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Oy and Oi

There are a ton of awesome Jews in the punk rock family tree. While writing my novel Falling Is Like This, the main character Harper Rostov is Jewish, and she falls in love with Nick Cavallaro, a punk rock legend … Read More

By / July 28, 2010

There are a ton of awesome Jews in the punk rock family tree. While writing my novel Falling Is Like This, the main character Harper Rostov is Jewish, and she falls in love with Nick Cavallaro, a punk rock legend of the East Village. Harper has some funny dialogue about wishing her nose were bigger, her skin a little more Eastern-European tan. This comes from my own history: My mother is a freckled Irish-Catholic, my father a dark-skinned Jew from the Bronx. I came out pretty light, with a tiny, pinched-in nose. When I was in Hebrew school, I wanted to look just like my friend Rachel Weinstein, who:

1. Had the Jewish last name (mine was changed in the 1940’s from Rubin to Rockland to get my uncle into medical school. Sucks.)

2. Had beautiful, sienna-colored skin and brown eyes

3. Had a Jew-fro

4. Didn’t have freckles.

So because Falling Is Like This is very music-oriented, I’ve put together a playlist to go along with the book and included some of my favorite Jewcy Jews. I picked eight, because eight seems to be a good Jewish number — or just because I was lazy, and that’s all the research I felt like a-doing.


1. "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment" by The Ramones.

Did you know Tommy Ramone’s original name was Tommy Grunewald, and his parents were hidden during the Holocaust? I love this song, sometimes I just blast it in my room and jump up and down on my bed, singing it with a hairbrush. Even if you were the most uptight person in the world you’d shake it to this song.


2. "Call Me" by Debbie Harry’s Blondie

This song always made me think of the way I was in high-school, sort of stalking boys I had crushes on and hanging out attached to my phone wondering when they’d call. I had a 10pm phone curfew, so I’d always be underneath my covers chatting with boys when I was supposed to be asleep. The lyrics "Colour me your colour, darling I know who you are" are a little stalker-ish, come on. I was all about "call me anytime, call me on the line." I was always waiting for that phone to ring.


3. "Celebrity Skin" by Courtney Love

Courtney Love blurbed my novel, and I’ve met her a couple times in person; cool chick. I worshipped her in my teen years, when I was all filled with angst. "Celebrity Skin" is her best song, I don’t care what anybody says. Its got great hooks, her voice sounds throaty and powerful… I just love it.


4. "Pissing In a River" by Patti Smith

Patti Smith is often referred to as punk rock’s poet laureate, and its true. Let’s face it: the woman just rocks. Who else can pull off screaming and armpit hair with such finesse, I ask you? Well? The thing I like about this song is that its imagery is so powerful, but its slowed down to a snail pace in terms of tempo, and it reminds me of the kind of music you’d want to dance to at your eighth grade dance, hands on each other’s shoulders, crotches way apart.


5. "Bad Girl" by The New York Dolls

Sylvian Sylvian was originally named Sylvian Mizrahi (Oh why do people get rid of their Jewish last names, why?) This is a fun song Harper would listen to while picking out which concert t-shirt to wear to one of Hitchhiker’s Revenge’s concerts, Nick’s fictional band in the book. Harper goes through a life-change throughout the novel, and at times she does indeed feel like a bad girl. Or at least act like one.


6. "London Calling" by the Clash

The Clash’s Mick Jones was a big Jew and this is a big song. I picture Nick and Harper listening to it in his hearse (yes he drives one!) over the Brooklyn Bridge to visit the studio practice space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.


7. "Dance, Dance" by Fall Out Boy

It doesn’t matter that this song got over-played on the radio; it still kicks ass. I love the lyrics: "I’m two quarters and a heart down/And I don’t want to forget how your voice sounds" are so generation X romantic. In the movie version of my book (pray to the gods for me, please) this song would play when Harper is walking around the Bowery Ballroom on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, looking for Nick right before he takes the stage and blows the audience away. Joe Trohman, the band’s guitarist, is Jewish. I love it that there was an internet petition to get Trohman to grow his Jew fro back. About it, he said: "Big news: I might be growing my afro back. This might sound crazy, but in the beginning of the movie Old School , there’s a Jewish guy who shows up at the door-it’s actually the director-that’s what I want my afro to look like. That’s a really styled afro.").


8. Bob" by NOFX

"Bob" off the album White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean is a classic. I love the "Oi Oi Oi" chanting in the middle. NOFX has two Jewish members, Erik Sandin and Eric Melvin. In "Falling Is Like This," Harper and Nick would listen to NOFX while Nick works on his album cover and Harper is reading AP magazine in bed, right before they make out. This is just an upbeat, fun song.