I’m fortunate to live and write in an area full of talented people. I’m even more fortunate to call them friends and peers.
R.N. Drum is one of those folks, and he’s not only talented, but he’s eclectic. The dude wears bowties to work (which I fucking dig, because if you remember, I work my corporate gig in sweatpants from home…), and his taste in cinema and music are pretty broad. Intelligent, talented, and just a super fun guy to talk shop with, R.N. Drum brings the rain in his guest Fiver post.
Catch his bio and blog link after the post.
I have been a writer, in one form or another, for quite some time now. The urge to set word to paper has always been strong. Whether it was a paper for a class, a short story, or even just an outline for something that would never be fully realized, I’ve always enjoyed the act of getting down onto paper the things that live in my head. Reading was not a strong suit during my youth. That’s not to say that I didn’t read at all – I just didn’t read then as much as I do now. What I did do was listen to music. A lot of music. Sure, my school backpack had the occasional text and notebook, but it was more or less a music store inside. I was spoiled in many ways as a child (which is really a topic for another blog post entirely), and my mother never seemed to think twice when it came to getting me to the nearest Buzzard’s Nest Records so I could pick up some 45’s, albums, or cassettes. Oh, did I not mention that I’m old? Yeah. I remember my favorite 45’s included Chic’s “Le Freak”, Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”, and Christopher Cross’s “Sailing”. Okay, so I was spoiled and didn’t have great taste – that would come later.
I also listened to a lot of radio at the time as well. A local station carried a program on Sunday evenings called the “King Biscuit Flower Hour”, which would play live recordings from all types of artists. It was on Sunday, May 17, 1981 that I heard a radio ad that would change my life. The ad was for an “electronic music” album that was going to be released the following week. The sample of music in the ad was so foreign and it stood out to me as something different. Hey, I’m different – maybe this music is for me? I think back on that moment and find it odd that the ad ran on a radio station that played modern rock music – the same music that is now considered “classic”. Nevertheless, the ad worked and on Friday, May 22 I went to the Buzzard’s Nest and picked up a copy of Jean Michel Jarre’s “Magnetic Fields”. It was amazing. Beautiful. Transformative. I spent the entire weekend listening and re-listening to it. Each track stood on its own as an independent piece, but were blended so that there was generally no distinct point at which one track ended and another began. This in itself wasn’t so mind blowing, but the pictures that began to fill my head while I listened were. They were so vivid and begged, nay demanded, to be expressed. It didn’t matter how, but it had to now. So I began to write. Sweeping landscapes, electricity coursing through the skies, creatures to be adored, and monsters from which to hide. “Magnetic Fields” was simply a gateway for me. It album opened my mind to a wider world of music that I knew existed, but had never approached because it seemed too weird. As my album collection grew, so did my word count. Writing became an everyday habit that I couldn’t break from even if I tried. My taste in music grew as well, and began to include less funk and country and more rock and metal. And I let it all inspire me in one way or another as I translated my loves, desires, and fears into stories that would likely never be read by anyone other than myself, but were important regardless.
So, without further ado, I’d like to present a list of five albums that I found inspiring during my days as a young writer.
- Jean Michel Jarre – “Magnetic Fields”. This record tells a good story. One of futuristic adventure, filled with irradiated landscapes and creatures both glorious and hideous. Of course, it will likely tell you a completely different story, which makes it beautiful.
- Rush – “Hemispheres”. I make my Rush fandom no secret. I’m often wearing one of my many tour shirts and I have every album (even the live ones) on my mobile device. The album is an underrated example of progressive rock and features one of my favorite Rush instrumentals called, “La Villa Strangiato”. This song inspired the first ghost story that I ever wrote and was even a source of an argument with and creative writing teacher in high school. He informed me that I couldn’t listen to my Walkman during the class. I told him that I had to listen to it because of the story that I was writing for class at the time. I assured him that I wouldn’t bother the other students with my music. He eventually caved and allowed me and any other student listen to music during the ten minutes of free writing time we had each day.
- ELO – “Time”. This album tells the story of a time traveler and despite Jeff Lynne, remains my favorite ELO album. I recall this album fondly because it not only provided sonic inspiration for me, it was the album that I listened to most often while devoured the first six Xanth novels by Piers Anthony. I can’t hear anything from this album without the adventures of Bink, Humphry, and Dor flooding my mind.
- Iron Maiden – “Powerslave”. Metal. Pure, beautiful metal. Sleek at points and brutal at others. This remains one of my favorite metal albums to this day and I recommend it to anyone interested in hearing what Iron Maiden sounded like at their peak. Maiden has always been good at building imagery in their songs of war, loneliness, dark magic, and insanity. Clearly, “Powerslave” was the ’feel good’ album of 1984.
- Tangerine Dream – “Exit”. The first sixty seconds of the first track, “Kiew Mission”, are super creepy. The next creepiest is the title track, “Exit”, which has inspired at least four stories. It’s a powerful five minutes and thirty-five seconds. I imagine that Tangerine Dream has inspired many writers over the years with their music, which is highly cinematic. You may have heard them if you have seen films such as ’Sorcerer’, ‘Risky Business’, ‘The Keep’, and ‘Legend’.
So there you have it. Five albums that inspired me in the way back, and still manage to bring something to the table when I give them a listen. In fact, as I have been writing this blog, I’ve sampled a bit from each. You might want to give them a try some time, if you’re so inclined. Perhaps you’ll find something you’ve never heard before, or something that will evoke memories, or bring you to conjure voices and images that you simply must get out of your mind and onto the page.
R.N. Drum is a writer who is considering a blog, but is otherwise engaged with writing, raising teenagers and collecting fountain pens.
You can find his blog over here, which you should definitely go read.