Author Playlists

Elizabeth Gonzalez James’s Playlist for Her Book “Five Conversations About Peter Sellers”

“Five Conversations About Peter Sellers is an essay in conversation – five narrators carrying on five threads, all related to Peter Sellers and how his outsize ego derailed production of the 1960s James Bond spoof, Casino Royale.”

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.

Elizabeth Gonzalez James’s Five Conversations About Peter Seller is an inventively told essay in five distinct voices, all her own, a greatly imaginative and thought-provoking book.

Samantha Edmonds wrote of the book:

Elizabeth Gonzalez James has written a book born from the beating heart of her obsession(s). A hybrid essay that both is and is not about Peter Sellers and the disastrous making of the 1967 Casino Royale film, Five Conversations About Peter Sellers offers insights into authenticity and identity, art and culture, and the legacies of terrible men. Gonzalez James recognizes that the value of such inquiry rises more from asking questions than in finding answers. This book doesn’t seek to make order from the drama and mayhem—both of old Hollywood and within the five narrators who come from one person—but instead embraces a new way to dwell in the chaos.

In her own words, here is Elizabeth Gonzalez James’s Book Notes music playlist for her book Five Conversations About Peter Sellers:

Five Conversations About Peter Sellers is an essay in conversation – five narrators carrying on five threads, all related to Peter Sellers and how his outsize ego derailed production of the 1960s James Bond spoof, Casino Royale. And because my subject is this fascinatingly bad film (it stars Woody Allen, Ursula Andress, and Orson Welles…plus a UFO, a chimp in an orange wig, and a magical taxi that can drive from London to Berlin) and because the film takes place in the heart of the swinging ‘60s, I have focused my playlist on songs either from the film or the era. Get ready for a lot of Burt Bacharach, liquid eyeliner, gin martinis, and bad teeth.

Casino Royale by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

This delightfully campy song is played over the opening credits and captures the essence of the film. Through bold trumpets and large orchestral swings it signals that what is to come will be grand and very silly. I really love Herb Alpert. I think his music is often overlooked as a relic of the past, but he was an enormously influential composer whose ability to spin a catchy tune is pretty unparalleled.

Requiem pour un con (“Le Pacha”) by Serge Gainsbourg

Casino Royale has a few brief scenes in Paris and so I’ll include a couple French favorites of mine from the 1960s, starting with this bop from Serge Gainsbourg. Get your bongos, pull on a turtleneck, and settle in for a jam.

You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra

While this is the theme song for a different James Bond film, it is a perfect example of the beauty of late-60s songcraft and showcases Nancy Sinatra’s gorgeous alto.

Green Tambourine by The Lemon Pipers

The Lemon Pipers are always included in the short list of bands from the psychedelic ‘60s who really embraced the whole ethos of eastern instruments, trippy lyrics, and liberal LSD use. While other bands (The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Who) had more staying power, The Lemon Pipers leave us with this lovely and innocent song about a green tambourine (as well as a guitar riff that I swear Pete Townsend ripped off for Tommy a couple years later).

Jelly Jungle (Of Orange Marmalade) by The Lemon Pipers

And while we’re with The Lemon Pipers let’s also listen to “Jelly Jungle,” which has all the daffy imagery of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and none of John Lennon’s innate melancholy.

Mas Que Nada by Sergio Mendes & Brazil ‘66

I’m pretty sure that any movie that takes place in Las Vegas legally has to play this song at some point, and since Casino Royale takes place in, well, a casino, I thought this was an important one to include in the playlist. It’s got a great hook, a fabulous bossa nova beat, and was apparently voted the fifth best Brazilian song of all time by the Brazilian version of Rolling Stone. Tudo bom!

Ces bottes sont faites pour marcher by Eileen

Circling back around to Nancy Sinatra, this is the very fun and sexy French cover of her classic, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.’” And it’s in French so it’s, like, trés distingué and stuff.

Walk on By by Dionne Warwick

This classic written by Burt Bacharach shows off Warwick’s exquisitely vulnerable interpretation of this song of pride and regret. It’s also a great entrée into Bacharach’s genius as a songwriter – the man could tell a complete story and create an absolute earworm in under three minutes.  

The Look of Love by Dusty Springfield

Burt Bacharach penned this Academy Award-nominated bossa nova for Casino Royale, supposedly inspired by seeing Ursula Andress in an early cut of the film. Dusty Springfield’s voice is pure longing in this song – she’s like aural silk. And when she cuts out and the voice part is taken over by a saxophone, it’s such a perfect instrumental match for her signature husky sound that it’s impossible to imagine the song without each of them. It’s truly a highpoint of the torch song genre.

Elizabeth Gonzalez James is the author of the novels Mona at Sea (SFWP, 2021) and The Bullet Swallower (forthcoming Simon & Schuster, 2024), as well as the chapbook, Five Conversations About Peter Sellers (Texas Review Press, 2023). Her stories and essays have appeared in The Idaho Review, Southern Humanities Review, The Rumpus, StorySouth, PANK, and elsewhere, and have received numerous Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. She is Interviews Editor at The Rumpus, and was a former contributor to Ploughshares Blog. Originally from South Texas, Elizabeth now lives with her family in Massachusetts.

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