All Time Top 5 is an extension of our feature for the Paper Crane Collective where we compile music lists on various subjects. Here on our main site, we outsource the work, and allow some of our favorite artists to create lists and commentary based on a topic we provide. Once we add in the music it magically becomes an artist-curated mixtape list. What more could you want?
We're very happy to kick off the All Time Top 5 feature with Brian Sendrowitz of the great band Beat Radio. Being a man of words and a lover of all things Kerouac, I knew Brian would be able to make a solid list of songs to listen to while reading Kerouac. He was all over it.
Beat Radio's Songs To Listen To While Reading Jack Kerouac (in no particular order):
Tom Waits – Diamonds on my Windshield
I took a course about the Beat Generation in college and I think the professor played this to start up the first class. Tom Waits' first few records are pretty self conscious in their references to Kerouac, and I can relate to that. This track is brilliant in how it captures the feeling of a solitary late night drive, and the feeling of the freedom you feel as the highway stretches out in front of you.
Stan Getz – Body and Soul
I could have approached this list more literally and made it all jazz and perhaps some will take issue with the fact that I haven't, but I felt like that would be kind of boring and I'm probably not qualified anyway. Still this is a great track, one of my favorite records to listen to on vinyl. The horn feels totally 3 dimensional, and explodes into the room. I’m not an audiophile, but there’s something magic about the way the horn cuts through, and I imagine what Jack and Neal and the crew felt like when they heard the same record.
Sonic Youth – Tuff Gnarl
I think a lot about how Kerouac would have found his way creatively through different environments, and how the spirit and ethos of the Beat writers translates into different mediums and different artistic scenes. Sonic Youth embodies it for me in a lot of ways. The guitars on this track feel so reckless and joyful. The stream of consciousness approach to the lyrics feels so free.
Neutral Milk Hotel – Song Against Sex
My idols are Kerouac, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Mangum. The Elephant Six collective reminds me of the Beat Writers. Julian Koster has this quote that explains their vision so beautifully. Anyway, I think this song is not against sex but against the way it becomes a power trip for people and the havoc it wreaks in people's lives. It’s the darker side of things that Kerouac and his friends also learned all too well. The music is a sprawling landscape and Mangum’s lyrics remind me of Kerouac at his most delirious, like in the middle of his crack up at Big Sur.
Bob Dylan – Mr. Tamborine Man (Bootleg Series Live 1975)
Dylan took a lot from the Beat writers also. Mr. Tambourine Man is one of those songs you can almost miss, because you’ve heard it so many times and it’s such a part of our culture, as a sort of signifier of the 60’s and that whole generation. But it’s really such an intensely beautiful song. The lyrics remind me of Kerouac when he was at his best and his least self conscious. The thing I love most about Kerouac’s books are the long descriptive passages, where he’s drunk on the details. Dylan does that here. There are a lot of great versions of this song that Dylan has done but my favorite is the one from the Rolling Thunder Review tour in 1975 that came out on Dylan’s Bootleg Series Volume 5. The steady strumming of the guitar hypnotizes you, and transports you – “to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.”
Be sure to check out Beat Radio's website and music as well as the articles (here and here) we've written about them in the past.