Season 2: Mixtape
Music is a huge part of my life, and a really big part of Alone: A Love Story. Especially in Season 2!
I reference music all the time, you can find song lyrics woven into all of my writing and my art. I wish I could say I've retained anything I've learned in my 40+ years, but the only thing stored for good in my brain is song lyrics. All of them. Don't challenge me to name that tune because I will WIN.
In the blog posts I wrote for each episode, I talk a lot about the music you hear in the podcast.
Here they all are in one place for you — the music behind the words of Season 2!
And, I even made a Spotify playlist for you (find it at the bottom of this post!)
Music mentioned in Chapter 11 - Hold it Together
1. Hard Times - Yahenda
In the podcast, I like to use leitmotifs for certain recurring characters, but in Season 1 there wasn't a leitmotif for me. This season demanded it, and Hard Times by the artist Yahenda was my choice.
I feel connected to the lyrics, which mirror especially this particular time in my life, when I used alcohol and sex to deal with the tremendous blow I felt I'd been dealt when I found out my husband had an affair and everything I knew to be real and good was suddenly all gone in one swift instant.
This song is like a mantra.
Not because I need a man to tell me everything's going to be okay, but because we ALL need to tell ourselves — and each other — that after these hard times are over, things will get better, honest.
2. We Become Our Own Wolves - Rae Spoon
I love this song, and I also (obviously) love the title. It's so evocative. At this point in my life I really did feel like I became my own wolf. Rae nailed it on the head. That feeling of devouring ourselves when we don't know what else to do or are powerless to stop it.
Music mentioned in Chapter 12 - Half-life
There is none. How unlike me!
3. Past in Present - Feist
There's a little vignette in this chapter called Past in Present, which is the title of one of my favourite Feist songs. It just seemed to fit perfectly, this scene of seeing these collages that The Ex-husband had made of us when we were younger.
To have our happy past displayed in front of me, there in that darkest of present moments (the first six months of our separation) was just a bit too much. When past and present collide, it's a killer of a thing, you know? I know you know.
4. Wild Animal Print - Grand Analog
The vignette called When She's Here makes me so happy I cry every single time I hear it. It's a series of mini-vignettes about Birdie at different ages. In one of the little moments, I talk about how Birdie and I are walking in the park and end up being in one of my pal's videos.
That pal is Odario Williams, now the host of CBC Music After Dark, but also of the band Grand Analog.
You can see Birdie and I in this video, and I have a cast because I'd just broken my arm playing soccer the week before! That didn't stop me from dancing though. No way.
5. Heaven Can Wait - Charlotte Gainsbourg
In the vignette A Pretty Sad Girl, I take you along with me into the bowels of St. Mike's, the old hospital I was born in and also go to get my MRIs in.
I also talk a lot about how I hear music in the MRI. Several years ago, I made a radio documentary about hearing music in the MRI for the show I run called Spark. For this vignette, I cribbed a bit from that script (or that script cribbed from my original Alone manuscript? Hard to say, but it's all me anyway!)
I think it's fascinating that some of us hear music in the MRI and some people just hear noise. In 2009, French musician Charlotte Gainsbourg released an entire album inspired by her experiences inside of an MRI. She even called the album "IRM" which is French for MRI.
When I first heard the album, I couldn't believe how it transported me back inside the machine. I love how she took the rhythm of the magnet's coils and built on it. So cool. The video for this song creeps me out though. I'd suggest just listening to this one!
Music mentioned in Chapter 14 - Adrift
6. Help Me Make it Through The Night - Sammi Smith
Sweet stories about sweet guys. One I suspended the "one and done" policy for, and with the other, I upheld it.
He'd served his purpose. He helped me make it through another night. Now he'd be a memory of a time where for a few hours I forgot I was a grown up, with all its attendant responsibilities and heartache.
That's a little nod to Help Me Make It Through The Night, a song I grew up hearing a lot of, since my mom played it over and over. I think it was on an LP called Country Gold, one of those compilation albums that also had things like The Gambler and 9 to 5.
