Retro-Writing Calls For Retro-Music: How Nick Gilder Became My Favourite Obsession!


I recently started a new ‘project’. Yes. It’s true. I’m writing again. I took a few weeks off, due to…hmmm…lack of concentration? Yes. Let’s call it that. So, the new project is a contemporary fiction that takes place in the 1970s. Why the 70s, some may ask? I find that I fit most comfortably in the 70s and 80s. That’s my gentle way of saying I’m stuck in the past.


The working title of this novel in progress is BEAUTY IS IN THE SKY OF THE BEHOLDER. It’ll be business as usual, as far as themes go. I’m a sucker for taking a character to the bottom of the pit and attempting to help them dig their way up out of the mire. BEAUTY will be another book with another sad-sack character who tries to find peace against all odds. Please…don’t try to read anything into this favourite theme of mine. (-;

Because BEAUTY takes place in 1975, there was NO question what my playlist would be. A list of one. ROXY ROLLER. Glam rockers Sweeney Todd were a favourite of mine that year. As much as I have spent a lifetime obsessed with T-Rex and Marc Bolan…I have also had Sweeney Todd rolled into that obsession. As a kid, I was THRILLED that Glam could be found in Canada. Todd was our version of T-Rex. So, before I typed in the title BEAUTY IS IN THE SKY OF THE BEHOLDER, you can rest assured that I dropped the needle on the Todd.


But as I began writing the story, I quickly became more obsessed with the background music than the story-thread. As I’m a bit new to getting bum in chair again, I thought it would be a good idea to follow the obsession while I wrote. So Sweeney Todd’s Roxy Roller quickly transformed to Nick Gilder’s Hot Child in the City. The two songs are actually so perfect together, they could have been released as a mashed single like, say, Queen’s We are the Champions and We Will Rock You. Or, an even better duo single release, This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide. Alas, Roxy Roller and Hot Child in the City aren’t even by the same ‘group’. Hot Child was Nick’s hit as a solo artist, after he left the band for greener pastures.


So, here I am. I’m adding to BEAUTY every day, now. I’m getting back into the swing and discipline of writing. It’s feeling great. Writing is my salvation. And I have these two songs looping endlessly in the background. It’s kind of like being in Nirvana, but wondering where the hell Marc Bolan got himself to. Because, well, everyone knows Marc would be there. Glamming up a storm. But I have the next best thing keeping me company along the journey to discovering just what the hell BEAUTY IS IN THE SKY OF THE BEHOLDER is all about. I have Nick Gilder setting the pace of my story. And, he’s kind of a big deal here in Canada. In the history of Glam Rock (which is one of my favourite obsessions), Nick Gilder and his sadly defunct band, SWEENEY TODD, are a pillar. Not only are they a pillar…but they’re a Canadian pillar. For me, that’s important. It’s not often Canadian’s celebrate each other.


I am obsessing over these two tracks. I know I am. But this is what I do when I settle in to write a new story. I pick a song. Or two. And I play the shit out of them. Nothing transports me to particular moments in time more than music. Sweeney Todd were a huge influence in my life back in the day. I drop the needle on Roxy Roller, and it’s amazing how quickly the cell phones and computers and internet and microwaves and every other modern convenience to spring from the loins of humanity fade into the background. When I hear that incredibly sleek and singularly enchanting glamrock voice (a voice that I have defended in many arguments to be that of a MALE), I am 1975.

I’m off to continue the story. But before I go, I’ll leave you with Sweeney Todd and Nick Gilder. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though. You will become obsessed.

First, ROXY ROLLER. Nick with his band, Sweeney Todd:

And, lastly, HOT CHILD IN THE CITY, Nick’s biggest solo career offering:

I’ve always been fascinated with music playlists and the novel. I often wonder how other writers feel about them. Myself, I need to be extremely picky to choose just the write song(s). I tend to stay to a list of one or two songs per project. Usually just one artist. I wrote my second novel, Sebastian’s Poet, listening to just one song…Anthem by Leonard Cohen. It worked for me. It may sound crazy…to listen to one song on repeat for all that time. But as writers we have to test everything…just keep doing things until we know, instinctively, that we’re doing the right thing.

So…what’s the story, morning glory? Do you playlist? Do you have a method or do you play whatever grabs your fancy? Do you find songs for each character? You know, like some wicked cool haunting song for scenes with the antagonist, and some less haunting more heroic ditty for protagonist face time. Let’s have it! What is your musical accompaniment process?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I do believe I need to re-acquire a pair of roller skates! Nothing says Motorcity Roller-Rama (one of my old haunts!) like Sweeney Todd!


By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.

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