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Raymond's Musical Notes

Novelist Sam Kenyon leads us through a playlist of tracks which inspired his writing of and featured in his debut novel,


I am not Raymond Wallace captures the sights and sounds of the 60s in New York City and the wider world. It is a beautifully written rumination on life in the closet and the challenges that faced young gay men. Become immersed in the changing periods of Sam Kenyon's literary debut, and listen to the tracks that evoke the the themes of both love and regret explored in the book. Enjoy!

1. The scene:

Manhattan, October, 1963, and young Brit Raymond Wallace enters Threads - a tiny store in The Village - to get himself some less ‘fuddy-duddy’ clothes. He is greeted by the charming Joshua. Whilst Raymond is in the changing room, he hears the strains of…

…the inimitable Rod McKuen singing ‘The Ballad of the Sad Young Men’ by Tommy Wolf & Fran Landesman.

2. The scene:

November, 1963. Raymond walks all the way from Turtle Bay, over Brooklyn Bridge and towards the docks. He stumbles across a bar called Little Navy, and enters a world he's only read about. A man dances - "like Salome: shamelessly determined", to the strains of Jimmy Davis himself, in a version recorded in France in 1959...

3. The scene:

The bar of the Excelsior hotel in Manhattan. Raymond and Dolores are drinking dirty martinis. Raymond’s mother appears. And whilst Dolores and his mother make conversation, Raymond hears the track and is transported…this time the singer is the one for whom the song was originally written…

4. The scene: It's 1983. Raymond stands alone in his kitchen, and switches the radio on. He hears a voice at once familiar and unfamiliar singing in a language he doesn't speak. He simply understands the single word: Infidélité.

Here's Bruno LaPlante singing this utterly, utterly glorious song...

The lyric is a glorious romantic description of a place where the singer used to hang out with his lover. The final line gives the real kick...

5. The scene: Paris, 2003, a studio in the Paris Opéra. A character we’ve become rather fond of (nameless here to avoid spoilers!) is working on a new album, and his pianist has done an extra special arrangement of this exquisite track by the inimitable Janis Ian: When Angels Cry

6. The scene: Paris, 2003, a hotel room overlooking the Seine. A certain character wakes up to yet another version of ‘Lover Man (Where can you be?)’ – only this time, it’s that glorious cover from the 80s, by none other than The Communards, featuring Sarah Jane Morris…

SAM KENYON is a writer, composer, performer and teacher. He studied English Literature at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before training in Musical Theatre at the Royal Academy of Music.

After performing for twelve years, he developed a career as a composer and lyricist. At the Royal Shakespeare Company, he provided music and lyrics for The Christmas Truce (2014), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2016) and Vice Versa (2017). He wrote the book, music and lyrics for Miss Littlewood—a musical exploring the life of Joan Littlewood—which opened at the RSC in 2018, and which is published by Concord Theatricals. He is currently developing a musical about Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and Samuel Steward.

As a voice teacher, he works across styles and genres, with theatre, film and recording artists. He teaches at the Royal Academy of Music, as well as running a private teaching practice. He lives in London with his partner, Mitch, and their daughter. I am not Raymond Wallace is his first novel.

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