the sacrifice box playlist

These are the songs I listened to as I wrote the book. Tracks that feature in the novel - either on the characters' mix-tapes or in the world around them - have their titles in CAPS, and are listed here in the order they appear in the text. All are chronologically accurate, meaning there's nothing here from beyond summer 1986. 

I make no apologies for the amount of Wham! featured.  

hall and oates 2.jpg

Hall and Oates

Out of Touch

The third best-selling duo of all time, inductees in the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame and the songwriters' Hall of Fame, you'll definitely know more Hall and Oates songs than you think you do. This was the first song I put on when I was trying to get my head into the 1980s, so although it doesn't appear directly in the novel, it had to kick off the playlist. 




A music legend who needs no introduction, Bowie sadly passed away while I was writing the novel. He's one of Sep's favourites, and this is the first track mentioned in the book, when we're told Sep is listening to 'early Bowie' on his Walkman. It fits nicely with the appearance of Halley's comet in 1986. 



Everything She Wants

Another musical icon who died during writing was George Michael. Wham! were an essential part of the Hill Ford soundscape, so had to feature early in the playlist, despite this particular song not appearing in the text. They will return further down this page. Repeatedly. 



Close to Me

A foundation stone of the post-punk, gothic rock of the late 70s, The Cure had become more poppy by the time of the events in The Sacrifice Box, and that balance was perfect for the balance of light and dark I was hoping for in the story. This song is the first identified by title, and is on the opposite side of the cassette from the 'early Bowie'.


Don Henley

All She Wants to do is Dance

Apart from the amazing hair (!) I felt the lyrics of this song chimed with Cold War-era setting, a set of US-Russian circumstances that seem horribly relevant as the book is going through its final edits. And in addition to that socio-political connection, it's got strong 80s synth beat credentials. And that hair. 




New Order are just the kind of band that Sep would listen to, and this song sprang to my mind because it appears in the film adaptation of Trainspotting―one of my absolute favourites when I was a teenager. During the infamous cold turkey sequence, Renton hallucinates that Diane has appeared in the room and is singing this chorus to him. Plus it’s a brilliant, brilliant song.


The Bangles

Manic Monday

The Bangles were a staple of the 80s pop scene, and this is one of their most enduring hits. It was also a song that my partner remembers listening to over and over as a child, and that nostalgic element is exactly what helped me imagine Sep’s world. A must for the playlist, then, although it doesn’t feature in the book.


Huey Lewis and the News

Hip to be Square

Huey Lewis and the News were always going to be on the playlist, principally because of their connection to another couple of my favourite films. First, one of my All Time Top Five Movies, Back to the Future, which featured The Power of Love as its theme, and in which Huey himself has a cameo appearance as the teacher who tells Marty that his band is ‘just too darn loud’. Secondly, an 80s-set adaptation, American Psycho, in which the central character discusses the band while committing violent murder. Ahem. I also liked the idea that it's now cool to be a geek, while 80s movies were always much more scornful of Geekdom. So Huey was on to something!



Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want

One of my favourites, and a band I got into while at university. The Smiths are the ultimate ‘Sep band’ in that they’re sensitive, intelligent, and a little bit snooty―which he definitely is at the beginning of the novel, rejecting the place he’s from and the people around him. The yearning in this song is perfect for Sep’s desire to leave the island when we first meet him.


Chaka Kahn

I Feel For You

Chaka Kahn is another artist who would always be on an 80s playlist, because this song in particular typifies the music of the time period in my memory. It was also featured in an advert around the time of writing, so I was humming it for days, further cementing its place on this list!



Another Brick in The Wall, Pt. 2

Pink Floyd are featured in the novel for a few reasons. Sep wears one of the band’s T-shirts at the start of the story (Dark Side of the Moon, a shirt I remember being ubiquitous at a certain point in my youth) and that idea of the moon’s dark side connects to Sep’s interest in space, and the idea of distance and isolation he both endures and desires. I went with this song, though, from The Wall, because it’s about school and the abrasive contact Sep has with Mrs Maguire―and the shouting Scottish teacher at the end was a throwback to my own schooldays in the west of Scotland!



Just Like Heaven

Definitely another Sep band due to their intellect, outsider status, and wit, I chose this song because of the joyous, celebratory spirit of love and escape―two things which drive Sep’s journey through the story.



Forever and Ever

Ah, Mario. The big Greek is one of my favourite characters, and when he was singing loudly and badly in the back room of the chip shop, there was only one artist whose songs I could imagine him singing―the great Demis Roussos. Although Mario doesn’t have a beard (preferring the moustache of his Nintendo namesake) I think of him having a similarly larger-than-life, romantic image, pictured here on this glorious album sleeve.



Love Will Tear Us Apart

This mournful, infectious song was perfect for capturing Sep’s angst at this point in the story, and the idea that love can be damaging and painful was great for highlighting the conflict he experiences about his desire to leave to island.


