The Music of Sex, Lies & Soybeans
William "Blackie" Blackburn's taste in music is, not surprisingly, pretty much the same as mine, with a heavy emphasis on old-time rock-and-roll and soul from the 1970s, and frequent excursions into earlier and later decades. There is so much great music from this period, it is impossible to recognize all the talented artists—you're always gonna miss a few.
Notes / Disclaimers: First, I do not pretend to be an expert, so you will not see comments like "the mix ignores the drums" or "this is not funky enough." If I included it, it's because I love it, or, in some cases, because I hate it. Second, I try to limit the use of superlatives like "great" and "terrific." Third, I try not to repeat reviews and comments that are already on hundreds of other web sites. I'm not trying to create an "all encompassing" music review site. However, I do sometimes add comments about why I used that particular song / artist in the book, where you might find an interesting video of that song or artist, etc.
Here are the songs / artists included in Sex, Lies, and Soybeans (SLS), listed in the order they appear in the book:
CHICAGO / BEGINNINGS (1969) One of my all-time Top 3 bands (read on to find out who the others are). It seemed appropriate that "Beginnings" be the first song mentioned in SLS. Like many bands, their best music was on their early albums, with songs like "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" "25 or 6 to 4," and "Make Me Smile." Catch "Live at the Greek Theatre," the terrific DVD of their concert with Earth, Wind, and Fire, recorded in 2004. After 41 years, these guys are still going strong! A related band: Blood, Sweat, and Tears had a similar sound to Chicago, and produced some great music in 1968-69.
EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE / SEPTEMBER (1978) See comment about DVD above; EWF and Chicago go together like peas and carrots (y'all know what movie that's from). The SLS story begins on September 21st, thus the use of this wonderful song, which references that date in Chapter 1.
ROLLING STONES / HONKY TONK WOMAN (1969) I see Manta Ray as kind of a honky tonk woman, thus this song. I was never a big fan of the Stones, but hey, it's the Stones, the world's greatest rock and roll band. Catch the HBO Special of the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In it, U2, Fergie, and Mick Jagger do an amazing version of "Gimme Shelter." Watch Jagger, at the ripe old age of 66, hold his own as he struts with Fergie.
HEART / BARRACUDA (1977) A barracuda is not a Manta Ray, but it is a fish! Another of my all-time Top 3 bands. Early on, they did heavy metal and psychedelic rock; later they did power ballads. After 30+ years, Ann Wilson still sounds great, and can really belt out a song. Two recent live performances of note: Gretchen Wilson (no relation) and Alice in Chains doing "Barracuda" at the 2007 MTV Rock Honours, and the YouTube video of Carrie Underwood and Heart doing "Alone." PS: Thanks, Wilson sisters, for not letting Sarah Palin use "Barracuda" during her political campaign. PPS: Nancy Wilson, what ever happened to that book you were going to write?
WILLIE NELSON / ALWAYS ON MY MIND (1982) SLS is set in Austin, Texas, so how could I forget Willie Nelson?
THE FOUR SEASONS / MARLENA (1963) Who do you think Marlena Gutierrez is named after? The Four Seasons had many great pop singles. This is one of my favorites.
BLUE SWEDE / HOOKED ON A FEELING (1974) This song is perfect for this spot in the novel. It's a great song, but "unusual" enough that Morty objects to it.
LED ZEPPELIN: I was never a big fan, but they do make shrieking guitar sounds.
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL: I love this group. Great songs include "Lodi," "Green River," and "Bad Moon Rising."
JOHN DENVER: He made some beautiful music, and Bernard Sterling, a character in my novel "Searching for Steely Dan" who is a dead ringer for Denver, makes frequent reference to him.
ELVIS PRESLEY / JAILHOUSE ROCK (1957) I needed a very old song here, and hey, it's Elvis Presley, folks. How could I forget Elvis?
BUDDY HOLLY: He's mentioned in Chapter 7 and again in Chapter 49. He's a legend. I was 13 years old when he died. His death hit me hard.
SMOKEY ROBINSON AND THE MIRACLES / SPECIAL OCCASION (1968): This song fits perfectly at this point in the book. This is my first Motown reference. There were so many great Motown artists! My favorites were The Miracles, The Temptations, The Spinners, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder (sorry if I omitted your favorite). I was not a fan of The Supremes; too sugary for my tastes. The first time I saw The Miracles perform was on television. They were dressed to the hilt, doing "Ooh Baby Baby," and I was hooked. As a solo act, Smokey had a number of great singles, like "Cruisin'," "One Heartbeat," and "Just to See Her."
MANFRED MANN / DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY (1964) A great song, made even more famous in the movies Stripes (1981) and L.A. Story (1991).
ROSE ROYCE / CAR WASH (1976) Clean the house and wash the car? Okay, it's a reach, but this is a great song by a relatively obscure group. Great movie, too.
DOOBIE BROTHERS / WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES (1979) This song fits perfectly at this point in the story, and Michael McDonald's voice is terrific. Other great Michael McDonald performances: "Pretzel Logic," done live with Donald Fagan of Steely Dan at the New York Rock and Soul Revue: Live at the Beacon (1992), and "Right to the End" a 1998 duet with Phoebe Snow from Snow's I Can't Complain album.
CAPTAIN AND TENNILLE / MUSKRAT LOVE (1976) I needed a song that would piss off Blackie. Other contenders: "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro and "Feelings" by Morris Albert.
TEMPTATIONS / AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG (1966) David Ruffin, their best lead singer, did this one, "My Girl," and a number of other hits. The original five Temptations were outstanding. When members left and new members came in ... not nearly as good.
SPINNERS / ONE OF A KIND LOVE AFFAIR (1973) A highly underrated Motown group. Other hits include "Could it be I'm Falling in Love?" and "It's a Shame."
