Her Husband’s Lover Playlist – Why

In which I explain my reasoning behind choosing the playlist I posted yesterday:


Straight to You

Nick Cave

As part of writing Her Husband’s Lover, I wrote what I now see as a ‘warm up novel’.

This novel is now filed in ‘strong but wrong’. It strayed into a dark, dystopian territory – too far for me. It wasn’t time wasted though – I took certain parts and brought them forward into the ‘right’ novel, and am refashioning a lot of the discarded scraps into something quite different. I’ll write more about this later. But this is just to explain that this song by Mr Cave was the starting point for that book, and I definitely took some of the colours of it with me into Her Husband’s Lover. This lyric, especially was one that rang around my brain while I was writing.

All the towers of ivory are crumbling
And the swallows have sharpened their beaks
This is the time of our great undoing…

I now hear it every time Trump sends out another tweet.


performed by David Bowie
written by Feldman-Goldstein-Gottehrer (FGG Productions)

I see this song as being all about how we can’t find happiness through love and beauty.

It’s a song really for both Sophie and Louisa, the main female characters in the book, for whom love only brings disasters.

Also, Bowie’s 1973 glamour is how I imagine Sophie’s modelling life to be – all cocaine, high heels and predatory photographers. Had she been born 50 years earlier, she would probably have been hanging around with Bowie and Warhol in Studio 54.


Johnny Cash

This is a beautiful song, full of the self pity of the addict.

Everyone I know goes away in the end.

He even talks about wearing a crown of thorns. This streak of burning martyr runs strongly through at least one of the charactersin Her Husband’s Lover. I first heard this song when my musician son Owen performed it to me, aged 17. You don’t have to be old to feel its soul.

Dear Darkness/Who the Fuck

P J Harvey

In my head, either of these songs could be the backing track running through a certain character’s head over the second part of the novel. Can’t say who because of spoilers.

I couldn’t play my first choice on the radio because of the bad, bad, language. But it’s not hard to find other songs along the same lines in the darkly magical Polly Harvey canon, and, to be honest, I have her on quite a lot of the time while I’m thinking about my work.

These Boots are Made for Walking
performed by Nancy Sinatra
written by Lee Hazlewood

This is the perfect revenge song. I love the counterpoint of the bouncy, jolly music and the dark message underneath. You never know what lies behind the sweetest exteriors. It’s something I think about a lot *smiles prettily*.

To Zion

Lauryn Hill

This is all about the joy of a baby. Her Husband’s Lover has the joys and trials of motherhood running right through its centre. For one of the characters, a big redeeming factor is the love she has for her offspring. I love the story behind this song

Look at your career they said
Lauryn, baby use your head
But instead I chose to use my heart.

Lauryn baby, I hear ya.

I’ve got you Under my Skin

Frank Sinatra
written by Cole Porter

Just like his daughter’s song, this is very dark indeed if read through the right (or wrong!) glasses. It’s all about what he wants from her, and there’s no thought given to whether she really wants this attention. I know that’s heteronormative of me, but I’m pretty sure Frankie baby was singing about a doll.

I’ve got you under my skin
I have got you, deep in the heart of me
So deep in my heart that you’re really a part of me
I’ve got you under my skin

There is a very nasty episode near the end of the book where this plays in the background. I was inspired in this by the horrible ear scene in Reservoir Dogs. Eight months pregnant, I had to walk out of the cinema first time I saw that.

Bird on a Wire

Leonard Cohen

The classic, beautiful song about being trapped, by love, or perhaps, by oneself.
I am still crying about the world losing Leonard. This song didn’t make it to the radio programme, because I was only allowed eight, so I went for this one instead:

Fallin’ Away

Kudu Blue

This is a track by my son Owen’s band. They make the kind of trip-hop that reminds me of my days back in Bristol in the early 1990s, when he was a baby. He was, in fact, once dandled on Daddy G‘s knee in Montpelier’s Café de Daphne. Perhaps something rubbed off on him. Anyway, this is a great song, with ballsy lyrics by Clem Douglas, and I used this:

My Dreams are Sweeter than Reality.
I’m a savoury girl/in an unsavoury world

As Louisa’s personal theme tune. This track isn’t on Spotify, but here it is on Soundcloud:

Leave a Reply