Songs For ‘Adam’

A year ago, I compiled a playlist for my friend Bryan Borland’s poetry collection My Life as Adam, and Bryan quickly followed suit with his own pop-cultural interpretation of his own book. It speaks to how deeply integrated these two forms of cultural representation are, and how silly it would be to think of them in hierarchical ways. When you open a book, you take a set of values and references with you into reading and interpreting it, and for me that means that fragment of music and movies will  always influence my experience of it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bryan’s distinctive poetic voice matched with a wealth of entries in my personal library of pop culture references. Below, you will find an expanded playlist from the one published last year, containing songs that to some extent shaped my reading of My Life as Adam. Some touched tangentially upon a theme in the poem, while others were less strained fits. I’m not completely satisfied with all the songs (some are too literally connected to the poem, and many of them don’t quite capture the tone or the energy.) That said, I endorse all of these songs as genuine gems.

Since most of the songs were (at least implicitly) written from a heterosexual viewpoint, I also had to do some implicit queering of the texts, but I decided to go with them anyway.  Enjoy the selection (I will continue to update it), and most important, don’t overthink it. The poems stand brilliantly on their own. This is just my way of showing how much I appreciate them.


SOUNDTRACK TO ADAM (the Song For Adam memorial list)

My Life as AdamStill Fighting It by Ben Folds

Everybody knows

It sucks to grow up

Yet everybody does


Early Valentine” – Prince Charming by Adam & The Ants

Don’t you ever, don’t you ever

Stop being dandy

Showing me you’re handsome


Altar Boys” – Thirteen by Big Star

Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking of?

Would you be an outlaw for my love?


Queer Progression” – In The End by Justin Bond & The Hungry Marching Band

Could you talk to quiet my fears

Could you pull me aside

just to acknowledge that I’ve tried


Trick” – Love, Love, Love by The Mountain Goats

Some things you do for money

Others you do for love, love, love


National Coming Out Day, 1998” – I’m Looking Through You by The Beatles

You don’t look different but you have changed

I’m looking through you

You’re not the same


Missouri” – Lost Boys and Golden Girls by Meat Loaf

We’ll never be as young as we are right now


If Next Year He Goes” –  Rich Man’s War by Steve Earle

Somebody somewhere had another plan

Now he’s got a rifle in his hand

Rollin’ into Baghdad wonderin’ how he got this far

Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war


The Book Of Sam” – Speed Of Light by Teenage Fanclub

Drive an easy road

If you’re looking for direction

Don’t forget to set your seat and go


Shoulder” – Strange by The Feeling

Everyone knoes we’re different

So why do you feel ashamed?


Bite” – Rock You by Jesse McCartney

Spend the night with me

I’ll rock you


The Book Of Cody” – Bad Boys and Painkillers by James Dean Bradfield

Never complain or explain

Never felt lucky or shame


Pilgrimage To Arkadelphia” – The Way by Fastball

Exit to eternal summer slacking

But where were they going without ever knowing the way?


The Book Of Eric” – Portions For Foxes by Rilo Kiley

The talking leads to touching

And the touching leads to sex

And then there is no mystery left


Introduction To Eve” – I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing by Pet Shop Boys

Denigrate or speculate on what I’m going through

Because it isn’t the sort of thing I would normally do


Blood” – Fight Test by The Flaming Lips

I should have fought him

But instead I let him

Let him take it


Prom Night” – Some Flowers Bloom Dead by The Wallflowers

How could you feel used

when I feel trapped?


Atonement” – Born A Girl by Manic Street Preachers

I wish I had been born a girl

And not this mess of a man

Time Machine” – Never Die Young by James Taylor

And we who couldn’t bear to believe they might make it

We got to close our eyes

Cut off our losses into doable doses

Ration our tears and sighs


Marks Of The Beast” – Young Adult Friction by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

If you go your own way

 I will go my own way

And we’ll never speak of it again


The Book Of David” – Factory by Bruce Springsteen

Factory takes his hearing

Factory gives him life

The working, the working, just the working life


Weeds” Make Your Own Kind Of Music by Mama Cass

It may be rough going

Just do your thing

The hardest thing to do


Flawed Families In Biblical Times” Will You Be There by Michael Jackson

Carry me

Like you are my brother

Love me like a mother

Will you be there?


The Lion’s DenI Wanna Be Adored by The Stone Roses

You adore me

You adore me

You adore me


The Crusades” – Hero’s Song by Brendan James

Carry out what your leader says

For what his leader says

Is that his leader says

This is right for the people


The Book Of Brandon” – Are You Alright? by Lucinda Williams

I looked around and you were gone

Are you alright?

I feel like there must be something wrong


Speaking In Tongues” – Fluorescent Adolescent by Arctic Monkeys

Flicking through a little book of sex tips

Remember when the boys were all electric?


