The Music of Troubled Blood

Many songs and pieces of music are mentioned in the fifth book of the series, Troubled Blood – these are listed here.

The Song of the Western Men

Troubled Blood starts with Dave Polworth irritably reminding Cormoran: “You are a Cornishman, born and bred.” “The Song of the Western Men” was chosen as the national anthem of Cornwall in 1881. The song is taught at schools, which explains how Cormoran could belt out the song to Robin in Skegness. The “Trelawny Shout” is a prompt for the song to be sung in pubs in Cornwall, especially for charity. The modern version of the song was coined by Robert Stephen Hawker in 1824.

Come on a my house

Based on an Armenian folk song about traditional hospitality, “Come On-A My House” was released in 1951 and performed by Rosemary Clooney. Creed mocks Vi Cooper’s hospitality when he replies to her letter pleading with him to help provide closure to his victims’ families. Vi had rented out a room to Creed when he had no job because she thought he looked like a ‘sweet boy, lost and lonely,’ but Creed proved to be a grave mistake the lonely spinster made.

Same Situation by Joni Mitchell

When asked about “Same Situation” in various interviews, Mitchell said it was an introspection of herself. She admits that although she loved being independent and free, she was also plagued with moments of vulnerability in which she wanted to be accepted and loved. However, she was smart enough to realise that the ‘man’ who admired her spirit of independence and her success as an artist also sat in judgement of her not conforming to the norms of society and used this against her.

In Troubled Blood, Dr. Margot, who was way ahead of her time, said to Oonagh when they met on the 27 Sept 1974 (2 weeks prior to her disappearance) that she had this line running in her head all day:

Caught in my struggle for higher achievements,

And my search for love that don’t seem to cease

This was mostly because Roy was subjecting her to another one of his silent treatments, which was his passive-aggressive way of expressing resentment and anger toward her.

Court & Spark by Joni Mitchell

Joni wrote “Court and Spark” based on a disillusioned busker who was convinced that Joni had written some of her songs based on him and for him. She writes of how he buried the coins that he had made in the park and set out to court and woo her. Robin, who had downloaded the Court and Spark album following her conversation with Oonagh (on 4 Dec 2013), tries to listen to the songs on her way to Masham for Christmas (Sat, 21 Dec 2013):

Love came to my door, with a sleeping roll and a madman’s soul …

However, the unfamiliarity of Joni’s music, not to mention her life experiences, left Robin less than impressed.

Just like this train by Joni Mitchell

Like most of Joni’s songs, “Just Like This Train” seems to be a paradox of thoughts and feeling. Experts who deduce the meaning behind Mitchell’s songs mention that she wrote the song as a metaphor of ‘jealous loving’. However, when Robin is listening to this song in her room back in Masham (Chp 30), with baby Annabel crying next door, she hears Joni say:

I’m always running behind the times, just like this train…

and hears her cousin Katie’s words, “It’s like you are travelling in a direction to the rest of us.” And when Joni later sings:

What are you going to do now? You got no one to give your love to

Robin’s thoughts stray to Matthew and Sarah. Given Robin’s history, on her 29th birthday she admits to herself that she would feel the loss of basic human physical contact acutely (Chp. 9) since she is not the type to take on casual lovers. She revisits this train of thought again at The American Bar when watching a couple on a date (Chp 57). Jealousy or envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, according to Christian theology, and considering how conscientious Robin is, even if we were to take Joni’s reasons behind the song, it is more likely that Robin is wondering how her life will pan out in the absence of love and is not actually the ‘jealous lover’.

Last Chance Lost by Joni Mitchell

Robin first listens to the words of “Last Chance Lost” lying in her bed at Earl’s Court (Chp 33):

In the tyranny of a long good-bye/ We talk of us with deadly earnest eyes/ We talk of love in terms of sacrifice and compromise/ The hero cannot make the change/ The shrew will not be tamed/ They bicker on the rifle range/ Blame takes aim

The words that stand out to her are:

Last chance lost/the hero cannot make the change

Last chance lost/The shrew cannot be tamed

And her first thoughts are of Matthew as the hero and herself as the shrew. A shrew who was bent on pursuing a career/passion that everyone considered not right for her. But as she mulls the song over, the line

the hero cannot make the change

takes more prominence, and she makes a bold move that even Cormoran had not considered. Even as she makes the move, her insecurities and doubts flare but she, like a hero, soldiers on.