You know, I have a recording on cassette of my sister singing this song at age five, which is a TOTALLY inappropriate song for a little kid to sing.
Yesterday is dead and gone, and tomorrow's out of sight
And it's sad to be alone, help me make it through the night
The lyrics basically sum up these years of my life! Unfortunately.
7. Streets of Fire - Bruce Springsteen
PG24 and I argued about the best Springsteen album and you hear me assert that it's 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town. I love that album and my favourite song from it is Streets of Fire, gee I wonder why.
I live now, only with strangers
I talk to only strangers
I walk with angels that have no place
And don't look at my face
Don't come to my place
'Cause I'm strung out on my wire, cross
Streets of fire
That verse just sums up this whole chapter, doesn't it?
I've always had nothing but admiration for The Boss, even though I don't love every song of his, that's for sure.
There are a whole bunch of musicians I'd list before him on a list of my favourites, but when he gets it right, he gets it sooooo right.
This album is the most consistent Springsteen album for me. My most favourite songs of his are on other albums but they're always sandwiched between a lot of meh.
Darkness is listenable and wild and mature all at once. It's signature dumb car metaphors and also killer lines like Oh, nothing is forgotten or forgiven when it's your last time around. Plus, he looks like a total babe on the album cover.
Music mentioned in Chapter 15 - The New World
8. Way You Move - Outkast
There's a sweet vignette in this chapter called Dancing, all about how The Husband and I loved to dance and how we danced in every room of every place we ever lived.
In the first condo we bought together after we married, we got a new stereo and there we danced to Outkast and Justin Timberlake CDs in the big open-concept loft, like we were the only two people at a club.
Man, when that double Outkast album came out in 2003, we were all bananas for it. Everyone loved the hit single Hey Ya! but The Husband and I could not get enough of Way You Move. And the video for that song is the best too, check it out. I love the choreography SO much and the way they mixed old styles with new. We just thought it was the coolest back then.
9. Rock Lobster - The B52s
Once we danced to "Rock Lobster" falling on the ground each time they sang "down, down, down…" just like when we were teenagers.
If you don't know what I'm talking about there, it's this: every time The B-52s song Rock Lobster would play at a club or a school dance or wherever, at a certain part of the song ("down, down … ") everyone would fall down and lie on the dance floor. Seriously, this is what we all did. Lie on the gross floor of the school gym and the even grosser floor of a dance club or bar. I don't know where this tradition came from, so I just looked it up! And now you can too.
Rock Lobster is one of those songs, you know? A novelty party song you don't think much of until you hear it again and it's like: How long is this song? Was it always SO long? What do you mean it came out in 1978? I totally thought it was the 80s! How did such a weird and wonderful song like this ever become a hit?
I'll tell you!
Rock Lobster runs almost seven minutes long (6:50 to be exact!) which is pretty long, especially when the last half of it is made-up sea creature sounds.
It did not come out in the 80s contrary to our sense of the 80s. Written and first released as a single in 1978 (that version was only five minutes), it was released again in 1979 as the lengthy version we all know and love. Two extra minutes to pack in some more sea creatures and clever non-sequiturs!
It wasn't just a cult classic either, Rock Lobster cracked the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and get this — it went to #1 in Canada in the spring of 1980.
Canadians have a long history of liking oddball musicians with interesting voices and impressionistic lyrics (Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Gord Downie, to name only a small few!) so I'm not surprised that we loved the wacky magic that is Rock Lobster all the way to #1.
Also in music nerd news about this song, did you know that when John Lennon heard it for the first time, he was inspired to get back into making music after taking five years off to raise Sean?
That means that Rock Lobster is the reason we now have Double Fantasy, Lennon and Ono's beautiful and strange masterpiece, and one of my favourite albums of all time. Thank you, The B-52s!
Music mentioned in Chapter 16 - Sidelines
10. Sure Thing - Miguel
This vignette always brings the song Sure Thing by Miguel into my head. It was actually Hot Actor who introduced me to Miguel, and then I became obsessed with his music.
