The Motherfuckerland Playlist
"Let's Get Stoned" by The Coasters
Of course, "stoned" in this Ray Charles original refers to being drunk, but, hey, it's not a big leap to other forms of impairment. The Coasters are probably best known for their upbeat, classic frat-party song "Yakety Yak," but I really appreciate the leisurely pace and just sloppy enough harmonies. Sean Kerry, the stoner in Motherfuckerland, would heartily approve.
"Police on My Back" by The Equals
This song was made famous when The Clash covered this song, but it doesn't have the groove that the original does. I can see Sean running for his life from his parole officer James O'Keefe while this song plays. The Equals, whose White and Black members met in a UK council estate, lived up to their name as the first interracial rock band that made it big in that country. (Guitarist Eddy Grant found solo fame later.) They were equal and had a common enemy: Cops! I like to think that by the end of the book, everyone in Motherfuckerland sees each other as equals.
"Jail La La" by Dum Dum Girls
The only difference between jail and college is that in the former you can get your certificate faster and it's tuition free. Even Sean learns new skills here and probably reads more than ever. I really miss Dum Dum Girls, and they kicked ass live.
"God Damn Job" by The Replacements
I only saw The Replacements once, and funnily enough, they had booked Johnny Thunders to open for them on that tour. That's right. The band that did the song "Johnny's Gonna Die" (about Thunders) had the man play with them every night. Well, you have to have a sense of humor about things, or you're dead already! Great band, and great song to blast when you're stuck working at a burger stand to drive away any potential customers..
"Paper Planes" by M.I.A.
Cryptic lyrics over the sample of The Clash's "Straight to Hell" (itself a song about American attitudes toward the children fathered by its soldiers in Vietnam). For me, it's about making money while sowing the seeds of your own destruction. It makes me think of people working minimum-wage jobs on the shore, and then blowing it all every payday.
"My Love Will Not Let You Down" live by Bruce Springsteen
Sean's co-worker declares at one point that New Jersey has only produced two true poetic geniuses: Springsteen and Glenn Danzig. This obscure Springsteen b-side won new attention when included in the Tracks box set, and Springsteen dusted it off for the next tour. This version comes from the multi-night stand at Madison Square Garden. They say that every story is a love story at heart. One could say that Motherfuckerland is about Sean learning to love and accept himself.
"Year of the Girl" by Adam Franklin
The singer/guitarist/songwriter of Swervedriver does an acoustic version of a b-side song by his band. There's something lingering in the music here, almost like a yearning. Maybe it articulates the strange relationship between Sean and Mrs. Angrywall, how they have nothing in common and yet understand each other.
"Car Fiction" by Echobelly
I saw Echobelly open for Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant's short-lived band Electrafixion. Echobelly warming up the room for the former members of Echo & The Bunnymen. Get it? Well, it was no joke, because singer Sonya Madan came out and lit up the whole venue. This song makes me think of Sean and Mrs. Angrywall going for a ride with mixed results.
"Jungle Symphony" by The Ananda Shankar Experience
Musical legend Ananda Shankar is joined here with Sam Zaman, aka State of Bengal. This rocking instrumental makes me think of Sean going back into the jungle of The System, and being manipulated to testify against Mr. Angrywall. In the confusion, he thinks he's doing the right thing, which means saving his own skin.
"Hybrid Moments" by The Misfits
Singer/songwriter Glenn Danzig's realm is in the bass end to complement Springsteen's trebley keyboards. Surely there are many hybrid moments in Motherfuckerland, and the denizens of the Jersey shore indeed try to hide their looks behind their scars.
"Fire on the Moon" by The Bellrays
I saw this band open for The Damned, and they blew me away. I've never seen anyone continuously play song after song without taking breaks between. "Are you ready? Are you ready?" Lisa Bellray kept taunting the audience. We were not. This song is about trying to do the impossible, and a final reckoning is in store for Sean, O'Keefe, and the Angrywalls.
"I'm on Probation" by Soul Glo
Soul Glo is currently one of the best hardcore punk bands in America, articulating the outrage and frustration of life in the U.S.A. The pandemic hasn't slowed their productivity at all. One thing Sean learns is that he's on probation for life. There's always a probationary period at any new job, in any new relationship. Nothing is assured.
"Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" by Major Lance
Major Lance's classic song is about the absurdity of life, and how we'll never fully understand the machinations behind what happens. It's also about finding a way to be all right with it. Major Lance is the father of up-and-coming Democrat Keisha Lance Bottoms, the current mayor of Atlanta. Maybe Sean should go to Atlanta. Maybe we all should.