New York Times best-selling author Brad Meltzer reveals the song that got him through his early days of publishing rejection, the pop band that played in his kitchen in college, and an 80’s theme song he holds close to his heart. He also confesses the rapper he loves who made his hometown famous. Brad’s most recent novel is the Book of Lies. He has also penned a number of comic books, including Superman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
For More: http://www.bradmeltzer.com
1. Blues Traveler - Run Around
2. Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want
3. Joey Scarbury - The Greatest American Hero (Believe it or not) theme song
4. Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby
5. Run-DMC - It's Tricky
Eric J. Lawrence: Hi, I'm Eric J. Lawrence from KCRW and I am here with New York Timebest selling author Brad Meltzer, who has also written a number of critically acclaimed comics as well. We'll be talking about music that has inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's guest DJ Project. Brad, nice of you to come down.
Brad Meltzer: Thanks for having me.
Eric J. Lawrence: What did you bring for us today?
Brad Meltzer: I brought five songs and everyone of the songs is-- I can only think of as a touch point. I think music gives us our soundtrack to our life, and that's the easy cheesy thing that they make you always say when they talk about music, but it does. You can hear a song and that song will take you right back to a moment that just, you know, can only be captured by that music that was playing in the background. So, I brought five songs that I think will show you how pathetic I truly am as a person. But at least you will see a little bit of my musically taste.
Eric J. Lawrence: Well, we're starting off with Blues Traveler, "Run Around" is the song.
Brad Meltzer: When I was in college, this one kid knew this band Blues Traveler. And Blues Traveler was coming through Michigan, I went to the University of Michigan, and their gig had been cancelled. And they put out the word back then that whoever came up with $5,000, Blues traveler would come play. So we took all of our money, everything we could find, we found another 100 guys with us, and we had Blues Traveler come and play in our kitchen.
Eric J. Lawrence: Wow!
Brad Meltzer: We had to lock the windows, people were crawling into the windows of the house because word got out on campus that Blues Traveler was playing in the kitchen. We had people standing guard outside, Popper was there, we played foosball with him, I have pictures of him.
And the best part was we gave him a t-shirt when it was over – during the summer they played in New York City and he was wearing the t-shirt that we had given him, the drummer was. And at the end of the summer they were on the David Letterman show, and when they were on Letterman they became what we know as Blues Traveler… And we forever got to say ‘they played in our kitchen.’
Eric J. Lawrence: Wow … Alright ladies and gentlemen, the best $5,000 Brad Meltzer even spent. It's Blues Traveler with "Run Around."
Song: Blues Traveler’s Run Around
Eric J. Lawrence: What’s the next song you got on the list here?
Brad Meltzer: The next song is the Rolling Stones, “You Can't Always Get What You Want.” And here's the thing about this song, this song haunts me. And it's haunted me at different parts of my life. I remember my freshman year of college, things weren't working out with the girlfriend and I remember not getting into the club I wanted to get into. And I remember sitting in my room, and it was just when the Greatest Hits came out and they first had that version with the choir in the background, and I played this song over and over in some like emo, horrible, pathetic way. Then years later, when I put my first novel out, I was sending out and waiting for all the rejections, and the rejections slowly started coming in and coming in and I would listen to this song and this was the anthem for me.
The best part was that I got, on my first novel, 24 rejection letters -- now to be clear there were only 20 publishers at the time and I got 24 rejection letters which means some people are writing you twice to make sure you get the point. But this was the song, it moved me. And to this day when I hear it is one of the few songs that gets me emotional, even now and I will always associate it with those times when I was just floundering around and not making it as a writer at all but still kind of believing that I was going to get what I needed.
Song: Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Eric J. Lawrence: That was the Rolling Stones with You Can't Always Get What You Want the song selected by our guest Brad Meltzer. Your next selection here sort of plays into I guess, I am going to guess having something to do with your affection for comic books and super heroes, it is the theme song from The Greatest American Hero as performed by Joey Scarbury.
Brad Meltzer: Yeah, when I wrote my novel The Book of Lies, if you look in the back of the book it will say that there is a soundtrack. Does a novel need a soundtrack? No, it does not. Is it cool to have a soundtrack? Yes -- it is cool to me. I went and called on my entire collection to pull the greatest song to go with this novel and the first pick I made was the theme to The Greatest American Hero and Sony said to me, ‘well, you know listen you can’t have that song.’ And I said why? They said, well ‘Warner Brothers owns that song and we’re Sony and we basically hate them so you can’t have it."