The Book Of Dmitri” – Magick by Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

You’re like a missile strike


Warhead on legs


Levi” – I Want You by Savage Garden

Ooh, I want you

I don’t know if I need you

But, ooh, I’d die to find out


Wallow” – Nothing Is Good Enough by Aimee Mann

Nothing is good enough for people like you

You have to have someone take the fall

And something to sabotage

Like Elvis and Priscilla” – When My Boy Walks Down The Street by The Magnetic Fields

Maybe he should be illegal

He just makes life too complete


The Levite” – Smile At Everyone by Minor Majority

Even though the photo shown looked kind of old

The story of his life was beautifully told

When he was young he used to smile at everyone

And now he’s gone


The Book Of Joshua, Epilogue” – We Used To Be Friends by The Dandy Warhols

A long time ago we used to be friends

But I haven’t thought of you lately at all


There Shall Be No Gods” – Intriguing Possibilities by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (instrumental)


SalvationTeach Your Children by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young

You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by


Our March” – Walk Like A Man by Bruce Springsteen

Well now the years have gone and I’ve grown

From that seed you’ve sown

But I didn’t think there’d be so many steps

I’d have to learn on my own

Well I was young and I didn’t know what to do

When I saw your best steps stolen away from you

Now I’ll do what I can

I’ll walk like a man


Grapes Of Comfort” – Fifteen by Taylor Swift

When all you wanted was to be wanted

Wish you could go back

and tell yourself what you know now


Fag/Hag” – Kind Of A Girl by Tinted Windows

She’s the kind of a girl who could take up your whole world

The kind of a girl you kind of wish you didn’t know


Shopaholic” – Power of Two by Indigo Girls

I’m stronger than the monster beneath your bed


Sons Of Abraham” – Not Enough by Emmylou Harris

I still hold on to places you once stood

I should move on, but I never could

really believe that you were gone for good


Watching Brokeback Mountain In Little Rock” – He Was A Friend Of Mine by Willie Nelson

Every time I think of him I just can’t keep from crying

‘Cause he was a friend of mine


The Book Of Ricky” – Rendez-Vu by Basement Jaxx

I’ve got you in my head

Let’s make a rendez-vu


Kink” – Feel Like Makin’ Love by D’Angelo

When you talk to me

When you’re moanin’ sweet & low

When you touch me

and my feelings start to show, oh


Galilee At DuskEven The Losers by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Well it nearly summer, we sat on your roof

We smoked cigarettes and we stared at the moon


Eulogy To My Twenties” – To The Ghosts Who Write History Books by The Low Anthem

To them ghosts who write history books

To them ghosts who write songs

Everyone asks would you wri te one about me?


We Are Everywhere And Nowhere” – Are We There Yet? by Ingrid Michaelson

They say there’s linings made of silver

Folded inside each raining cloud

We need someone to deliver that silver lining now

We Planted These Trees By HandTonite by Jarvis Cocker

The night is for lovers

So show some respect


Hymn” – Been There Before by Hanson

Does it move you?

Does it soothe you?

Does it fill your heart and soul with

the roots of rock ‘n’ roll?


If River Phoenix Had Lived” – Stand By Me by Ben E. King

Whenever you’re in trouble, won’t you stand by me

Rapture” – My Stunning Mystery Companion by Jackson Browne

You’re the one who pulled me out of that crash landing

My stunning mystery companion


In Defense Of Existence” – God’s Country by Ani DiFranco

This may be God’s country

But it’s my country too

Move over, mister Holiness

Let the little people through


Adam’s Manifesto One: Shake” – Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

Drench yourself in words unspoken

Live your life with arms wide open

Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten


The Book Of Bradley” – Writing To Reach You by Travis

I long to teach you about you

But that’s not you


Revelations” – Everywhere There’s Statues by Jay Brannan

If this craving’s one to ignore

Then someone tell me what the fuck a soul is for


An Outsider’s Guide To Gay MarriageStrange Weirdos by Loudon Wainwright III

Isn’t it weird that two weirdos

Can end up not feeling that weird?

It’s all so momentous yet perfectly normal

Scary but not to be feared


Resurrection” – Not About To Lose by Ron Sexsmith

I won’t be taking fear’s advice

Not after all I’ve sacrificed

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4 Responses to Songs For ‘Adam’

  1. Bryan Borland says:

    I’m on iTunes now pointing and clicking. You know you’re about to cost me like fifty dollars, right? :)

    I can’t tell you how much joy I’m getting out of this list!

    • queerlefty says:


      I’ll reimburse you in full in future SRP purchases, I promise :) Hope you liked the music. I honestly think all of these songs are great in their own way (even that weird Adam & the Ants song is saved by a chorus that is truly glorious, and Natasha Bedingfield’s track is catchy in a Nelly Furtado-like way, even though it doesn’t quite capture the tone of the poem.)

      I think my favorite song-poem match here has to be Springsteen’s “Walk Like A Man” for “Our March”.

      Most of the songs should be available for purchase, with a couple notable exceptions: The Jay Brannan song is YouTube only, and Minor Majoority and BigBang both being Norwegian bands, I don’t know if their material is available to American costumers.

  2. Bryan Borland says:

    And don’t think I don’t realize and recognize how hard it is and how much time it takes to find and link to all these songs!

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