We’re all familiar with books being made into films (more of that later) but has anyone ever made “the album of the book”? Well now, yes,they have…
Perry Serpa and friends present, Wherefore Art Thou? - Songs Inspired by Nick Hornby's “Juliet, Naked.”
2009: Nick Hornby writes a witty, insightful, best-selling novel (“Juliet, Naked”) that explores the experiences of, and interactions between, musician Tucker Crowe’s fans after he has long-since stopped making music.
Nothing unusual so far.
2010: Hornby fan, New Yorker Perry Serpa (known to some as the songwriter behind the longstanding symphonic pop sprawl, The Sharp Things) re-reads “Juliet, Naked” and starts wondering what the ten songs detailed in the novel would sound like if they were “brought to life.”
Hornby offers clues and some jumping off points (titles, themes, subject matter, rhyming couplets, influences, etc.) but that’s enough for Serpa to dive in headlong as the devil finds work for idle hands.
2011: Perry sends Nick a few demos. Nick says, “Good luck with it!” Happy that he was not issued a cease and desist, Perry proceeds with confidence, but then picks up and puts down the project frequently in between The Sharp Things’ recording sessions, promotion/touring opportunities, his day job as a long-time music publicist, personal tumult, the needs of four children, and the like.
2012 – 2017: Staying close to the novel’s narrative, Serpa decides to take a shot at creating “Juliet’s” tribute album, “Wherefore Art Thou?” attempting to pull in contributions from the various real-world musicians referenced in the book. Some are no longer with us, others simply said “no,” but Scott McCaughey whose band, The Minus 5 is one of those referenced, agrees to contribute and chooses the album’s kick-off track, “And You Are?” to high-shelf results.
Fact and fiction blurring nicely, don’t you think?
2018: Coincidentally, Hollywood producer, Judd Apatow creates a “film of the book,” with, even more coincidentally, Serpa’s old friends, Jesse Peretz and Nathan Larson, directing and scoring, respectively. The film debuts at Sundance to great plaudits, giving kudos to the strength of Hornby’s story in addition to its screen adaptation.
A full list of friends (you may like to call them “special guests”) and their contributions are listed here
Serpa’s “album of the book’s album” was released this fall (or autumn, if you’re on Nick Hornby’s side of the pond).
Here’s Perry describing the album’s journey from the pages of the book to the grooves of the record:
_My record was inspired by the album depicted in Nick Hornby's 2009 novel, "Juliet, Naked." It lifts the song titles, sequencing, couplets and influences laid out in the description of the main character, Tucker Crowe's tortured and lovesick opus, "Juliet," and it takes its title from the name Hornby gave to its fictional tribute album. It is unsolicited, albeit not unsanctioned.
This was simply the sort of obsessive project I'd start while I was in between things, but never finish. It was one of many, but it was really pushed forward by the inspiration of a great book, so I felt to finish it._
_Mind you, this isn’t the first time I’ve engaged with Nick Hornby. I wrote a song called “The Jumpers” for The Sharp Things’ 2007 album, “A Moveable Feast” which was based on his novel “A Long Way Down,”. I sent it through to Nick and he promptly downloaded the entire The Sharp Things catalogue._
_"Wherefore Art Thou?" features kind contributions from my friends, James Pertusi, Scott McCaughey, Laura Cantrell, Aja Warren, Don Piper, Edward Rogers, Ron Raymond, and my 16-year-old son, Aidan, who plays a mean guitar, so I hope you enjoy it._
Perry Serpa, August 2018