And I remembered at that moment that Steven J. Cannell, who created The Greatest American Hero and the A-Team and my childhood was also a novelist and I knew someone who knew him so I called him up and I had him on the phone and I said ‘listen Sony said I cant have it because Warner Brothers owns the rights to this song’ and he says to me ‘no, no, no, no, Warner Brothers doesn’t own the rights to this song’ and I said ‘who does?’ And he said to me ‘I do.’
Eric J. Lawrence: Yes!
Brad Meltzer: And I said to him ‘can I have it?’ And he said ‘you can’ and that is how I got The Greatest American Hero theme and that is cool to me.
Eric J. Lawrence: That is awesome.
Brad Meltzer: So, I know it is not just the 80's nostalgia. I love this song. It is me when I am thirteen years old and I am dreaming and dreaming and dreaming to, you know, break out of wherever I am in Brooklyn, New York and wishing that I can get on to something, somewhere and this is the song that to this day, I am not joking, still brings a little tear to my eye and breaks my heart a little bit when I hear it because I love it so much.
Song: The Greatest American Hero theme
Eric J. Lawrence: Talking about great music, the next song you've selected is Vanilla Ice with “Ice Ice Baby.”
Brad Meltzer: I am going on the record, I love this song. I loved it then, I love it now… Here is the thing, the best part of Ice, Ice Baby is that when Vanilla Ice lied about where he was from, he lied and said he was from our hometown in Florida. I remember we were in our freshman year in college and sophomore year when it really got big. I remember that my buddy went to Texas and I went to Michigan and he came back right after we were done and I am like ‘you gotta hear this song’ and he's like ‘I know that song’ and he's like ‘I know a lot of people here that say he is from Texas’ and I am like ‘no way man, he is from our hometown, he's making it cool, he is kicking it old school with us in Miami Beach.’ And he sang -- Vanilla Ice sang --about our hometown and that was the coolest thing until he was revealed that he was from Texas and my buddy knew it first, but I loved him for it and I am also proud to say, that this song took me to the Vanilla Ice concert live. That is how much my passion for it goes where I saw him perform with Hammer and En Vogue.
Eric J. Lawrence: This is truly a confessional here.
Brad Meltzer: It is a confessional, I have to be honest. I know I can lie to you and say ‘oh I didn’t love it that much,’ but I loved it so much I paid for tickets and I am going to tell you right now that white boy can dance.
Song: Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby
Eric J. Lawrence: Moving from one old-school or, I don’t know, maybe mid-school rap song to a true classic old school song from Run DMC you selected the track “It's Tricky.”
Brad Meltzer: Yeah, “It's Tricky” was…when we first got our cars and we were sixteen years old we played this album non-stop and “It's Tricky” was the song that we knew was the one we always hit rewind, go back, play again. And just to tell where ‘It's Tricky’ plays in, one night we were driving and we were going down A-1A, just like Vanilla Ice was in the day ,and a car pulls out and cuts me off. I immediately veer to the left because I don’t want to hit this car and I cut someone else off accidently, but I wave my hand up and give them a wave to say ‘you know what, I am sorry about that I had to get out of the way.’ And the guy was in a black Mustang behind me, comes up, and I have five guys in my car, it is me and four friends and he pulls up, races next to us, pulls in front of us, he has black tinted windows, we can’t see in the car of this Mustang
Eric J. Lawrence: Right.
Brad Meltzer: His tinted window rolls down and out comes a gun facing right at us.
Eric J. Lawrence: Wow.
Brad Meltzer: Now I am staring down the barrel of this gun, I hit the brakes, he winds up going forward, and this guy takes off. It winds up, my friend in the back seat says ‘I know who that is, he is on steroids, he's on a road rage all the time, he's going to kill you.’ And now I am like ‘I am gong to die’ and “It's Tricky” is playing and we're all excited and everyone remained calm and it was fine, but for that moment I stared down the barrel of a gun for my first time.
Eric J. Lawrence: Is it any wonder that Brad Meltzer writes thrillers?
Song: Run DMC’s It’s Tricky
Eric J. Lawrence: Brad, thank you for coming down and sharing some of these songs with us, this is a really great selection.
Brad Meltzer: Thank you sir, I appreciate it.
[PLAYLIST GOES HERE]