Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice Playlist

[File under: heavy blogged about in 2009, when the book was originally published]
I’m not necessarily a Paul Thomas Anderson acolyte or a longtime Thomas Pynchon reader, but I am genuinely excited for the wide release of Inherent Vice this week.

Admittedly Vice is one of only three books I read last year, so that accounts for most of my enthusiasm, and while I didn’t love the beautifully written novel, it was pretty obvious that it could make for a fun movie. Los Angeles in 1970, a stoner gum shoe, a colorful cast characters, and a very layered underworld.

Paul Thomas Anderson re-teamed with Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood to score the film, but anyone who has read the book will tell you that the book itself has a pretty stellar built-in soundtrack that Thomas Pynchon acutely details throughout the novel.

The music denotations read like a tertiary character, and the songs highlight the various moods that were simmering in Los Angeles at the time: the lingering hangover of a squeaky clean Gidget-ization of the Surf culture and the hippie spirit trying to make sense of a post Manson murders world. Case in point, one of the central figures in the story is a heroin addicted saxophonist from a once popular surf band who gets entangled with the wrong dudes.

Pynchon revels in the surf du jour by the likes of the Trashmen, The Surfaris, The Champs, the psych pop of the Byrds, Pearls Before Swine and Piper era Pink Floyd, and maybe the most revealing of Pynchon’s intended tone, multiple references to clown princes such as Tiny Tim and Bonzo Dog Band.

Having Spotify by my side as I read this book was fantastic.  Multiple users had created Playlists based off the book, and it definitely was a great companion to the novel.

Just search for Inherent Vice on Spotify and you can find a few stabs at cataloging all of the songs mentioned in the book. Some seem more accurate than others. I’ve been going with this one lately. There is also playlist on that was allegedly procured by Pynchon himself, though it only mentions a fraction of the tunes called out in the book.

Below are two of my fave mentions from the book: