I am embarrassed to admit this… but I was never assigned to read Jack Kerouac’s legendary novella On the Road. Also, over the years I never had the self-control to make special time to read it of my own free will. I know it’s insane! I do have it marked on my ever growing bucket list, but until then, I do have to say I have never finished any complete works of Kerouac’s. However, I have recently acquired a newly found interest on the subject that is widely known as “The Beat Generation” to which Kerouac is largely attributed to. And the reason I have decided on expanding my knowledge on this matter is all thanks to my love of music. To be more specific, my liking of the alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie.
Benjamin Gibbard (the lead singer of D.C.F.C.) has had himself a strong appreciation for Kerouac’s literary talents for many years. Gibbard has used Kerouac’s words as a source of inspiration on many songs he has written in his music career. This love of Kerouac’s writing was culminated in 2009 when Gibbard and fellow Kerouac enthusiast Jay Farrar (of the alt rock band Son Volt) got together to record an album solely based off of Kerouac’s novel Big Sur; The album is called One Fast Move or I’m Gone. The novel Big Sur is a fictionalized autobiography of Kerouac about a newly popular writer named Jack Duluoz who takes refuge at a friend’s cabin in Bixby Canyon, Big Sur. The novel also highlights on a strong friendship Duluoz has with a man named Cody Pomeray and his mistress. Cody in real life was Kerouac’s longtime friend Neal Cassidy to whom On the Road was attributed to as well.
As soon as I saw this musical gem in our library catalog, I ordered it. Once I checked it out, I listened to every track straight through to the very end. This album is absolutely the musical epitome of Kerouac’s writing style. Within the lyrics of the songs you can hear the embodiment of all the themes that were scattered throughout the poems and stories told by the brilliant minds which formed The Beat Generation. All the topics are right there to be heard; the importance of friendship, traveling the great American frontier, the bittersweet nostalgia of life, and also all of the sex, drugs, but not quite Rock & Roll of those writer’s generation.
The musical style varies a bit through the album. There are elements reminiscent to that of indie rock; but also thanks to Farrar’s musical background there are strong components of country and folk as well. If you have ever read the likes of Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, or any of the notable “beat” writers and wondered how their words would sound to music, than this album is for you. It is truly a hidden treasure within the CDs at the library, and it is well worth a listen. On a side note, I am eagerly waiting to pick up my hold copy of Big Sur and start reading, as well as listen to some Son Volt CDs we have in the Library District.