Fun fact: Miguel himself was 26 at the time this song came out. Which makes him the same age as all The Babies I was dating. Haha! Heh.
I LOVE this song, but lyrically it is the opposite of the sentiment of this vignette by the same name. Sure Thing the song is all about commitment, and my vignette — yeah, not so much.
Instead, it's a perfect snapshot of the single life. This is what so many people think is so great? Sitting around in sexy underwear waiting for someone who may or may not bail on you last minute? No thanks.
I would trade every exciting thing about being single to sit around in track pants (with sexy stuff underneath don't get me wrong) just hanging out with the same person night after night. I think commitment is the sexiest thing.
Music mentioned in Chapter 17 - The Lonely
11. Stay (Faraway, So Close) - U2
I end the vignette called Solo Time by quoting the U2 song Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
Leaving me alone. Really alone. While two-thirds of my little family live across the street. Faraway, so close. As I navigate my own solo time.
U2 cribbed it too, borrowing the title from the Wim Wenders film Faraway, So Close! which they wrote it for (and were nominated for an Academy Award for also!)
It's a solid U2 song, with some pretty good lines. My favourite being:
Red lights, grey morning, you stumble out of a hole in the ground
A vampire or a victim, It depends on who's around.
Not bad, Bono.
12. It Ain't Me, Babe - Bob Dylan
This whole vignette is about the 1964 song It Ain't Me, Babe by Bob Dylan.
It's about my imagined idea of the romantic relationship between Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. It's about how The Husband always requested I play him "the sad, sad song" and how, even though there was one particular linesitting there like a pit of despair in the third verse, I would always sing it for him.
Go melt back in the night, babe, everything inside is made of stone.
There's nothing in here moving, and anyway I'm not alone.
GAH. Kill me now! Is this the biggest kiss-off song ever written? Discuss.
For most of my life I assumed that this song was about Baez, but turns out Dylan wrote it about his girlfriend Suze Rotolo. Rotolo is the one in that amazing photo on the cover of Dylan's 1963 album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. It's such a natural, beautiful photo.
Dylan's own description of the first time he ever saw Suze Rotolo, is just THE BEST. In his memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, he wrote:
She was the most erotic thing I'd ever seen. She was fair skinned and golden haired, full-blood Italian. The air was suddenly filled with banana leaves.
The air was filled with banana leaves!! So good. Hard to believe four years later he was like, nah and wrote It Ain't Me, Babe about her. AGGGG LOVE, am I right?
Music mentioned in Chapter 18 - He Exists
13. Wrong - Yahenda and 14. You Really Got a Hold On Me - The Miracles
There's a lot of music in this chapter! You hear The Man with the White Shirt sing his song Wrong and then I sing The Miracles' You Really Got a Hold on Me, and in real life we sang a whole bunch of other songs together too. All part of the magic.
How could I not believe God listened to me?
15. Sweetest Taboo - Sade
Oh, The Man with the White Shirt. Hoo boy.
At one point I say "Man, this day is so nice!" and he says "I know, it's like Christmas-time nice!" which seems in the moment like just about the best thing anyone has ever said out loud. It's probably a line. He probably says and does all these same things with all the girls, but I've already checked into La-La-Land so it all feels as real and special as I think it is.
I WAS in La-La-Land! I mean, you heard me, right? Totally besotted.
This moment in the story reminds me of that line in The Sweetest Taboo by Sade, the patron saint of Alone: A Love Story —
Every day is Christmas, and every night is New Year's Eve
This whole song is basically how I felt and feel about White Shirt. Except for the line —
Sometimes I think you're just too good for me.
No one should EVER think someone is too good for them! Nah. That is not right.
No one is too good for me! Or you! And especially not you Sade! Come ON!
Also, yes, I have clearly stated before that Beyoncé is the patron saint of Alone: A Love Story, but really it's Sade. Beyoncé is close, but Sade is EVERYTHING. Hoop earrings especially. Anyway, Beyoncé is coming up soon in this very chapter!
