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The Heat of the Sun: The Music

Listen on Spotify to the music from the book

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Music from The Heat of the Sun

There are many references to music in The Heat of the Sun, and we’ve put together a playlist on Spotify so you can listen to it yourself. We couldn’t find it all. Some of the music is imaginary, notably Puccini’s Tartarin, the opera based on Alphonse Daudet’s 1872 novel Tartarin de Tarascon, a project the real-life Puccini abandoned. Some of it is very obscure. But here’s an hour of music, and here’s what it is:

(1) SOME OF THESE DAYS. Sophie Tucker’s famous theme song. Woodley Sharpless first encounters Trouble to the sound of this record – well, not this one exactly, because Trouble would have played the original 1911 version, which isn’t on Spotify but is on YouTube:

(2) NOBODY LOVES A FAT GIRL. Sophie Tucker was one of the great characters of the twentieth century. Her long career extended from the days of vaudeville to the days of the Beatles (Paul McCartney, at the 1963 Royal Command Performance, famously called her their “favourite American group”). Her sheer panache is wonderful.

(3) FEAR NO MORE THE HEAT OF THE SUN. The celebrated funeral song from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, here in the Gerald Finzi version. In the book, Trouble actually sings (and as a tenor) the version by Sir Hubert Parry. We can’t, alas, find a recording of that, but the sheet music is in Charles Vincent’s 1906 anthology Fifty Shakspere Songs.

(4) DONNA NON VIDI MAI. Reference, at Kate Pinkerton’s tea party, to “a new production of Manon Lescaut” gives us pretext for this sublime Puccini aria, sung here by Pavarotti. The title means “Never have I seen such a woman.”

(5) THREE LITTLE MAIDS FROM SCHOOL. Trouble has a disturbing experience during a production of The Mikado, specifically while this song is performed.

(6) NOBODY’S SWEETHEART. Celebrated 1920s bandleader Paul Whiteman makes a cameo appearance in the book. This is the sort of thing he might have been playing at the party in the penthouse.

(7) WHAT’LL I DO. My reference to this great Irving Berlin song was in fact cut, but let’s have it anyway. I first heard this song over the opening credits to the Redford-Farrow version of The Great Gatsby, and have always associated it with a peculiarly 1920s form of yearning. How lovely pop music used to be.

(8) VIENNA BLOOD, OP. 354 (WALTZ). “As we entered the palazzo, the swooning tones of a full orchestra, reeling its way through a Strauss waltz, encircled us in silky skeins …” Now we’re into the ball scene which climaxes the second act of the novel.

(9) ONE FINE DAY, or “Un bel dì vedremo,” is the emotional core of Madame Butterfly, performed here by another great tragic heroine, Maria Callas. One fine day his ship will return; she’ll see it in the harbour; she’ll wait and wait; at last, she’ll see him climbing the hill towards her house; at first he’ll be a mere speck, but the speck will grow larger; approaching, he’ll call her name as he once used to do; she shall await him with unshakeable faith … In these few minutes, Puccini encapsulates the longing of all the world.

(10) JAPANESE PEACE SONG. We’re in Japan. But peace won’t last for long …

(11) O MIMI, TU PUI NON TORNI. “O Mimi, will you not return?” From La Boheme, as performed by Caruso. Yamadori, in the book, probably didn’t do it as well.

(12) NAGASAKI. “Back in Nagasaki where the fellas chew tobaccy and the women wicky-wacky-woo …” Everybody, but everybody, recorded this celebrated novelty song from 1928, including Django Reinhardt, which gives us an opportunity to hear that extraordinary jazz guitarist.

(13) THE JAPANESE SANDMAN. From a great jazz guitarist to a great jazz cornettist. I could listen endlessly to Bix Beiderbecke, and love this dreamy and exotic recording from 1928.

(14) YES, MY DARLING DAUGHTER. It’s wartime, and Glenn Miller has gone missing in the foggy air somewhere over the English channel. The great bandleader’s disappearance – he took off on a flight that never came back – must be the most haunting exit in the history of showbusiness. I find something haunting in this record too, as if it means more than it says.

(15) BLUE RIVER. Sophie Tucker, Trouble’s boyhood idol, continues to provide a soundtrack to his story. There’s also a terrific version of this 1927 song by one of Bix Beiderbecke’s bands.

(16) BATTER MY HEART … The John Donne sonnet, with its reference to the “three-person’d God,” from which Oppenheimer chose the name “Trinity” for the first atomic bomb test. This is Benjamin Britten’s dramatic musical setting.

(17) SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY. Doris Day’s first hit, as vocalist with the Les Brown band, was playing from every jukebox in America as the troops came home from the war. (How young she sounds here! Her great voice was only to get better as the years went by.)

(18) FEAR NO MORE THE HEAT OF THE SUN. Shakespeare’s lyric, reprised in spoken-word form by great English actress Dame Edith Evans. Now where can we hear voices like that today?

(19) CON ONOR MUORE. The climactic scene from Madame Butterfly. The title means “to die with honour,” reflecting the words on the dagger Butterfly has inherited from her father: “Die with honour when you can no longer live with honour.” Civilisation has not been in vain when it has brought us Puccini and Maria Callas.

(20) MADE IN JAPAN. Buck Owens could lift even a run of the mill song with his wonderful undertow of melancholy. I’ve always loved this 1972 hit. How does it figure in the book? Well, it does … The lyric about the “transistor radio,” for all its bathos, is strangely moving, I find.

(21) SOME OF THESE DAYS. In my end is my beginning … Sophie Tucker reprises her immortal hit in a recording from World War II.