As the title of my work in progress, Molly’s Song, does, in fact, reference music, I thought I might take pen in hand to tell you what playlist I’ve listened to whilst I’ve been working on the book. Some of the songs are historical ones, and other ones are modern ones which fit the tone and subject matter. A few of the historical songs make an appearance in the book as well. (Only the public domain ones, of course.) So, without further delay, here is the somewhat long list (with links in case you’d like to listen). For those brave enough to read on to the very end, you’ll learn what Molly’s Song actually is!
Runaway Train by Soul Asylum. As I discussed in a previous post, this is, in fact, the song that inspired the book when coupled with the photos of the unnamed 19th Century prostitute. In particular, the verses which state “It seems no one can help me now/I’m in too late there’s no way out” and also “Can you help me remember how to smile/Make it somehow all seem worthwhile”. It would be a grand thing indeed if Molly’s Song makes it to the big screen. And if it does, I really hope they select this as the theme song. Have a listen to it here.
Young Trooper Cut Down in His Prime: Traditional, as performed by Laura Smyth & Ted Kemp. This is just one lyrical version of a song that has been around for quite some time. There are many different versions (Bard of Armagh, The Unfortunate Rake, and The Streets of Laredo to name a few). However, this particular arrangement tells of the death of a young soldier who fell victim to a soldier’s worst enemy…..VD. You have to pay attention to catch it though. When the final verse says “On the cross by his grave, you’ll find these words written/All you young troopers take warning by me/Keep away from them flash girl what work in the city/Flash girls in the city have quite ruined me.” A flash girl is 19th Century slang for a prostitute. As much as I’d love to have a scene where Molly sings this song, the truth of the matter is that this particular lyrical arrangement probably dates from the Boer War, not the 1860s, despite the use of Hindi slang for a rifle.
New York Girls was a popular sea shanty which dates from around the 1830s. There is a scene in the movie Gangs of New York where you can hear it performed by Finbar Fury. However, I’ve not been able to determine when the lyrics in that version were written as every other version I’ve heard has different ones. As this is a traditional song, it does make an appearance in the novel. When called upon to sing a tune at her new place of employment in New Orleans, Molly chooses this one. The verse mentioned in the novel is as follows “Come all you young sailor lads/Take warning when ashore/Or else you’ll meet a charming girl whose nothing but a whore/Your boots and rig will disappear/Your hard earned cash as well/For Yankee girls is tougher than the other side of hell.” My favorite version of the song is performed by the Poxy Boggards.
The Recruited Collier is a traditional song in which a young woman tells of her lover Jimmy who has been enticed into the British Army. The earliest known version of this song was actually called Jenny’s Complaint and dates from 1803. As Molly is in New York City and later New Orleans during the Civil War, all around her she sees mothers, sisters, wives, and girlfriends who have loved ones off fighting for their respective sides. Also, her older brother joined the British Army and went off to fight in the Crimean War and later in India. Upon his returned, plagued by bad memories, he committed suicide. I’d love to include the song in the book, but I cannot authenticate the lyrics to my favorite version by Kate Rusby to the 1860s. “Jimmy talks about the wars/It’s worse than death to hear him/I must go out to hide me tears/because I cannot bear it.”
Kathleen Mavourneen is a well known old Irish ballad that was popular in the US during the Civil War. As such, the first time we see Molly sing a song, it is this one. If you can listen to this song and not grow misty eyed, then you aren’t human! In the story, Molly performs it for some gentleman who have visited Miss Cecilia’s (the house of ill fame where she works). Rather than quote the song, allow me to quote from the story: “Molly closed her eyes as she sang and let her mind drift away, across the ocean, back to the cliffs of Galway and across the valleys to Belclare. She saw her grandparents in front of the fire, her grandfather smoking his pipe while her grandmother stirred a pot over the fire. Her father sat in his chair in the corner, with young Molly upon his knee as he sang to her an Irish language ballad. Her mother arranged some plates on a table in preparation for their supper. Outside, birds whistled as the sun went down. Then the image in her mind switched to Knockma Hill where she sat and dreamed of being a great warrior like Queen Mauve. A tear trickled from her eye as the memories of her lost life vanished.” Here you can see it performed in a deleted scene from Gods and Generals.
All I Can Do by Tyrone Wells is a modern tune that appeared in the series Rescue Me (which had an incredible soundtrack if I may say so myself). The overall tone of this song sort of fits Molly’s life as she is trapped in a never ending cycle of days….each one the same…stuck in her life of prostitution. Time moves forward, but doesn’t move at the same time. I do think she would appreciate this song, particularly the verse that says “Another night is flying by/somebody’s born, somebody’s died/I wanna look deep in your eyes/I wanna live and I wanna cry”. And, of course, the opening line of the chorus which says “And I can’t hold the hands of time/they will move like they will move”. This truly is an amazing song and Tyrone Wells is a gifted singer. A few of his songs appear in Rescue Me. So have a listen to this one here.
Only God Knows Why by Kid Rock. I admit, this song is my theme song. It sums up my life and how I feel on a day to day basis. Perhaps that is why I think Molly would like it too. For me, the line that says “People don’t know bout the things I say and do/They don’t understand about the shit that I’ve been through” touches on exactly what I think! People judge me based on my physical limitations, the difficulties I have interacting with people, and how I can sometimes shut down for days on end. What they don’t see are the nightmares, the flashbacks, and the never ending physical pain that I endure. And as for Molly, well, she’s a prostitute. People judge her for that without realizing that it was not a life she chose for herself, and she has no real way out. Listen to this song to understand me. But also to understand her.
Galway Girl by Steve Earle is another modern tune (I prefer the High Kings version). Obviously, as Molly is from County Galway, this song is a must for her playlist. That said, the girl referenced in the song has black hair and blue eyes whilst Molly has red hair and brown eyes, but still, “I ain’t never seen nothing like a Galway girl!” Here is a great street performance of the song shot in Galway City in 2016. It’ll get you tapping your foot for sure.
Now, there are a few other tunes that I’m not writing about specifically that I’d like to mention before I get to the song that actually is Molly’s. We have Fell on Bad Days by Rubyhorse, What It’s Like by Everlast, Oh! Susanna by Stephen Foster, The Sound of Silence cover by Disturbed, and last but not least, If I Should Fall From Grace With God by The Pogues. And now…….on to the song that she adopts as her own.
Annie Laurie is an old Scottish ballad. So why is an Irish girl singing it? She first heard the song sung by a Scottish sailor one night aboard the ship that carried her to America. The lyrics gave her comfort, and she memorized the lyrics, later, she sings it herself on the packet ship that takes her from New York to New Orleans. And, in the final scene of the novel, she sings it whilst standing over a grave before she turns and walks away into the mist. There are a billion different arrangements of this song, but here is one you can listen to.
And there you have it, Dear Readers, this is essentially what I’ve listened to whilst I’ve worked on the book.
Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.