MICHAEL JACKSON / WANNA BE STARTING SOMETHING (1983) What can you say about the King of Pop? Thriller (1983) was one of the best albums of all time; Off The Wall (1979) was also great. Do not miss the 2010 DVD This Is It, a great compilation of, and tribute to, Michael's music and dancing talent.
THE OSMONDS / ONE BAD APPLE (1970) I needed another song that would piss off Blackie. Who better than The Osmonds?
STEELY DAN / JOSIE (1978) Blackie may think this is the best tune they ever did, but I can't decide—so much of their stuff is great. The Dan is another of my all-time Top Three bands. I obviously like these guys; hell, I wrote a book about a guy obsessed with them. Their music and lyrics are intelligent, complex, and sometimes indecipherable ... that's why Dan Fans love them. Their early music (1972-1981) is exceptional, and gets much radio airplay. Their later music, beginning with Two Against Nature, is also very good ("Jack of Speed" is a favorite of mine) but does not get much airplay. Donald Fagan also did three very successful solo albums that contained many excellent songs ("The Nightfly," "Tomorrow's Girls," "The Great Pagoda of Funn"), and Walter Becker did two less successful, but still good, solo albums, containing some excellent songs ("Book of Liars"). Check out the Plush TV Two Against Nature DVD from Image Entertainment.
BOB SEGER AND THE SILVER BULLET BAND / AGAINST THE WIND (1980) Seems to me that Blackie and Theo are the kind of guys who are often running "against the wind." Another excellent band.
FRANZ SCHUBERT / 8TH SYMPHONY-UNFINISHED (1822) I played this on bass clarinet in orchestra class at North Miami (Florida) Junior High School.
WARREN HILL: A great jazz artist. Check out Devotion, an album released in 1993.
10cc / THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE (1977) This title, modified slightly, fit perfectly.
BACHMAN TURNER OVERDRIVE / YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET (1974) Another title that fit perfectly.
THE FLAMINGOS / I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU (1959) Yet another title that fit perfectly.
THE WHO / WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN (1971) This song seems to fit; Blackie is the kind of guy who is easy to fool, and it's the best song The Who ever did. "Eminence Front" is another great song, with a great video.
CORNELIUS BROTHERS AND SISTER ROSE / TOO LATE TO TURN BACK NOW (1972) Another song that seemed to fit the story line. "Treat Her Like a Lady" was another hit from this underrated group.
AMBROSIA / HOW MUCH I FEEL (1978) A beautiful song.
LESLEY GORE / IT'S MY PARTY (1963) This title, modified, fit the story perfectly.
BARRETT STRONG / MONEY (1959) Noteworthy in that this was Motown's first hit. FYI, Pink Floyd also had a great song called "Money," which started out in 7/8 time, switched to 8/8 time, and then switched back to 7/8 time. A unique song by a great band.
TAVARES / IT ONLY TAKES A MINUTE (1975) and CHUBBY AND THE TURNPIKES / I KNOW THE INSIDE STORY (1967) A great, underrated group. I first heard "I Know the Inside Story" when I was a student in Boston, and it blew me away. Tavares also had a hit with "More Than a Woman" which was featured in the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever.
THE BEATLES: It's the Beatles, folks. How could I forget the Beatles?
QUEEN / WE WILL ROCK YOU (1977) In this chapter, Blackie's world is getting rocked. Queen did lots of great stuff. Freddy Mercury was a sensational performer. Their music added greatly to the movie Wayne's World (1992).
BILLY PRESTON / NOTHING FROM NOTHING (1974) Another underrated performer, who collaborated with the Beatles in the late 1960s. "Will It Go Round in Circles," and "Outa-Space" were two other hits by Preston.
STEVIE WONDER / DON'T YOU WORRY 'BOUT A THING (1973) A title that seems to fit the story line. I consider Wonder and Michael Jackson to be the two greatest solo performers of the modern era. His early 1970s albums Talking Book, Innervisions, and Fulfillingness First Finale were all terrific. Later, In Square Circle was another very good album.
BILL HALEY AND THE COMETS / SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL (1954) A rock-and-roll classic whose title fit perfectly.
BEE GEES / HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART (1971) These guys, true industry giants, have been together since 1958! This song's title and message fit the story perfectly.
BILLY OCEAN / WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH (1986) A terrific song whose title fit the story perfectly. "Caribbean Queen" was another hit by Ocean.
FREDDY FENDER / WASTED DAYS AND WASTED NIGHTS (1975) Like the Bee Gee's song, this one's title and message also fit perfectly. Another great, underrated artist. "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" was another hit by Fender.
CARPENTERS / IT'S GOING TO TAKE SOME TIME (1972) Yet another title that fit perfectly, and Karen Carpenter had one of the most beautiful voices ever.
THE EAGLES / THE LONG RUN (1979) One more title that fit perfectly. Great group; lots of great music.
THE BEACHBOYS / SURFER GIRL (1963) I re-wrote chapter 48 after I decided what role this song would play in the book (I'm not giving anything away). Another great group; lots of great music.
STEVIE RAY VAUGHN / TIGHTROPE (1989) The book is based in Austin. How could I forget this great artist?
BUDDY HOLLY / TRUE LOVE WAYS (1960) This title seems to capture Blackie's melancholy mood at this point in the story. Holly is the only artist to have two references in the book.
LOS LONELY BOYS / HEAVEN (2004) These guys are from San Angelo, Texas. Other than the fact that it's a great song, I wanted to demonstrate that I do listen to "recent music." Catch the episode of CMT Crossroads (Season 4, Episode 2, June 18, 2005) where they sing with Ronnie Milsap.