The 33 1/3 B-sides Week, Day 4: Royale with Cheese

Today is the last day of our B-sides author takeover, and we’re ending with a short and sweet essay by Evie Nagy, author of Devo’s Freedom of Choice. Her chapter in The 33 1/3 B-sides is all about Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction. Below, she talks about why the soundtrack has stuck with her for so many years…

If you’re a writer, there’s a good chance you have an essay or two that you’ve been writing in your head for years, but for one reason or another have never seen words on a page. For the past decade or so I’ve had three: 1) Feminism in the Jack Reacher novels; 2) Why the Thor movies are really for women; and 3) My long-held intense and complicated relationship with the Pulp Fiction soundtrack (the album specifically, not the movie). The first two are likely to live forever only as vague collections of thoughts and maybe the occasional tweet, but the 33 ⅓ B-Sides project obliterated any excuse I had for not writing the third. I suspect this is the case for a number of the essays in the book, and I’m pretty excited to read these long-awaited exhalations from some of my favorite music writers.

My 33 ⅓ book on Devo’s Freedom of Choice is a work of pure research and reporting. It lacks any first-person perspective other than a brief origin story in the introduction, which is by and large my M.O. as a writer; my journalism career has been defined by editing, reporting, and criticism, with very little public personal introspection. Which is why dumping a pile of overblown adolescent drama into a brief examination of Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction was such a satisfying joy.

Of the thousands of unconscious associations my mind has made with music in my life,the most unshakable is this: I can’t hear “Jungle Boogie’s” final Tarzan wail and guitar beat, in any context, without immediately hearing the first chord and horn blast of “Let’s Stay Together,” even when they don’t come. For that minuscule moment, the songs don’t exist separately in my mind; they cease to be their own top-ten hits recorded two years apart by two different artists, basking in two different kinds of joy. As Kool and the Gang’s funk anthem reaches its last few measures, the anticipation of Al Green’s romantic soul standard feels as certain and nerve-wracking as any iconic key change (let’s go with “I Will Always Love You,” for illustration’s sake).

Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction is certainly not the only album I’ve listened to hundreds of times through, but unlike any other, I’ve internalized its musical curves as deeply as the subtle turns on my daily commute. The reasons are many, and scattered, and detailed in my contribution to the forthcoming 33 ⅓ B-Sides collection. I hope you’ll check out the book and give it to your friends, because I don’t think you could find a more inspired group of writers than those who get the chance to let out that long-secret exploration of a musical obsession. Unless you’re the boy I mention in my essay; please don’t read it.

Get your copy of The 33 1/3 B-sides here!

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