Phil Collins

In The Air Tonight

When I was creating the characters, I’d written down loads of things that would define them in terms of their habits and preferences―including their taste in music. Mack’s taste is a little… uncool, and a bit cheesy. I know this image is something of an albatross for Phil Collins, who’s one of the biggest-selling artists of all time, and this is a great song, but it really fits my image of what Mack might listen to when he’s alone in his room, banging out the drum solo with his huge arms.



The Tide is High

Blondie are still with us, and I loved that continuity of an archetypally 80s band who are still cool today (Maria was a huge hit when I was in my penultimate year of high school, too). This one is a slightly left field choice, but it fits symbolically with the novel―it seems to Sep that every time he looks at the shoreline, the tide is pressing in, squeezing the island and its inhabitants… and so this song title appears on p21! Although this is a different album sleeve, I couldn’t miss the chance to feature this 80s hair. Glorious.



Two Tribes

An absolute classic of the era, and a brilliantly combative track, Two Tribes was an obvious choice for this point in the book. As well as the sense of conflict and threat linked to the Soviet/US Cold War standoff (even listing the destructive capacity of each nation's nuclear arsenal on the album sleeve), it’s got an exciting momentum, and a sense of humour that makes it an ideal fit for a story that (I hope!) balances horror and comedy throughout. AND the synthy bass on 2:49 is too good to leave out.


Dead or Alive

You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)

I think this was played on every night out I ever had (my clubbing days were in the noughties) and that tenacity means there must be something about this song. Another one that was immediately on the list because of its quintessentially 80s sound, this was mentioned in the very first draft, but has been edited out as the story took its final shape. A sad loss, but it’s still here fleshing out the Hill Ford soundscape.



Young Guns (Go For It!)

More Wham! Super-camp, brilliant dialogue sequence, loads of energy. Very helpful if you’re having a wee writing slump during a long day behind the keyboard! And that piano outro… This song's appearance on Hadley's Walkman meant I got to list Come On! as well, and the over-abundance of exclamation marks was just wonderful on the page. 



Goody Two Shoes

This does feature in the text, albeit at a slight remove, when the car-load of New Romantics pass the five in the 1982 flashback sequence. I know Adam Ant has denied being a New Romantic, preferring to see himself as part of the post-punk movement, but if the boot fits… the hair, sleeves, and make-up put them in the ball park of New Romanticism, and I wanted this one because of its energy.



It's Tricky

Hip Hop wasn’t as mainstream in 1986 as it is now, and although many acts drove its popularity, Run-D.M.C are the most important. The second Hip Hop band to be inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame (after Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, themselves one-time members of this playlist!) the first to have music videos on MTV; the only Hip Hop band to perform at Live Aid in 1985; the first to have a gold, platinum, and multi-platinum album; the first to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. I loved the idea that this cutting-edge music would be the preserve of one of the five’s parents, and so this song is included for Clint Lambert, Lamb’s bad-ass dad. 



Your Love is King

Sade’s music is firmly entrenched in my mind from having grown up in the 80s, and although it was another of their hits (Smooth Operator) that felt the more obvious candidate for inclusion, I’ve gone with this one for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I don’t really like Smooth Operator, which grates a bit after a while. Secondly, this has a sax solo, which was a lovely period detail and a nod to Mr Curran, the music teacher, whom Arkle believes resembles Harrison Ford, and so dubs Sax Solo. 



You Make My Dreams

More Hall and Oates, this time with a song I think everyone has heard without necessarily knowing whose it is. Total feel-good poppery, its appearance at that certain point in the book struck a lovely discordant note in my head as I watched the film of the book unspool in my mind.



Tubular Bells

The music from The Exorcist. Presented without comment.



Cruel Summer

Bananarama had to feature in the book because of their centrality to the pop scene of my childhood, as well as the fact they had announced a reformation of the original line up, and a tour, around the time of the book’s release in the UK. They were one of the groups listed for Hadley when I had sketched out the characters, hence they’re appearance here when the five are trying to find some music to play for Arkle. And the title is dead on!



Bad Boys

More Wham! The band are mentioned alongside Bananarama, but this song also features directly in the text, because this is what Arkle sings when the box is making him lose his mind. A suggestion, then, that his dismissal of Wham! isn’t entirely representative of his feelings about the band…


the smiths

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

Sep’s suggestion to Arkle, once Hadley’s have been rebuffed, and a return to one of my favourite bands of the 80s. The brilliance of their music endures, despite Morrisey’s public pronouncements pushing him ever deeper into clown-shoe territory, and the sense of elegant hope here was brilliant for building towards the end of the novel.



A Ray Of Sunshine

And… more Wham! Not that I need to justify this, but the largely instrumental mix was great for being played out, and this song has the perfect energy to finish the story.