Eternal Father Strong to Save

“Eternal Father Strong to Save,” which is also known as the Navy Hymn, was adopted by the Marine forces both in the US and UK. William Whiting wrote it in 1860 after living through the perils of a storm himself and being influenced by Psalm 107 in the Bible. Joan Nancarrow, born and bred in Cornwall, was bound by the sea and thus this song was apt at her funeral service (Chp. 48). Cormoran later reflects (Chp 65) that when Joan requested that her ashes be taken out to sea, she must have known that her little family would always heed to the deep desire of the Cornish to visit the sea given the chance, and in doing so will be visiting her.

The Gallery by Joni Mitchell

Robin visits Leamington Spa (Chp. 46) when a Google search reveals that the little gallery in the town is hosting Paul Satchwell’s artwork 3-7 March 2014. As Robin gazes at a painting of Leda, lying amongst bulrushes having been impregnated by Zeus in the form of a swan, the lines from Mitchell’s song, “The Gallery,” come to mind:

When I first saw your gallery, I liked the ones of ladies …

Experts believe “The Gallery” was written for another singer-songwriter with whom Mitchell had a brief affair. The song was written after their breakup, when she painted a picture of him (figuratively) being an anti-hero who is callous and unfaithful when he claimed to be a saint and someone who would always treat her right. The song seems to reflect the turbulent relationship that Dr Margot had with Paul Satchwell during her bunny days. He, like the anti-hero in the song, painted and took compromising pictures of a young inexperienced girl and later used them to blackmail her.

I will never let you downsung by Rita Ora, written by Calvin Harris

Following the conversation that Cormoran and Robin have (Chp.58) under the cover of darkness, the below lyrics from “I Will Never Let You Down” lend words to what Robin left unsaid:

When you say you’ve had enough / And you might just give it up / I will never let you down / When you are feeling low on love / I’ll be what you dreaming of

Like so many other readers that love the Strike series, it is fair to say that as much as we love the crime drama and the plot twists, we are also invested in the love/chemistry between our favourite detectives.

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road

Cormoran tries to follow Robin’s advice regarding his attitude toward Pat, so he allows Pat to keep the radio on (Chp. 63) in the office, and he hears the announcement for “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” by Middle of the Road. This song, even with its limited and repetitive lyrics, has garnered a lot of attention/controversy about its meaning. One train of thought is that the song refers to a child’s feelings of abandonment, another reckons that it refers to the slave trade, whereas yet another claims that the line ‘little baby gone’ is actually sung by Middle of the Road as ‘little baby Don’ and thus refers to an Italian mafioso. The song, in stark contrast to its upbeat melody, is thus a song about abandonment caused by parents, voluntarily or involuntarily.

Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry

This is another song that plays on the radio on the same day that Cormoran is in a generous mood. Pat exclaims how she loves “Play That Funky Music” and sings along (Chp. 63). The song was written by Robert Parissi and was a massive hit in the seventies. Just before the song was penned, there was a big transition from rock clubs to disco. Parissi wrote about how he and his band mates would have to adapt to the changes in order to keep the band going and earn a living. When Cormoran rings Robin that evening, he mentions how the song got him thinking about Steve Douthwaite and how he fancied himself a singer. Oakden had mentioned in his book that ‘Longfellow Serenade’, a Neil Diamond song, had made Stevie Jacks (Douthwaite) popular with the ladies at Clacton-on-Sea. When Stevie Jacks disappeared following the death of Julie Wilkes, he decides to go by Steve Diamond. It is sometimes scary how Cormoran’s mind works, finding a connection where none seems to exist.

Blame by Calvin Harris

Written by John Newman and James Newman and sung by Calvin Harris, “Blame” is about finding excuses and not wanting to take any responsibility for one’s actions. It is heard playing in the background of the resort (Chp. 69) when Cormoran is on the phone to Steve Douthwaite, telling him about the role he played in the disappearance of Dr Margot. Just like the singer of the song, Douthwaite feels guilty but is too much of a coward to come forward and speak the truth. 

The Music of Lethal White