Andy Davidson’s Playlist for His Novel “The Hollow Kind”

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October 14, 2022

Andy Davidson’s Playlist for His Novel “The Hollow Kind”

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Andy Davidson’s The Hollow Kind is a brilliantly written Gothic novel as unsettling as it is unforgettable.

Booklist wrote of the book:

“With his third novel, Davidson plants his roots in horror’s soil as one its most talented voices . . . The Hollow Kind is a Southern Gothic epic that masterfully weaves elements of body, folk, and cosmic horror, knitting it all together into something wholly new, immersive, terrifying, and utterly breathtaking.”

In his own words, here is Andy Davidson’s Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Hollow Kind:

The Hollow Kind spans two timelines—one in 1989, and another that begins around 1920 and ends in the Great Depression. It’s a book about memories of home, the horrors of family history, and the brevity of childhood. It’s about the things we love and why we love them, why we fight for them. Most of these songs reflect that, somehow. A few actually figure into the story itself.

In the end, we all grow up, but we still remember that one album or song, right? The one that saved our lives, when we were young?

The Carpenters
“(A Place to) Hide Away” (1971)

Written by Randy Sparks

I love still-photo title sequences in movies, how at once creepy and sentimental they were. How they took their time, showed you the characters, the world. I’m thinking of Wise Blood, The Dead Zone, the 1990, made-for-TV IT mini-series. Well, if The Hollow Kind were a movie or a series, I can just imagine Karen Carpenter’s dreamy, haunting melody featuring over a title sequence of old photographs of people and places in the novel—Redfern Hill, the turpentining years, the Spanish flu pandemic, a family portrait of Nellie, Max, and Wade Gardner in 1989. Smiling. Posed. Nellie longing, silently, for exactly what this song is about.

In fact, if Nellie were a record, her A-side would very much be this song, sung by the saddest, most perfect voice in all the world.

“Heart of Glass” (1979)

Written by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein

If “(A Place to) Hide Away” is Nellie’s A-side, then “Heart of Glass” is her B-side. A bright, punky acknowledgment of a bad romance. Nellie’s a punk at heart, and that old defiance emerges soon after she inherits Redfern Hill, a strength she’s almost forgotten she had. And, of course, there’s that fantastic line about “love’s true bluish lie…”

Hoyt Curtin
“The All New Super Friends Hour” (1977)

Music by Hoyt Curtin / Narration Performed by Bill Woodson

Oh, to be eleven years old and deeply in love with superheroes. Max, like his mother, is an artist. He draws, and when Nellie looks at his drawings of muscle-bound men in capes, she sees a boy’s idea of manhood. Here is Max’s idea of heroism, writ large in primary colors.

David Bowie
“Oh! You Pretty Things” (1971; 2015 Remaster)

Written by David Bowie

Enter the monster in the woods, as alluded to (why not) through Nellie’s love of David Bowie. The song’s a glint, a glance, a glimmer of the cosmic entity that haunts Redfern Hill.

Glen Miller and His Orchestra
“Pennsylvania 6-5000” (1940)

Music by Jerry Gray and Lyrics by Carl Sigman

This one’s from an old record, scavenged from the detritus of old August Redfern’s life. Max likes this song in particular, if only because, on the chorus, he gets to sing “Transylvania 6-5000”! (I was Max’s age when I joined sixth-grade band. I played trumpet, terribly. But soon after that I discovered Glen Miller. Maybe I was a weird kid to love big band records. But I did.)

Men Without Hats
“The Safety Dance – Extended Dance Version” (1982)

Written by Ivan Doroschuk (in protest of the prohibition of pogo dancing)

Forget the context of the music, or the song itself. For me, it conjured an image, plain as day: hundreds, thousands of shivering tendrils, tentacles, roots, crawling up through the walls of an old farmhouse. Why? Who knows. Maybe it was the driving beat, or that wailing siren synth. Later, when the image meant more and the book was mostly written, I thought: What if this is, essentially, the monster’s theme? The song’s an invitation to dance, but “if your friends don’t dance…they’re no friends of mine…” Something about the voice—it’s jealous, possessive. And old, I thought, despite its claims to the contrary, i.e. “the night is young and so am I…” Is there anything scarier, cosmically speaking, than an ancient creature who, by its own estimation, believes itself to be young?

Pink Floyd
“Wish You Were Here” (1975)

Written by Roger Waters

If “The Safety Dance” is a monster’s theme, then “Wish You Were Here” belongs to Nellie and Wade. Call it a courtship theme. It’s playing on the juke in a bar, the night they first sleep together, in a flashback to 1977. I like the idea of marking that occasion with a song that’s almost nihilistic in its lyrics. Nellie and Wade are two lost souls who will, in the coming years, run over and over the same old ground. In this, “Wish You Were Here” is the nightmare expression of a woman alone in her marriage. The idea of him? Whatever she thought he was? It was all a lie.

