Alan Eisenstock Recommends Music to Lift You Up

(Editor’s note: When Palisadian Alan Eisenstock is not researching and writing one of his nonfiction books (18 thus far!), he pursues what he calls “a crazy labor of love side project” that he started in mid-March: sending a weekly Covid-themed playlist of songs to his family and friends. These playlists (which can be downloaded on Spotify span rock ‘n’ roll and pop music from the 1950s to 2020, and Eisenstock adds one or two lines of commentary about each song that is clever, amusing and informative.)

Tired of 24/7 Television? No Concerts, No Plays? Here’s an Idea. . . .


Hi, everyone,

Covid has decimated entertainment. You can’t go out to a movie, play or concert and we’ve all finished Netflix. What to do? Idea. Read a BOOK. Dedicated to my favorite bookstore, Diesel, in Brentwood, California, which is struggling mightily – and in memory of Village Books in Pacific Palisades, here are 19 “book/lit” songs. Listen up!

  1. “Paperback Writer” The Beatles. 1966 Paul song that’s about a paperback writer crafting a query letter to a publisher. I’ve personally written 67,000 query letters.
  2. “The Book Of Love” by The Monotones.Six guys. Doo Wop group. One-hit wonders from 1958. I’m padding.
  3. “My Back Pages” The Byrds. Recorded this Dylan song in 1967. Bryd member David Crosby objected, saying he was sick of covering Dylan songs. Roger McGuinn said, “Shut up,” Crosby said, “You shut up,” and they began to wrestle.
  4. “Book Of Dreams” Bruce Springsteen. Watching the girl he loves through a window, wants to put her in his “book of dreams.” Ah, Boss, a song about a Peeping Tom? Really?
  5. “Words Of Love” Buddy Holly. Rock pioneer Holly recorded this in 1957. He harmonizes with himself. The Beatles later covered it. Buddy’s is better.
  6. “Book Of Rules” The Heptones. Jamaicain reggae trio recorded this hit in 1973 based on the poem, “A Bag of Tools” by R.L. Sharpe. The Heps were great, never got famous. Until this playlist.
  7. “Words” Bee Gees. The brothers Gibb wrote this song about the impact of words, say, in an argument, or the tiny print in your long-term care policy. Covered by Rita Coolidge, et al.
  8. “Poetry In Motion” Johnny Tillotson. 1960 sexist smash hit. Tillotson had nine Top Ten hits in the sixties. Features Boots Randolph on sax & Floyd Cramer on piano.
  9. “Everyday I Write The Book” Elvis Costello & the Attractions. 1983 from “Punch the Clock” album. Elvis allegedly challenged himself to write a song in 10 minutes or less and wrote this. I hate him.
  10. “The Book Of Love” The Magnetic Fields. Hugely-talented Stephin Merritt named his band after a French novel. This song, one of my favorites, comes from “69 Love Songs,” a 1999 three-album collection.
  11. “The Story” Brandi Carlile. Love folk-rock singer/activist Brandi. This 2007 song, one of her best, was featured in “Grey’s Anatomy.”
  12. “You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” Bo Diddley. Born Elias McDaniel, Bo covers this Willie Dixon song. Separated at birth–Bo and Steve Urkel. Anyone else see it?
  13. “If You Could Read My Mind” Gordon Lightfoot. 1970 hit Gordon, Canada’s top recording artist, supposedly wrote this about his divorce. Gordon, you don’t know me, but any chance my wife and I could crash in your guesthouse for a short time, say, the next four years?
  14. “New Biography” Van Morrison. Notorious Northern Irish mean boy sings this about someone writing his unauthorized biography. Van the Man is pissed. Good song resulted.
  15. “A Poem On The Underground Wall” Simon and Garfunkel. Gorgeous song, poetic lyrics, from 1966, off “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme.” Song suggested by one of you! Thank you.
  16. “Black Coffee In Bed” Squeeze. British new wave band, fronted by Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook. Song about a breakup and writing in bed. I LOVE this song. Backup vocals by Paul Young and Elvis Costello.
  17. “Writing” Elton John. 1974 song about Sir Elton’s and Bernie’s writing process.Offers excellent writing advice: get a partner named Bernie.
  18. “Wishin’ and Hopin'” Dusty Springfield. Born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien. Dusty Springfield is catchier. She recorded this Hal David-Burt Bacharach song in 1964. This is every writer’s mantra after sending off that brilliant manuscript.
  19. “Things Have Changed” Bob Dylan. “They loved my book! Just a few things have to be changed. On page one…” From “Wonder Boys,” the 2000 film about a writer, based on Michael Chabon’s wonderful novel. The song won the Academy Award.

Well, it’s time to close the book for this week. Here is the link to Diesel’s Go Fund Me page, if you’d like to donate.

Books and puzzles can be purchased at Diesel Bookstore.

Now, some friendly advice: Don’t Forget to Disinfect and …. PLAY IT LOUD!

The Spotify playlist link again:


I may have sent out fewer than 67,000 query letters. (Number 1)

I did read that David Crosby was sick of covering Dylan songs. I made up the rest about the shouting match and wrestling with Roger McGuinn. (Number 3)


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