Well, hello there! I’m Ben Davis – author of the Joe Cowley book series. The latest title, The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Welcome to Cringefest sees Joe in a bad way. The love of his life, Natalie still won’t talk to him and nothing he can do will change her mind. He is about to give up hope when he happens on an inspired idea – The Grand Gesture.
You know what I mean by that, right? The standing outside her window playing her favourite song, the rain-soaked declaration of love, the last minute airport dash? Well, Joe thinks that something like that could be the key to winning back Natalie and that there would be no better place to attempt it than Buzzfest – the greatest music festival of all time.
Now, you’re reading this fine Teen Librarian book blog so you must be an intelligent person, and thus will know that Grand Gestures don’t work in real life. Joe isn’t that clever, though, so of course his every attempt ends in disaster, humiliation, and consequently – cringe.
As the book is largely set at a music festival, I have been asked to come up with Joe’s Ultimate Playlist – a list of songs that relate to Joe’s desperate situation. Anyone who knows me will understand that this is literally a dream come true for me. I compile playlists at every opportunity – parties, barbeques, bare knuckle fights in my shed, everything.
Now, the first song on Joe’s Ultimate Playlist is Frontier Psychiatrist by the Avalanches. Partly because there are many elements in it that crop up in the books – therapists, ghosts, parrots, and partly because the song, and accompanying video, are what I imagine the inside of Joe’s brain to look and sound like.
When people ask me what Welcome to Cringefest is about, I’ve found that it’s quicker to point them in the direction of this song by your granny’s favourite soul band, the Drifters.
Because all the kids love the Drifters, right?
Alternatively, if you prefer your music a bit more twenty-first century, If You Wanna by the Vaccines sums Joe’s predicament up pretty well.
A major element of the book is Joe examining who he is and what it means to become a man. The song Man Up from the Book of Mormon does that, too, and unlike most songs in that show, is pretty family friendly. Well, except the very last line.
Also, this version is performed by Josh Gad, who went on to voice Olaf in Frozen, so you can imagine it’s being sung by a jolly snowman.
On a similar theme, Are You Man Enough by the Four Tops takes a look at masculinity, emphasising the importance of being there for your mates. Plus, listening to it makes you feel dead cool like Shaft or someone like that.
As we have already established, Joe Cowley is thoroughly fed up in Welcome to Cringefest. Two songs that sum up that state of mind are Why Bother by Weezer (the band of my adolescence)
and Zombie by Jamie T.
The latter’s title is particularly relevant to Cringefest.
Now, there is one question that everyone asks themselves in times of strife. One question that helps us decide how best to live our lives – What Would Captain Picard Do?
This song sums up Joes life philosophy, even if he does forget it sometimes. I mean, could you imagine Picard doing something as vulgar as a Grand Gesture? This song is by Hank Green, brother of John.
When I’m writing Joe Cowley, I often listen to songs that remind me of when I was an awkward teenager (before I became an awkward adult) and two of the best are When the Girls Get Here by the Young Fresh Fellows
and Am I Normal by Art Brut.
Nerd rock par excellence.
Similarly, Billy Bragg (ask your dad) absolutely nails the classic but slightly pathetic unrequited teenage love story in The Saturday Boy.
Seriously, it’s so good, it makes me sick.
Punk Rock Girl by the Dead Milkmen
was a big influence on Joe Cowley, particularly the line, ‘She took me to her parents’ for a Sunday meal, her father took one look at me and he began to squeal.’ Also, is it just me, or does the lead singer look slightly Cowley-like?
Moving onto something a bit more modern, (2013 is as modern as I get) Everything is Embarrassing by Sky Ferreira is a great song.
And let’s face it, it may turn out to be the title of Joe Cowley’s autobiography.
Last but not least, it wouldn’t be a Joe Cowley playlist without some Pink Floyd, with a song that is, according to Joe, the best of all time – Brain Damage. This song actually appears in the book. I didn’t quote the lyrics though, because what am I, a millionaire?
And that’s it. To be honest, I think I’ve been neglecting a lot of important duties in the hours I’ve spent honing and refining this list, but the lawn isn’t going anywhere, is it? And I’m sure reports of a previously undiscovered Amazonian tribe living in it are exaggerated.
I’ve also compiled Joe’s Ultimate Playlist on Spotify,
because despite what my taste in music may suggest, I’m not a total granddad.
If you have any comments or questions (besides ‘your playlist needs more 1D’) you can reach me at my Facebook page www.facebook.com/bendavisauthor on Twitter @bendavis_86 or at my website www.bendavisauthor.com
The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Welcome to Cringefest is out now.