The Second Cure Playlist



The Second Cure is brimming with music, in part because of the crucial role it plays in the plot and in part because it simply obsesses me. Music is as fundamental to my functioning as reading and cooking and gardening are. I don’t have a visual mind but my aural brain is constantly active, so it’s inevitable that music found its way into my novel. My tastes range from Medieval to Classical to Modernist to jazz to folk to pop to heavy metal. There are few genres I don’t like, and even if a particular form doesn’t attract me (hello Country!), chances are it’ll have exceptions that will test the rule.

Much of the music in this list is taken directly from the novel: music sung or listened to by the characters. 

The rest is what I play to get myself into a writing mode. That tends to be stuff I know well that lets me wrap myself up in its sound and separates me from the world outside, so I can focus. 


You can listen to all the music on Spotify. Enjoy!


This was released by Tiny Tim when I was a child, a cover of a romantic hit from the 1920s. 
It was just part of the background noise of the sixties, played on the radio as a “novelty song”, and although now it’s hard to believe, it didn’t even seem all that odd. It was only when my daughter Maxine told me that it was one of the most disturbing and spooky songs she’d ever heard that I listened to it with new ears. She’s right. Yikes. So that’s why I have used it in the novel as I have: an instrument of torture.

The Lord’s My Shepherd

Another part of my childhood, this was sung frequently at St David’s Presbyterian Church. There was a lovely old bloke by the name of Mr Wharton (I don’t think he had a first name) who would sing a high tenor harmonising with the overall drone. My father was only a member of the church because he liked doing the books (he was session clerk). I suspect that Mr Wharton’s motivation was similarly prosaic. Where else would he get the weekly opportunity to exercise those vocal chords?

This version, by the Oxford Trinity Choir, bears little resemblance to that of either my St David’s or my character Tricia’s charges at the old folk’s home. 

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

This goes even earlier back in my childhood, to Sunday School where we sang songs and did colouring in. Aretha Franklin’s interpretation would have knocked my little white socks off. Tricia Townsend would have had apoplexy.

Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) by Igor Stravinsky

This is the first classical piece referred to in the novel, and in terms of the story, one of the most important. Richard tells Charlie that it caused a riot when it was first performed in Paris in 1913, and it did. If you have never heard this before, please: have a glass or two of your favourite tipple or indulge in another recreational substance of choice, sit in a darkened room, open your mind and listen to this loudly. As loudly you might to Led Zeppelin. Let yourself feel it. You won’t regret it. 

Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix

Not a lot in common with Stravinsky, except, as Richard points out, they both employ the Devil’s Tritone. When I was a kid, my brother David (three years older, a crucial age difference when it comes to musical tastes. Everyone should have a sibling three years older for musical enlightenment purposes) burst into my bedroom one morning to tell me about this guy who played guitar with thirty thousand volts going through the strings of his guitar and I had to hear it. He was right that I had to hear it, wrong about the volts. David was never good at science. 

Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix played by the Kronos Quartet

Because seriously, how fantastic is this?

Serenade for Tenor Horn and Strings by Benjamin Britten

I love Britten’s music. It fits in that tension-filled space between 19th century romanticism and the falling apart of tonality in the first half of the 20th century. Britten was the god of chromaticism. The piece from the Serenade I use in the novel, Elegy, is a setting of the Blake poem, The Sick Rose. Both the song and the words give me shivers.

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

If you want to explore more of Britten’s music, I advise your next stop be his Violin Concerto, Op. 15.

So What by Miles Davis

This is the first track on Miles Davis’ seminal album, Kind of Blue, released in 1959. Like so many others, my character Richard considers this album to be the greatest jazz album ever made, and I can only agree with him. Amazing modalities, sublime performances from Davis, Coltrane, Bill Evans and others, and an interplay between the musicians that is both organic and disciplined, respectful and adventurous. It’s also the piece Shadrack uses when he gets inside Richard’s brain …

Brahms Serenade No.1 in D Major

Brahms is a composer I really do adore, but to be honest, this isn’t one of his greatest. I chose it because it is the piece Charlie can’t focus on when she hears it at the Sydney Opera House. If you want some Brahms to sink your senses into, try his Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102

Wagner, Tristan and Isolde, Liebestod

I can do no better than to quote Richard explaining it to Charlie:

‘The “Liebestod” is all about sex! Hell, the whole opera is. You just got the last few minutes. The whole thing lasts five hours, five hours of rising tension, unresolved chords, and it builds and builds, and you have that amazing rhythm, then whammo, orgasm. Isolde’s aria is pretty much the money shot.’

Charlie scrunched up her nose. ‘Richard!’

‘You know what ‘Liebestod’ means, don’t you?’ 

She shook her head.

‘Love-death? La petite mort?’

Another blank. He gave her a look of mock awe. ‘The classics entirely passed you by, didn’t they? Look, sex and death have been mingled in the arts forever, and Wagner was playing with that idea. In that final aria, Isolde falls dead upon Tristan’s corpse, in an ecstasy of passion. She dies in both senses, and in death they are united.’

But in The Second Cure, this goes well beyond metaphor …

Honeysuckle Rose by Fats Domino and Andy Razaf

The final piece from the novel is a song from 1929 and it must surely qualify as having the dirtiest lyrics in the entire jazz universe. 

Every honey bee fills with jealousy
When they see you out with me,
I don’t blame them, goodness knows
You're my honeysuckle rose.

When you're passin’ by, flowers droop and sigh
And I know the reason why
Goodness knows
You're my honeysuckle rose.
Don't buy sugar
You just have to touch my cup,
You're my sugar
It's sweeter when you stir it up
When I'm taking sips from your tasty lips
Seems the honey fairly drips,
Goodness knows
You're my honeysuckle rose

So of course, it’s the song two of my favourite characters dance to, as they fall in love.

The rest of the music in my list is representative of what I like to immerse myself in while I write. It needs to be something that won’t intrude, that is dense, familiar and that overwhelms what is going on outside my little creative bubble. 

So to end this playlist: Roxy Music, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, J.S. Bach, George Gershwin and Marin Marais. 

Thanks for indulging my musical pleasures. I hope you like them too.