Guest Post: Travels & Travails Of Small Minds (Song Essay)




Today I’m welcoming Daniel Falatko to my blog. Daniel has written the following music-related guest post to go along with his book Travels & Travails of Small Minds. Enjoy!

Travels & Travails Of Small Minds Song List by Daniel Falatko

My brand new tome, which comes with an unwieldy title that can be acronymed as T&TOSM, takes place in a number of disparate locations. Some of these places are fictional. Others are ever so real. I’ve never written anything previously that wasn’t 100% static in location (NYC only), so easing through the scenery changes wasn’t quite so simple and made me gain a keen amount of respect for someone like the dude who wrote the Bourne series, constantly jumping from one exotic location to the next and having to capture the vibe of each as the plot unfolds.

Like always, music helps. I already wrote about the whole albums I was bumping in order to get through T&TOSM, but there were some location-specific individual songs I used as well in order to sink into each location in the book.

There may have been others that I’ve forgotten, so spare us with the “Hey how can you write about the Lower East Side without name checking the Velvet Underground?!” dogma, ok please?

Below find a list of each location covered on the list, plus the songs that helped vibe out that location.

Lower Manhattan

The Lovin’ Spoonful, Summer In The City

Nothing captures an NYC August like this Spoonful classic.

The Strokes, Reptilian

“The room is on fire while she’s fixin’ her hair” Ah, to be young and dating part time models from the East Village.

The Grateful Dead, Shakedown Street

Paranoia. Desolate urban decay. Open air drug markets. Somehow a Californian hippy named Jerry managed to capture this vibe a lot better than a bunch of native GBGB’s 70s punk bands ever could.

The Rolling Stones, Miss You

This song glides like the 7 Train through Queens on a Saturday night, full of dressed up people heading into the city.

Whiskeytown, Bar Lights

Bars are open until 4 AM in NYC, and then there are the after hours clubs. Ryan Adams seemed to know this quite well in his heyday.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

VietNam, Welcome To My Room

Captures the hedonist, pioneering spirit of the Burg as it was in its early 2000s, pre-safe space prime.

DIIV, Healthy Moon

Have you ever watched a full moon rise over McCarren Park? Well, you never have to if you listen to this song.

Son Volt, L Train

Celebrating the lifeblood of the neighborhood, the eternally fucked up but much loved L Train.

Jesse Malin, Brooklyn

Captures perfectly the pouty sense of hurt Manhattan enthusiasts have felt as they’ve watched all of their friends, girlfriends, and fun move migrate across the East River.

Beach Fossils, Window View

This track really hits at the surreal, kaleidoscopic possibilities that lay just outside any apartment window on a sunny weekend day in the Burg.


The Yardbirds, For Your Love

Like a girl in a DayGlo miniskirt striding through a grey council estate, The Yardbirds captured that moment when a black and white postwar London ran full on into the psychedelic swinging 60s

Babyshambles, Albion

“Talk over gin and teacups and leaves on the lawn, violence in bus stops and the pale thin girl with eyes forlorn” Say no more, Peter.

Ride, Leave Them All Behind

Trippy and defiant yet still gentile, this is swirling British paisley rock in its purest and most potent form.

Vashti Bunyan, Diamond Day

Capturing the essence of the ancient English countryside with a simplistic guitar line and a lyric about seeds and grass.

Led Zeppelin, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp

Goin’ on up the country, English rock dude style. I wonder how many drunken roadies fell in the fire when Jimmy and Robert came up with this one while sipping hot cider on a cool country night in the North Country?


Serge Gainsbourg, Bonnie & Clyde

Serge’s voice on this track is what it sounds like when you’re getting off the Paris Metro on a gloomy winter day and the most gorgeous person you’ve ever seen is gliding past. You lock eyes for an instant. In that moment you envision a kiss, a shared apartment, a commitment, children. Your soulmate’s lips curl into a lingering smile. You take a drag off a cigarette. It’s all too much effort. And besides, this moment is more potent than a lifetime together. You keep walking. You don’t turn back.

Francoise Hardy, Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles

Sisters of Mercy, Black Planet

When you’ve been on a redeye transatlantic flight, sleepless, watching out the plane window during the darkest hours before dawn. “So blaaaaaaacckkkkkkk all over Europe…..”

Breath Of Life, Nasty Cloud

If you’ve never been in a Berlin after-hours club in the mid-80s where goth chicks smoked angle dust in corners as mascara ran down their cheeks, then just listen to this song.

Can, Mushroom

Slinky and strange and propulsive like an empty neutral-country expressway to your skull lined with exit signs in foreign script and the glittering skylines of cities you’ve never heard of.


Hawkwind, Master Of The Universe

There’s a reason The Hawk was massively popular in Eastern Europe in the 70s at a time when Pink Floyd was ruling the West. A poor man’s Floyd, mired in the dirt of the populace but aching to soar, Hawkwind’s sci-fi-tinged, scorched spacescape anthems just resonated better when smuggled behind the Iron Curtain than a bunch of genteel dudes in paisley sitting backstage discussing the prices of Aston Martins.

The Rolling Stones, 2,000 Light Years From Home

Although allegedly about space travel, Keef and crew were far too earthy to really mean it. Instead, this is an anthem for being stoned in a strange country far from home, longing for something more than just a lover, just a home, something just out of reach in another realm.

Teatr Dada, Das Produkt

The cold, dead land of Gogol and Rasputin, of Stalin-era architecture and kiosk counters behind bulletproof glass, where tenement blocks stretch for miles under crushing winter skies. This song is Russian nihilist glee in a bottle.

Forest Stream, The Crown of Winter

Black metal with a theatrical bent, like if Kiss grew up in Siberia. Representing grim and frostbitten kingdoms everywhere, Forest Stream’s mission to capture the essence of a February night in a land near the Tundra. When this track storms into its final march around the ten minute mark, like fur-clad armies facing off on a desolate winter plain beneath a crescent moon, they truly succeed in their quest.

Boney M., Rasputin

Can a feel-good disco number about a dissolute, dead-eyed mystic who single-handedly caused the downfall of the world’s mightiest empire really reach number one on the European charts? Why yes it can.

If you listen to the above tracks in order, you can get a feel for the locational arc of the novel. Perhaps the music and the book will even synch up like Dark Side Of The Moon and the Wizard of Oz. Or perhaps this track sequence only make sense to the author and you would instead be hearing a disassociated jumble of noise? Whatever the case, definitely check out the obscure 60s English blues band Led Zeppelin and the criminally overlooked Rolling Stones instead of going right to the acknowledged superstars like Teatr Dada and Vashti Bunyan.

And no, I didn’t once listen to the Velvet Underground.

Daniel Falatko

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