MEET THE LIDWELLS! A Rock n’ Roll Family Memoir
“Rule number one in the music business: never start a band with any members of your family.
Sure, it’ll start off just fine, everyone having fun, with big dreams of success and gold records, but then you realize you’re stuck in a stinking, too-small tour bus with your siblings for the fifth year running, and your brother hates you. Next thing you know, the band implodes just as it’s reaching its highest success, your family won’t talk to you anymore, the press is having a field day ripping you to shreds, and you’ll need to start your career all over again as a solo act. If you dare to at that point.
Rule number two in the music business: rules were made to be broken.” — Thomas Lidwell
Meet the Lidwells! is the story of four siblings and two cousins who start a band as teenagers and achieve success beyond their wildest dreams. But while they consistently top the charts with their irresistibly catchy tunes, they’re also fighting their own demons: perfectionism, disenchantment, addiction, exhaustion, sexism…and figuring out how to become an adult in front of millions of fans.
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The other day while reading Martin Aston’s book about the 4AD label, I came across a single sentence:
By 1985, American college radio had gathered momentum alongside the spurt in independent record labels, with the likes of [Clan of Xymox’s] “A Day” striking radio programmers as adventurous and commercial, and a modern, gleaming alternative to the guitar-centric homegrown scene spearheaded by bands such as REM, Sonic Youth and Hüsker Dü.
To be honest, I hadn’t been thinking of my Walk in Silence project lately, partly because I’d put it aside some time ago. I didn’t trunk it, I just put it aside so I could focus on the Trilogy Edit and newer fiction. I’d also gone through my projected timeline last summer on a personal level, if only to purge it from my writing brain for a while.
That personal version really wasn’t the original idea that I’d had. I was thinking more along the lines of a chronological book about college rock. The releases bracketing the story would be The Smiths’ third single, “What Difference Does It Make” (January 1984) and Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine (October 1989).
I could never quite figure out a way to solidify my idea that that was the golden era of college rock, before it became much more mainstream in 1991 with Nirvana and everyone else. Until that one sentence. It made sense to me, though…1984-85 was about the time that a lot of independent distributors and labels in the US, such as Relativity and Caroline, started licensing British bands that had only been available on expensive imports. [Only Sire had any sizeable share in that field as a major label, having signed the Smiths, Depeche Mode, and others.]
So it occurs to me that perhaps it’s time for me to resurrect the Walk in Silence project as it was originally intended, focusing on the sounds of college rock in the mid to late 80s. Maybe without so much of the personal added to it this time out.
Of course, I already have a few writing projects on tap as it is, so I’ll have to figure out how the hell to fit this in. Heh.
I’m thrilled to report that in the span of one month, I’ve already hit over 13,000 words for the Meet the Lidwells project, averaging around 500 to 700 words day. I’m still on track for a fall release at this point, as I think I’m about a fifth of the way done already!
Meanwhile, here’s a few songs I’ve used for inspiration and reference so far. As you can see, there’s definitely a deep Britpop influence going on.
The Stone Roses, “I Am the Resurrection”: The four-to-the-floor beat of this track was part of the inspiration for the Lidwells’ first major hit, “Grapevine”. Theirs is a catchy track that captures the interest of not just their younger teen fans but also the older ones, thanks to their ability to cleverly mix pop stylings and creative alternative rock. The Lidwells were known for stretching out “Grapevine” live, much like how The Stone Roses did with this song.
The Charlatans UK, “Opportunity”: Keyboardist Danny Lidwell wrote a groovy deep track called “Trust” for their debut album inspired by the keyboard-heavy Manchester bands like The Charlatans and Inspiral Carpets. He claims that “Trust” was when he deliberately decided to stop being self-conscious about his playing and just powered through it, revealing his own unique style in the process.
The Real People, “Window Pane”: I’m using this song as a sort of template as to what the early Lidwells sound like aurally: a lot of harmony, a positive and funky vibe, and definitely catchy and fun to dance to.
The House of Love, “You Don’t Understand”: This would be a good example of the type of song they would write, especially eldest member and band leader Jason. In fact, Jason will end up writing a song similar-sounding to this one by their third album.
Veruca Salt, “Volcano Girls”: This is definitely a great example of how I picture the two women in the band, Hannah and Amy, rocking out. Hannah is a badass drummer with no fear, and Amy is one hell of a shredder. They’re both solid songwriters with no filter at all.
The La’s, “Looking Glass”: If A Division of Souls had Failure’s “Daylight” as the soundtrack for the final scene, this is the one for MtL‘s finale. This would be Thomas, the youngest Lidwell, singing this as the final song on their final show on their last tour, going out on one hell of a high.
More to come when I have more written! 🙂
Alas, my recent fascination with 70s music has been sidetracked due to my starting in on the Meet the Lidwells project; in this case, I am now immersing myself in the poppier side of alternative rock circa 1990-1996. Not complaining, considering.
I’m trying to avoid the expected hits, the songs that still pop up from time to time: “Unbelievable” and “Right Here Right Now”, Achtung Baby and Nevermind, and so on. I’d like to dig just a little deeper than expected — something I am wont to do for my writing projects anyway — and bring back some of the tunes that were on my Walkman during my college years.
