ANTHEM is coming, chapter 10

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter.

This is Chapter 10 (day 38):

“ELEANOR RIGBY”
Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Performed by the Beatles
Recorded at EMI/Abbey Road Studios, London, England, 1966
No percussion

It made no sense to Molly. “Aquarius” was just a song. You grew up, you went to college — or not — you got married — or not, but most likely you did, and you had kids — or not, but most likely you did — and you lived in a house where you had your own dishes and your own neighbors and your own backyard and friends and cookouts and parties and birthdays and years and years of things you did in that house, with your family, until you grew old, and you were happy — or not — and that was how it worked. Right?

The Beatles figure prominently in the chapter heads for ANTHEM, partly because they were so important to the development of American music in the sixties, and also because these particular song selections highlight the chapters they head and help tell the story. 

As Molly and Norman sit down to supper with their great aunts, who no longer recognize them, Molly is introduced as Eleanor Rigby, and Norman as Father MacKenzie. The song “Eleanor Rigby” serves as a poignant way to characterize Molly’s encounter with her aunts, whose memory is failing, but also to think about how Molly’s self-righteousness is isolating her on this trip, and how she will be lonely, traveling across this country, until she lets go of her perceived notions about life and embraces the road ahead.

And she’s likely to find a lonely person or two on the road ahead as well. I loved exploring how music helps us tell a story.

Chapter 10.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 9

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter.

This is Chapter 9 (day 39):

“LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS”
Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Performed by the Beatles
Recorded at EMI/Abbey Road Studios, London, England, 1967
Drummer: Ringo Starr

The girl rapped her wooden spoon on top of the pot, laid it across the lid, and looked Molly square in the face. She had brilliant blue eyes. Norman stared at her and swallowed.
“My name is Lucy,” she announced.
“Lucy who?”
“Lucy Inthesky.”
“Inthesky?” Molly sounded out this strange last name in her head. Inthesky.
“With Diamonds,” the girl finished.
Molly’s eyebrows arched in astonishment, then sank to murderous levels. “Are you kidding me?” She put her hands on her hips and leaned in. “Listen, sister…”
“Oh, brother,” said Norman. He gave his head a brisk shake to break the spell he’d been under. “I’ll go check on them.”
A warble came from the top of the wide staircase by the front door.
“Norman! Is that you, dear?”

I laugh every time I read this passage. hahahaha. This entire Atlanta section of Norman and Molly’s trip makes me smile. It’s such a trip for them, and for me as a writer. It was probably the most fun to write, although there are lots of places and people who were fun to write about. 

This is where I started thinking of the story as a sort of Forrest Gump for young readers. And this album cover is the one I’ve shown to students in schools for many years now, when I tell them about how much I loved the Beatles, how I loved them with abandon, even when they got older and “went around the bend,” because I got older, too, and I, too, went “around the bend” for a while. :> 

But that’s a story for another time. 

Chapter 9, in Atlanta, with the kooky maiden aunts…. and a few other colorful humans

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 8

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter.

This is Chapter 8 (day 40):

Good Golly Miss Molly
Written by John Marascalco and Robert “Bumps” Blackwell
Performed by Little Richard
Recorded at J&M Studio, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1956
Drummer: Earl Palmer

The arguing started early.
“We are not going to Macon! It’s miles and miles out of our way!”
Norman kept driving, kept silent. Molly tried listening to Saturday’s Top Forty on her transistor with her earphone, but the engine was too loud, so she gave it up. Five hours later, after they’d driven to Macon, Georgia, and found no Allman Brothers in City Park or anywhere else, they stopped at the H&H Restaurant for an early lunch.

Things are not going as Molly planned. :>

Little Richard was born and grew up in Macon, Georgia. He grew up singing in the Pentecostal Church; one of his early influences was Sister Rosetta Tharp, who is mentioned in a later chapter of ANTHEM — we’ll get to her, but in the meantime, listen to her sing “Didn’t it Rain?” in 1964 in Manchester, England. It’s hilarious, it’s fabulous, it’s amazing. 

Also in this chapter you can hear the jukebox play “Grazing in the Grass” sung by the Friends of Distinction. Norman, of course, loves the percussion. It’s worth listening to South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela’s jazzy instrumental version as well. Norman would have been all over that cowbell. 

If you are teaching ANTHEM in the classroom, you’ll be able to use these blog entries, chapter by chapter, to help tell the story in music. Each song is chosen to highlight that particular part of the story, and to tell the story of American music, alongside Molly and Norman’s journey across the country in 1969.

Tomorrow, out of Macon and into Atlanta, Georgia — stay tuned.