Michael Chabon’s new novel Telegraph Avenue takes place in 2004. Musicall, though, it’s set in the late ’60s and early ’70s. This obsession is right on the cover: Rather than sell itself as a novel, the book presents itself as a vinyl record, complete with retro typeface, A-side, B-side, and track listing. Drop the needle and you’ll find that the story centers on a vintage record store, with two main characters (Brokeland Records’ Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe) who are as likely to discuss their favorite pressings as the problems facing their families at home.
Some of these records are essential to the inner lives of Brokeland’s characters and the particular feel of certain scenes. The emotional climax of the novel is set to an electric organ rendition of Carole King’s “It’s Too Late,” a song which, in that moment, somehow manages to mean everything to every character at once. In the spirit of his characters’ geekery (not to mention his own), Chabon identifies each of these records by year and label, so theoretically you could pull each disc right out of its sleeve and throw it on the turntable, just as the characters do.
Or, if your own record collection doesn’t quite equal those of Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe, you can just turn to the Spotify playlist we have created below. Only two of the songs Chabon mentions in the book arren’t on Spotify (you can find them on Amazon); the rest (all 126 of them) you’ll find below, in order of page number. If you want to spin the fictional musical stylings of Mr. Cochise Jones, however, you’ll have to stop by Brokeland Records.
Page 3: Electric Byrd (Blue Note, 1970) by Donald Byrd
Page 4: Wa-Tu-Wa-Zui (Prestige, 1971) by Charles Kynard [Not on Spotify]
Page 4: Fingers (CTI, 1972) by Airto Moreira
Page 7: After Dark (RSO, 1980) by Andy Gibb
Page 9: Kulu Sé Mama (Impulse!, 1967) by John Coltrane
Page 9: On the Corner (Columbia, 1972) by Miles Davis
Page 31: Jimmy Smith Live in Israel (Isradisc, 1973) by Jimmy Smith
Page 34: Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson at the Opera House (Verve, 1957) by Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson
Page 41: The Soul Vibrations of Man (Saturn Research, 1976) by Sun Ra [Not on Spotify]
Page 86: Innervisions (Motown, 1973) by Stevie Wonder
Page 86: Point of Know Return (Kirshner, 1977) by Kansas
Page 87: Brain Salad Surgery (Manticore, 1973) by Emerson
Page 90: Close to the Edge (Atlantic, 1972) by Yes
Page 110: “Be Thankful for What You Got” (Roxbury, 1973) by William DeVaughn
Page 157: “Funky Drummer” (King, 1970) by James Brown
Page 194: In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969) by Miles Davis
Page 226: “Midnight Theme” (Fraternity, 1975) by Manzel
Page 273: Melting Pot (Stax, 1971) by Booker T. & the MG’s
Page 274: “Live on Stage” (Breakout, 1980) by Roxanne Shanté
Page 370: “It’s Too Late” (Ode Records, 1971) by Carole King