16. Mirrors - Justin Timberlake
So this chapter is almost entirely The Man with the White Shirt and Cloud 9 and carny rides and exclamation points, etc.
I've never experienced such a thing in all my life, this totally getting someone who totally gets you. It's like we're each other's mirror, twin. And we get so instantly wrapped up in it, this spun like gold thing that's happening.
I know, it sounds like I cribbed from Justin Timberlake's song Mirrors there, doesn't it? I can't help it. I love that song!
It's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me
I couldn't get any bigger
With anyone else beside me
First of all, it's epic at eight minutes long, but every bit of it wonderful. Plus, the video is SO good. And that's your JT Minute with Michelle Parise for today.
17. Independent Women - Destiny's Child
This chapter ends with a little vignette called Independent Woman, and is more in the ongoing saga of The Bureaucracy of Getting Divorced in the Province of Ontario.
The title is a riff on (Beyoncé alert!) Independent Women by Destiny's Child. It's the video White Shirt texts me the day I get the notice of divorce.
Instead of letting me feel sorry for myself, The Man with the White Shirt sends me a bad-ass lady anthem. It makes me laugh. It makes this heavy moment light.
So lovely. SIGH.
Music mentioned in Chapter 19 - So it Goes
18. The Messenger - Daniel Lanois
There's a small vignette in this chapter called What Magic Feels Like and to me, obviously, it feels like a gorgeous man with eyes like missiles, sitting on the edge of my bathtub playing guitar and singing.
And not just singing anything, singing one of my favourite songs, Daniel Lanois' The Messenger, with one of my favourite lyrics:
Oh the door that closes tightly is the door that can swing wide.
I love it because it's so hopeful. I love it because when the door closes it isn't a window that opens, but the exact same door! That speaks to me, somehow. That the same thing that can seem definitive one day, can morph and change the next. This is why forgiveness is so important. And second chances.
Originally, back in 2013, I wrote Alone: A Love Story as a book. And this line was what I imagined would be on the first page. Just that line.
And so on the IRL day that White Shirt sang this song in my bathroom, I felt like it was yet another sign. And I rushed to dig out my notebook and showed him this:
For all my practicality, I really do live and love by the concepts of hope, signs and the whims of the pulpy insides of my heart.
19. Art - Tanya Davis and 20. Love Will F--k You Up - Buck 65
There's a tiny little vignette in this chapter that shows what a faint glimmer of hope can look like. It's the half-glass of lemonade I made from The Ex-husband's lemons.
It's a tiny ode to art, no matter how good or bad, because art lifted me out of the depths and reminded me who I was.
Every time I'd look at the script or our storyboard wall of post-it notes, I'd hear the song Art by Halifax musician Tanya Davis.
I first heard this song back in 2008 when I was the Senior Producer of the CBC Music show Drive with Rich Terfry. We both loved this quirky song.
Many years and lives later, Rich, who is the prolific and talented artist known as Buck 65, released one of my favourite albums of his, Neverlove, the divorce album of all divorce albums (is that a genre even?)
Check out this line from the song Love Will F--k You Up:
Can't conceive how she must feel, the fatigued wife of a question
I mean, wow, so beautiful and exactly right on. The fatigued wife of a question. Tell me about it!
21. With or Without You - U2
In the vignette called The Red Hills, I talk about the best day ever with The Man with the White Shirt, where we take a drive out to a place I knew as a teenager that we always called The Red Hills but is apparently called The Cheltenham Badlands (which does not roll off the tongue!)
Then we take some selfies. These are still my most favourite photos of us. He still has one of them framed on his desk at home, where he makes music and lives his life, with or without me.
This is a mini-flashforward, where I hint at the ouroboros that our love will become. And I do it with a nod to U2 again for some reason! and the song With or Without You which was a massive hit when White Shirt and I were in grade school.