Bee Gees
“Nights on Broadway” (1975)

Written by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, and Maurice Gibb

In 1975, Nellie’s mother dies. It’s the first great trauma of Nellie’s life. She’s sixteen. This was the summer a record saved her life. That record was Main Course. I didn’t write it in the novel, but there’s a scene in her room, during her mother’s wake, when Nellie makes a critical choice, one that will reshape her life forever. I like to imagine this record, this song, is playing when she does it. Later, she’s humming the chorus when she first hears a lonesome howl in the woods of her grandfather’s thousand-acre property. It’s a fateful moment, her awareness of that presence. “Even if it takes a lifetime,” they’ll meet again.

Floyd Cramer
“Last Date (Instrumental)” (1960)

Written and Performed by Floyd Cramer

Remember that commercial for Floyd Cramer’s “Treasury of Favorites” from 1985? You probably haven’t thought about it in decades. I was seven the first time I saw it on TBS. I was planted in front of my grandmother’s television. In The Hollow Kind, that commercial features in a scene with Max’s grandfather; it evokes the time period of this book like nothing else. I chose “Last Date” to include here since it typifies, for me, that creepy, mothballed vibe of old sentimental favorites. Despite its age, it feels like the kind of thing Wade Gardner might listen to, sitting in the dark, thinking about his wife, who ran away with his son.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
“Islands in the Stream” (1983)

Written by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, and Maurice Gibb

Speaking of sentimental favorites—the good kind—is it any wonder Max loves Dolly? Here is the greatest duet in the history of music, written, serendipitously, by the Bee Gees. The book uses the song ominously, but it’s nifty how the lyrics pick up some of the nautical and cosmic motifs in The Hollow Kind. Sails, islands. Other worlds. (I’m kidding. Sort of.)

“He-Man – Main Theme” (2014; original theme air date 1983)
Arranged and performed by Rhaeide

(“I Have the Power” written by Erica Lane, Haim Saban, Shuki Levy)

I thought it would be cool to use a purely instrumental arrangement of this one, rather than the original theme. It makes it new and fresh, but still plucks the right nostalgic notes. It’s all about Max, this theme. Max and heroism. Courage and bravery.

Dolly Parton
“I Will Always Love You” (1974)

Written by Dolly Parton

In 1983, one year after the song was rearranged for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, RCA released a 45 with “I Will Always Love You” as the B-side, sung by Kenny Rogers. The A-side was “Islands in the Stream,” with Dolly. The album was Kenny Rogers’ “Eyes That See in the Dark” (creepy, right?). I wanted both songs for inclusion in the book, and I liked the idea of both being on the same record, but it seemed strange to have Kenny sing Dolly’s song, when Max loves Dolly. So, in the novel, I took a liberty, rewrote reality, and it’s Dolly who sings the B-side.

Paul Chiten
“Transylvania 6-5000” (1985)

Written by Paul Chiten (uncredited)

What a dumb, silly song, from a dumb, silly movie. Born out of a wacky sort of whatever-it-is you just don’t see in film comedies anymore, this theme song is Max’s touchstone for Glen Miller’s “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” which is so often how childhood works, right? We learn much later that the thing we first experienced was a reference to something even older. Does that make it less cool, that it was never ours to begin with? I don’t know. (Plus: How did Thomas Dolby not write this song?)

David Bowie
“‘Heroes’” (1977; 2017 Remaster)

Written by David Bowie and Brian Eno

Back to heroism. Not much to say here about one of the greatest songs ever written. Maybe evil is never vanquished, but it can be driven back. And maybe that’s enough of a reprieve, in the end. Just one day, to be all we ever hoped we could be.

Bee Gees
“Songbird” (1975)

Written by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, and Maurice Gibb

We opened with Nellie’s A-side, all the fear and weariness she feels at the beginning of the novel. We close with the song she listened to over and over through the last months of her mother’s life. A song that promises—if not happy endings—at the very least, blue skies. That feels right to me, even for the soundtrack of a horror novel.

Andy Davidson is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of In the Valley of the Sun and The Boatman’s Daughter, which was listed among NPR’s Best Books of 2020, the New York Public Library’s Best Adult Books of the Year, and Library Journal’s Best Horror of 2020. Born and raised in Arkansas, he makes his home in Georgia with his wife and a bunch of cats.

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