Here are the lyrics:

In Germany Before The War

There was a man who owned a store

In nineteen hundred thirty-four

In Düsseldorf

And every night at fine-o-nine

He’d cross the park down to the Rhine

And he’d sit there by the shore

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray

Reflected in his glasses

As he watches her

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray



I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

We lie beneath the autumn sky

My little golden girl and I

And she lies very still

This post first appeared at Jedidiah Ayres’ Hardboiled Wonderland as part of his NARRATIVE MUSIC series.