Sure, I’ve often said that the early 90s was definitely an unpredictable era of great highs and miserable lows for me personally, but that’s not the story I’m writing here. [And that’s another blog post entirely anyway.] I’m reconnecting with a lot of the great music that came out at the time, and channeling that energy into the Lidwells story.
The early 90s was an interesting time, for a multitude of reasons anyway. Musically, post-punk and college rock was becoming the new mainstream, 80s pop was aging a bit (sometimes not that well at all), and new voices and sounds were popping up from around the globe. Politically, old walls (literal and figurative) were being torn down, and soon a new President would be entering the White House. It felt like there was a weird positivity in the air that we’d almost forgotten about.
It may have been the political sea change, or it may have been something else. For me at any rate, I was thinking this was the last decade in the millennium, and that we were all looking forward to a more positive future than the sometimes dreary one we’d been recently subjected to.
Musically, I was getting into the wave of Britpop that WFNX was playing (when they weren’t playing grunge, which took me a lot longer to get into). In addition to that, Boston was experiencing a small renaissance of sorts with a hell of a lot of great local bands old and new getting some serious airplay — Manufacture, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Tribe, Heretix, The 360s, Think Tree…a bunch of bands I may not have been able to see live, but I certainly bought most of their releases when I could.
I was also doing a lot of shorter writing at the time — my fiddling with the Infamous War Novel had faded into the background; I’d created my comic character Murph and put him through all kinds of weird universes; I’d finally gotten out of the ‘doom poetry’ phase I’d put myself through and was writing some solid Flying Bohemians lyrics; I was also pushing myself to play around with new story ideas.
This is the energy that I want to use for Meet the Lidwells; a feeling of optimism and strong bursts of creativity. Sure, my story will deal with their personal ups and downs and their eventual demise as a band, but that’s only part of it. This is about celebration as much as it is about struggle.
It’s about the love (the characters’ and mine) of music. 🙂
One thing I’d always done during the course of a writing project is to give it a soundtrack. Whether it’s a playlist, a list of specific albums, or a mixtape, it serves to create a specific mood that I’m looking for. With The Phoenix Effect, having envisioned this as a multi-book project even then, I’d given the series the name The Eden Cycle (referencing both obvious religious imagery and EdenTree, a megacorporation that would be a part of the plot). It seemed fitting to give the mixtapes the same title.
At the time, my idea had been of souls inhabiting AI cybernetic bodies — which in hindsight created a lot more trouble than it was worth — so the imagery I was looking for was much darker and creepier. That said, however, I chose not to focus on dystopian pessimism; instead I wanted my story to ascend past that into something positive.
This is the first of four mixtapes I made during 1997-8; this one was made in mid-April of 1997, just before I went on a road trip out to Ohio to visit a friend of mine. One of the major reasons for making it was so I could listen to it during my commute and think about what I was going to write. Over the next few days I’ll be sharing the other three original volumes from this era. The links are to their YouTube/Vimeo videos (they’ll open in a separate tab), and I’ll also provide a brief background as to why I chose the song for the mix.
Hope you enjoyed my little bit of tunage sharing there! I’ll be following up with the other three volumes in the original series soon!
NOTE: HEY KIDS! Speaking of writing, I have an e-book coming out this Friday! The Balance of Light, the third book in the Bridgetown Trilogy, will finally get released in just a few short days! Come on over to Smashwords and check it out!
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Of course, you all know that I almost always have some sort of tunage going during my writing sessions, especially when they’re back here in Spare Oom. Even as I type this, I’m listening to Elbow’s latest album, Little Fictions.
You also know that there have been certain go-to albums that I’ll play, especially if I’m working on something related to the Mendaihu Universe.
But now that that particular project is complete…now what should I listen to? Good question.
Meet the Lidwells! is about a musical family, and once I get to the bulk of the writing of this project, I’m sure I’ll be listening to a lot of 90s alternapop to fit with the band’s sound. I’ve got a lot of that stuff in my collection, thanks to my time at HMV, but I can also let SiriusXM’s Lithium station do the work as well.
Other than that, my project options are wide open. I’m thinking maybe a standalone Mendaihu Universe book or two. And for some reason, I’ve decided that I need to listen to a lot of LOUD music for those. The plot ideas I have for these involve a lot of emotional and societal tension, so something twitchy and irritable would fit quite nicely.
Something like the alt-metal of Caspian for instance:
…or something nice and crunchy from Deftones.
I’m sure I’ll temper it with some quiet moody stuff like I always do.
Either way, it’s time to change up the writing session soundtrack big time. I’m not sure what I’ll be listening to in particular, but I’m keeping my options open. Some of my favorite writing session albums come to me purely by accident — an album I haven’t heard in years that just happens to fit the mood of the scene, or a new release that clicks with me right from the first listen. I still absolutely adore Failure’s Fantastic Planet (it’s still on my gym mp3 player after all these years), but I’ve got to start listening to more than just the same things.
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