Cobalt City: RESISTANCE comes out in a few days, and I literally could not be happier to share this book with you all. It was a long process with a hard deadline to get this book ready in time for the mid-term elections, but we made it. Here we are, with the book out roughly a month before we all head to the voting booths.
One of the things that helped keep me on task–one of the things that always helps keep me on task–was a curated playlist. A soundtrack, if you will, for the work in progress. The working playlist had 76 songs and was just over five hours in length. For readers, I’ve cropped the list down to a tight twenty-three. Combined, these tracks help convey the tone of the novel, a tale of superheroes facing the tough decisions about what to do when a despot takes over as President of the United States and the country starts spiraling out of control into fascism and chaos.
So, in anticipation, I’m sharing my favorite five tracks off the playlist and notes (as well as linking the curated list for the curious reader/listener).
“Working Class Hero” – Marianne Faithful
I’ve always had a fondness for blue-collar heroes. I grew up in a working class family. A pro-union family. While a number of Cobalt City heroes were born with a silver spoon in their mouth (or made their millions on their own terms, like Stardust), I hold a certain place in my heart for the gritty heroes that come from nothing and protect their own. As such, the John Lennon song “Working Class Hero” has always resonated with me. When I found out the incomparable Marianne Faithful covered it, there was no way I could leave it off my playlist.
“Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” – The Ramones
For me, Punk will always be the sound of the rebellion. When I was introduced to it in junior high school by my drummer friend David, I quickly latched onto The Ramones as the soundtrack to my rebellious youth. That year, my dad got me two of their earlier albums for Christmas. And yes, I know they’re not as hardcore as a lot of punk. They’re accessible to the point of practically being pop now. But at the time, they gave a voice to my burgeoning political and anti-social anger. No song really sums that up for me like “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg,” inspired by President Reagan’s state visit to a German cemetery where Waffen-SS soldiers were buried. A rare political track from The Ramones, it had to appear in RESISTANCE.
“Is This All There Is?” – Los Lobos
I’ve been a fan of Los Lobos forever. The hardest working band in East Los Angeles, they’ve carved out an iconic niche in American music. From one of their very first albums, “Is This All There Is?” is a bluesy quest for meaning and purpose, a calling out for more. It speaks to the concerns of those without privilege, struggling and scraping to get by. It’s sadly more relevant now than when it was recorded over three decades ago. And it wouldn’t be right for me to have a song on the playlist that reminded me of Gato Loco.
“Burn the Castle” – New Model Army
Perhaps no band is as responsible for helping to channel and articulate my rage at injustice like New Model Army. They’ve been a favorite band for a long time, and their latest album couldn’t have dropped at a more appropriate time. The original writing playlist had almost half of the album on it. The more carefully curated one, only two tracks. For this purposes, I’ve narrowed it to this one, which voices a rage at those in power who we prop up and support despite the fact that they no longer represent us.
“What It Means” – Drive By Truckers
A familiar refrain I’ve seen the last two years as we continue to sink deeper and deeper into where we are now is that “This is not MY America.” The implication is that all these problems we’re starting to see are new ones instead of old ones, systemic ones, that some of us are just now becoming aware of. The problem is that this IS our America. The motto of Make America Great doesn’t mean make it great for everyone. It means a return to the old status quo when we were made great by the systemic and unapologetic oppression of others. For too many people who call this country home, we’ve never been GREAT. And the sooner we can confront and correct the structures that empower oppressors, the sooner we can start living up to the promise of “liberty and justice for ALL.” So that is part of why I ended up with “What it Means” by the Drive By Truckers on this playlist. Inspired by the Travon Martin murder, it is a powerful validation of the Black Lives Matter movement. I know that was before the 2016 elections, but as a history major I believe that you can’t understand where we are until you understand how you got here. And the BLM protests that sprung up in Ferguson, then Baltimore, Chicago, Oakland, even Seattle… they illustrated for all who cared to engage and learn from them that the justice system was anything but just. They helped spark a fire of direct action–one that only grew in recent years. It wouldn’t do to leave this song off the playlist.
Pick up a copy of Cobalt City: RESISTANCE if superheroes fighting fascism and making a stand to protect those that they love is your thing. Or listen to the full curated playlist. You do you.
But whatever you do, make sure you vote this November. Because the only way we get out of this is if we do it ourselves.