I remember how my friends and I would actually argue about it on the playground at recess: "He's saying I CAN'T live with or without you!" "No way, he's saying he CAN!"
It was such a debate in 1986!
Music mentioned in Chapter 20 - Someone Good
22. Laredo - Band of Horses
I do a direct steal from Band of Horses in this line:
I don't know what I'm doing or who I've become but I realize I can't move. I'm just exhausted — physically, emotionally, spiritually. I'm at a crossroads with myself, again.
In the song Laredo, Ben Bridwell sings:
Gonna take a trip to Laredo, Gonna take a dip in the lake
Oh, I'm at a crossroads with myself, I don't got no one else
I just love the idea of being at a crossroads with yourself. There's no better way to put it, it feels exactly like that sometimes, doesn't it?
23. This is the Last Time - The National
I'm not going to tell you whether or not the romp with The Ex-husband in this vignette was, in fact, the last time. Sorry!
Oh, but your love is such a swamp, you don't think before you jump
And I said I wouldn't get sucked in
I... I... I... I... This is the last time.
Man, that's good. Nothing I love more than swampy, swampy love. I mean, have you heard this podcast?
24. Pretty Boy - Young Galaxy
As you hear in this scene, The Ex-husband took to calling White Shirt my "Pretty Boyfriend" for awhile there.
"Right! Your pretty boyfriend!" he says.
I mean, it isn't the worst nickname, and also, it's true (see my cartoon fractals-for-eyes above.) But whenever he called him that it always made me think of the song Pretty Boy by Montreal band Young Galaxy.
I love this song. And some of the lyrics are very applicable to me and White Shirt. But I could say that about 90% of all the songs ever recorded, because I find him in everything. I know, BARF. But whatever, I am unapologetic about my relentless romanticism. Young Galaxy say it best in the chorus:
I don't care if the disbelievers don't understand
You're my pretty boy, always
25. Perfect Day - Lou Reed
The final chapter of Season 2 is called Someone Good which is a lyric from the song Perfect Day by Lou Reed:
I thought I was someone else, someone good
Perfect Day is the name of the vignette that is all about the song and the lyrics. You hear how The Ex-husband texts me on the official date our divorce becomes final to tell me about the death of one of my musical heroes, Lou Reed.
Poor Lou, like some kind of punk rock bookend to the story of us. His song "Perfect Day" was our wedding song. I mean, really universe, when you get married Lou Reed sings a song? And when you get divorced he dies?
It's a pretty crazy coincidence.
Anyway, Alone producer Veronica Simmonds pointed out that she'd always thought Perfect Day to be a sarcastic song and was surprised we saw it as a love song. Enough to be our wedding song! It's strange that I never saw it that way. But now that she said it, I kind of DO hear it that way, which makes it weird, but no less beautiful.
Anyway, the one thing I do know, is that for our wedding dance, I edited out the "reap what you sow" refrain at the end of the song. Even I could see that was a bit dark for a wedding!
For our actual wedding dance, I edited the song down to two minutes because the idea of slow dancing in front of 160 people was MORTIFYING to me.
There were two other songs on the short list for our first dance, and I cut those both down to two minutes also! We actually did a test run where we danced to all three in our basement apartment, and decided on Perfect Day.
The other two songs were Harvest Moon by Neil Young (I am a massive Neil Young fan and we got married on Thanksgiving Weekend so it thematically fit) and The Book of Love by The Magnetic Fields (I LOVE THIS SONG so hard, but it's also melancholy like Perfect Day. I guess I like swampy love songs as much as I love swampy love!)
I urge you to read Laurie Anderson's tribute to Lou Reed. It is the single most beautiful description of what a marriage can be. What a partnership is. A friendship.
It shows how compromise and commitment can be synonymous with individual growth and fulfilment.
As Anderson says in the tribute, "Somehow, for 21 years, we tangled our minds and hearts together." For 21 years, the two of them had it right, man.
I hope you enjoyed this mixtape! And all my stories behind the stories and music in Alone: A Love Story.