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August 28, 2009

Book Notes - Frank Portman ("Andromeda Klein")

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

Frank Portman impressed the world with his debut novel, King Dork. Andromeda Klein is his new book, a novel that also features an outcast protagonist and Portman's dark humor, but that is where the similarity ends. Andromeda Klein is a magick-obsessed high school girl whose otherworldly skills become needed in a tense fight against dark forces.

Lovers of fantasy, magick, tarot, and young adult fiction will find much to like here, everyone else can simply enjoy yet another well-wrought tale from Frank Portman.

In his own words, here is Frank Portman's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Andromeda Klein:

My new book, Andromeda Klein, is a portrait of a teenage occultist. Andromeda has no knowledge of or interest in rock and roll music whatsoever, until she accidentally discovers Led Zeppelin in a broken tape player in the third act. Till then she is a devotee of the medieval troubadour/composer Guillaume de Machaut and other examples of ars nova and ars subtilior.

A playlist consisting solely of G. d. M. and Led Zeppelin wouldn't be without its own special charm, but it doesn't really say "party tape" to me.

So for my book launch party at my local, I just decided to make a mix of cool songs about magic and magicky things. And here it is:

01. "Devil Woman" -- Cliff Richard

When I was ten, this song gave me some excellent advice. If only I had been wise enough to heed it: "Stay awake! Look out!"

02. "God! Show Me Magic" -- Super Furry Animals

I was first drawn to this song because the catchy chorus reminded me of something that I eventually figured out was the bridge of the Soft Boys' "I Wanna be an Anglepoise Lamp." Then I stuck around for the spirited performance, cryptic lyrics, and, above all perhaps, the exclamation point. Also, when I first heard of this band someone told me they did all their shows in actual furry animal costumes. That turned out not to be true, but I still picture them doing it that way in my head, like a crazy Welsh Banana Splits or something. "Wouldn't it be nice to know what the paper doesn't show? What the TV doesn't say and what my hamster's ate today?" You know, that would be nice.

03. "Magic" -- The Moody Blues

I admit I wasn't paying attention at the time, but the Moody Blues were still making records in 1991. That album ain't half bad, as well, and "Magic" is a wistful pop winner in my book. "I'm in a state of permanent confusion." Man, I've been there.

04. "Psi Power" -- The Hawklords

This single was all over Bay Area AOR radio when I was a kid, c. 1978. A lot of people I knew back then claimed to be confused and weirded out by Hawkwind's transmogrification from Space Rock to New Wave, but the change had been telegraphed earlier by "Quark, Strangeness, and Charm" and the seeds were there all along, really (cf. "Urban Guerilla" from way back in 1972.) Robert Calvert's deadpan talky delivery really suits this tale of a teenager whose psychic abilities get the better of him. Features Steve Swindells from Pilot, so you know it's magic. "How would you like to have your mind caressed? Can't you feel that I'm possessed?"

05. "Magic" -- King Diamond

Mercyful Fate's Danish cross-of-bones wielding singer really turns up the darkness in this song from his 2003 metal opera The Puppet Master, about a young couple turned into evil puppets by an unscrupulous puppet dude. "Suddenly I feel so cold. It feels as if a Ghost is next to me. Cold breath in my ear, as it whispers: kiss her now."

If for no other reason, this song is worth including for the sake of this awesome video.
06. "Tarot Woman" -- Rainbow

Andromeda Klein is, if nothing else, a Tarot Woman, though I'm not sure I'd say she could "take you there" to the "entrance to the fair."

Can't find a video of the Rainbow version, but here's Ronnie James Dio doing it solo.

07. "Magic" -- Gabby Gillespie

A spunky version of Pilot's "Magic." People who've been in the room when this comes up on shuffle have been known to make a snide Hannah Montana comment or two, but give the kid a break: she's eleven! "Never believe it's not so."

08. "The Devil's Answer" -- Atomic Rooster

More than just a spin-off from the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, these guys were prog pioneers and had a couple of genuine hits in the early 70s. "All in Satan's Name" might seem the better choice but since we've already had quite a lot of Dio, I thought I should should give listeners a break from that singing style for a stretch. Plus, "The Devil's Answer" is just a cool-sounding song. I don't really know what it's supposed to be about, but apparently it contains a clue to the answer we all chase.

Here it is on Top of the Pops.

But I would be remiss in not including as well a link to this performance of "Black Snake," justly famous as the single greatest on-stage sandwich-eating performance by a frontman in rock and roll history.

