Guest DJ-ing this edition of Mixtape is author Susan Sanford Blades who made us a bangin' playlist to pair with her debut novel
Fake it so Real (Nightwood Editions), about the fallout from a punk-rock lifestyle and its effect on the subsequent generations of one family. Scroll on for Susan's rad soundtrack — "a musical tour of the novel" — and more about her book.
My first novel, Fake It So Real, is about the future of “no future”—what happens when a girl tries to create a life with a boy in a punk band. In the summer of 1983, Gwen meets Damian, lead singer of Dorothy’s Rainbow—arguably the best punk band to come out of Victoria, British Columbia. She’s feral and insults his band; he’s beautiful and pours himself over his mic like Johnny Rotten, and they fall in love—or something. Seven years and two accidental daughters later, Dorothy’s Rainbow plays with D.O.A. in Vancouver and Damian decides not to cross the ocean back home. This novel follows Gwen and her two daughters, Sara and Meg, as they grow up without him.
This mixtape is a musical tour of the novel and (with a couple deviations), is pure punk rock, at least in spirit. Just like the women in my novel, these songs are raw, honest and they hover on the edge of normal.
This is the song from which I borrowed the title of my novel. Courtney Love sang, “I fake it so real I am beyond fake / Someday you will ache like I ache” as though predicting that, a week before the release of the album this song appears on, her husband (Kurt Cobain) would kill himself. I chose this line as the title of my novel because I wanted to explore authenticity and the impossible task of living the life that is best for you while also not hurting those you love. Most of us have to fake it so real from time to time in order to get by.
“God Save the Queen” – Sex Pistols
The night Gwen meets Damian, his band disappoints her with a version of this song, entitled “God Save Pierre Elliott Trudeau.” At the end of the book, thirty-seven years later, Dorothy’s Rainbow reunites to play “God Save Justin.”
“Conscripts” and “Fascist Rule” – The Neos
The Neos were a real-life punk band in Victoria in the late 70s and early 80s. In the YouTube video here, the Neos are playing at the same hall in Victoria where Gwen and Damian met. Though “enjoy” wouldn’t be the word I’d use to describe how I react to their music, I’ve gotta give them points for speed.
“Superstar” – Sonic Youth
After Damian abandons Dorothy’s Rainbow, his second bass player, Shepps, forms a duo with a pastel-clad, My-Little-Pony-haired singer-songwriter named Magda. Shepps aims for a Thurston and Kim vibe but Magda drags them closer to Ian and Sylvia. Sonic Youth’s cover of “Superstar” would’ve been the perfect song to bring them to a happy medium. Sweet, pretty, and sad—with a touch of distortion.
“Wannabe” – Spice Girls
Punk rock, the Spice Girls are not. But what a perfect song to accompany that awkward-horrifying-thrilling moment when Gwen’s youngest daughter, Meg discovers she is an object of the male gaze, that people notice her, that their opinions of her matter, and that she will never again unself-consciously dance to “Wannabe” on the balcony in her panties.
“Deceptacon” – Le Tigre
Every Sunday, Gwen’s eldest daughter Sara locks herself in her room, burns incense and plays Le Tigre at top volume instead of helping Gwen and Meg with the groceries. Who could blame her, really?
“Sugar” – Bikini Kill
“Sugar” is what Sara calls her live-in boyfriend when he uncharacteristically calls her “Babe” around his friend Bruce. You know the type—that awful friend of your boyfriend’s who spends way too much time talking about his amp and doesn’t understand why you cry at the end of Zoolander.
“Bruise Violet” – Babes in Toyland
When Sara has a baby, she mimics the birthing process of Cat Bjelland, a neighbourhood cat she’s named after Kat Bjelland, lead singer of Babes in Toyland. Screaming along to Kat would definitely help push a baby out.
“Heartbreak Hotel” – The Cramps
When Meg’s marriage breaks down, she and her son move into subsidized housing inhabited by single mothers who congregate at a picnic table out front to bitch about their ex-husbands and the lack of decent available men. Meg names her building the Heartbreak Hotel and I know she had this version by The Cramps in mind.
“Kill V. Maim” – Grimes
After a fight with Nik, Sara spends an evening hiding in her friend Jenny’s bathtub emulating the models in Jenny’s son’s Hustler magazines (don’t ask) as Jenny entertains a married man in her living room. While holding her breath in the tub, Sara concludes Jenny is having a “panties-on” rather than a “panties-off” night because she’s playing morose Beach House rather than a few of Grimes’ breathy numbers on repeat. This song, I conclude, would be perfect for a panties-off night.
“Stairway to Heaven” – Led Zeppelin
Every dance has to end with “Stairway to Heaven,” right? When Meg’s ex-husband remarries, she attends his wedding against her better judgement and dances with him to this last song, but the vibe is closer to sweaty-palmed middle schoolers than, say, Kristin Scott Thomas and Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer.
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Grab a copy of
Fake It So Real to read along with this sweet new playlist. Many thanks to Susan for providing the beats, and to Annie at Nightwood Editions for connecting us!
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