09. "Spooky" -- Michel Pagliaro

As spooky as "Spooky" is in English, it turns out to be even spookier in Canadian.

10. "Kije's Ouija" -- The Free Design

This story of a mysterious guy from the north country whose ouija board contacts an angel who dispenses childlike platitudes about justice and vengeance could hardly have been attempted, much less done convincingly, by any other group than the criminally neglected Free Design. Dedricks rule, ok? "Some wise old angel had prepared for us a special treat, that everyone who kicked a little dog would surely lose his feet."

11. "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" -- Morrissey

Included for the the subject matter, obviously, but also because this kind of seems like it was meant to be a rhyme at some point: "Well she has now gone from this unhappy planet, with all the carnivores and the destructors on it."

12. "Castin' My Spell on You" -- Johnny Kidd and the Pirates

As cool as this voodoo-y magic recipe might have been when sung by Johnny Otis and Marcee Lee, it could only improve when performed by British dudes in pirate's outfits.

"I took in a goose egg, a frog leg, put em in a sack sack, sack sack sack sack."

13. "The Witch" -- the Sonics

"She gonna make you itch."

14. "Teenage Witch" -- the Eels

I don't have much to say about this one other than that it's catchy and this video is weird:

"Silky gown, pink and brown, shut you up, shut you down."

15. "The Song Remains the Same" -- Led Zeppelin

Most any Led Zeppelin song would be magicky enough to fit here, but I chose this one because it kind of cheers me up and because Andromeda Klein plays the Houses of the Holy album during a pivotal tattooing scene in the book. "Everything that's small has to grow. Let's all grow, babe. Push push, yeah!"

Earliest Led Zeppelin memory: I saw the words "Led Zeppelin" spray painted on a wall somewhere. So I asked my mom, "who's Led Zeppelin?" Answer: "he was a very bad man."

16. "Austin Osman Spare" -- Bulldog Breed

Acid rock doesn't get much better than this fanciful yet somber portrait of the celebrated twentieth-century artist-occultist. Do the death posture, kids! "Does his grandson realize he isn't dead?"

17. "Mr. Crowley" -- Ozzy Osbourne

The mispronunciation that rocked a generation. "Was it polemically sent?"

18. "Satanic Blood" -- Doleful Lions

Possibly the most heartfelt, sensitive, and wistful song on the subject of Satanic blood that the world will ever hear.

acoustic version

19. "Crayon Angels" -- Judee Sill

I heard a quote somewhere to the effect that an explosion of genius presupposes a tragic aftermath, and that was certainly the case with Judee Sill and her gorgeous, gorgeous otherworldly songs. I'd put 'em all on here if I could, but that would be silly.

"Nothing's happened but I think it will soon, so I sit here waiting for God and a train to the astral plane."

20. "Dignitaries of Hell" -- The Coven

This album... well, let's put it this way: with a name like Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls you know it's got to be good jam. It's all in the Book of Gideon, apparently.

21. "The Number of the Beast" -- Iron Maiden

The song that taught a generation to quote Rev. 13:18, sort of.

There's a "deleted scene" from Andromeda Klein involving a family colloquy over, and communal singing of, this song. It may turn up in some form in a future novel, if indeed I am allowed to write anymore. "This can't go on. I must inform the law."

22. "You Made Me Believe in Magic" -- the Bay City Rollers

No one at the time, except for a ton of 13 year old girls, realized how great the Bay City Rollers truly were. This song may not be their finest hour (I'd vote for "Rock and Roll Love Letter") but I'm glad they did a song with the word "magic" in it so, like, I could, you know, put it on here right after Iron Maiden.

23. "Satan Takes a Holiday" -- Anton Szandor LaVey

Do I really have to comment? This carnival-style instrumental rendition of big band standard has the right combination of disturbing and dumb. Years ago I was playing this record and a house guest said: "it always sounds like cartoons in your house." And she was right.

23. "Cool Magic" -- Steve Miller Band

Good ol' Steve. Cool magic always wins me over, too.

Frank Portman and Andromeda Klein links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
the author's blog
digital single for the book
audio excerpt from the book (read by Dierdre Lovejoy)

Booklist review
East Bay Express review
The Gulf Scream review review

Largehearted Boy interview with the author for King Dork
The Morning News interview with the author blog post by the author about the Andromeda Klein book launch

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks