Track 1: Everybody Plays the Fool by Aaron Neville
I selected this song because it ties in with most of the characters in the book. The main premise of the song is that everybody will eventually “play the fool” at some point or another in their life. The main line that exemplifies this is the first line of the chorus, which says that, “Everybody plays the fool sometimes.” In The Maltese Falcon, almost all of the male characters “play the fool” to Brigid O’Shaugnessy. Brigid is the femme fatale of the novel because she uses charm, wit, and seduction to get what she wants from people. She is a very successful in that she has managed to make multiple characters in the story play into her plot, and eventually, play the fool when she abandons them and seeks another man. In the following line, “There’s no exception to the rule,” I am reminded how even in the end, Brigid ends up playing the fool. After everyone leaves Sam Spade’s apartment, it is just Brigid and Sam together in his apartment. Brigid believes that Spade has fallen in love with her and will not turn her into the cops. Spade surprises her by saying that he refuses to fall in her trap, and that he knows just how cunning and clever Brigid really is. Though at times Sam Spade has played the fool, he learns from his mistakes, and by the end, has Brigid O’Shaugnessy at his mercy. Just after the chorus is the line that reminds me of the reason that Brigid was able to make so many people do what she wanted: “Falling in love is such an easy thing to do, But there’s no guarantee that the one you love is gonna love you.” This is exactly what happened to the males in the story, which is the reason that Brigid O’Shaugnessy was such an effective femme fatale. All of them fell for Brigid and her seductive ways so easily, while Brigid remained unconnected and uncommitted. This allowed her to use them at her disposal to get whatever she needed from them, and nothing more.
Track 2: Karma by Alicia Keys
Similar to the previous song, this song is related to Brigid O’Shaugnessy. As one can probably deduce from the title, this song is about karma. The first line of the chorus, “What goes around comes around, what goes up must come down,” makes me think of how Brigid played so many people, and in the end, got played by Spade. While reading the novel, Brigid’s character seemed to receive karma after doing all the deceitful things she had done. I can’t think of a better way to describe it than the song does, “What goes around comes around.” Just after that line, Alicia Keys asks, “Now who’s cryin’, desirin’ to come back to me?” When Sam tells O’Shaugnessy that he plans to turn her in, she crawls back to him, and attempts to make him realize that he actually loves her. She wants him back, and wants him to love her and not turn her in. I think that Sam Spade was thinking along the same lines that Alicia Keys was, in that it was pleasurable for him to see her crying to him, and pleading for him to go back with her. Another line in the song, “No need to hose me, fool, ‘cause I’m over you,” also resonates with this message. Though often in the story, it appears that Sam is either in love with or falling in love with Brigid, by the end of the novel he makes it clear that he is done. Despite their sexual relations, Sam is wise as to her true colors. Even if Sam actually did love Brigid, he knew it wouldn’t last, and led her to believe that he actually was completely through with her. The final reason this song reminds me of The Maltese Falcon, though it is slightly unrelated to the other examples, is because it says, “What you do to me, you’re confusin’ me.” All through the book, Brigid O’Shaugnessy is, in my mind, by far the most confusing character. She tells so many lies and double crosses so many people that even Sam Spade falls for one or two of her traps. She is a very, very, confusing character to Sam Spade and readers alike.
Track 3: Tumthumping by Chumbawamba
This song reminds me very much of Sam Spade’s “never give up” attitude. The song Tubthumping is very repetitive, and one of the lines repeated most is, “I get knocked down, but I get up again.” I think this attitude is very relevant to Sam Spade, because he never gives up. Despite all of the setbacks, red herrings, and loopholes he discovers, Spade never once gives up. He always manages to keep on going, and eventually, this mentality lets him uncover the truth behind all of the lies. Right after this line is a line that say, “You’re never gonna keep me down.” Spade shows off this kind of attitude in more than just one scene in the novel. Though Gutman, Cairo, and O’Shaugnessy all attempt to prevent Spade from uncovering the truth about them, he makes it clear that he will never be kept from the truth. He has confidence to the point of vanity, and he is always extremely sure of himself, which is pretty much exactly how the song is. There is also another way in which this song reminds me of Sam Spade. At one point in the song, it goes, “He drinks a whiskey drink, he drinks a vodka drink, he drinks a lager drink, he drinks a cider drink.” This too reminds me of Sam Spade because he is often drinking in the novel. Be it the first time he meets Gutman, or whenever he is waiting at a bar to snoop on Joel Cairo, Spade is frequently found with a drink in his hand. However, though he drinks a lot, it never impairs him in any way or slows his thinking, which seems different than the singer of the song.
Track 4: Private Eye by The Alkaline Trio
Most of this song could relate to The Maltese Falcon, but I think there are a few specific lines that outline some large parts of the novel quite nicely. One of these lines is, “There was no one to kiss, there was nothing to drink,” which I think is hugely comparable to Sam Spade. Sam does not have relationships with others outside of those that are absolutely necessary to do his job. He never speaks of family, or of a significant other, or any friends at all. He leads a very distant and lonely life, and I feel like these lyrics sum that up perfectly. Though he almost always has something to drink, he never has someone to kiss, which is why I think this line is quite relevant. Another aspect of the book that is covered in the song is the fact that Sam Spade hates the police. The best line that shows this is, “You won’t have to stop saying ‘I love the cops’ for anyone but me, your private eye.” To me, there is no song lyric that could better describe Sam Spade’s attitude toward the police. He resents them and loves to poke fun at them, just as the song is doing. Most people think that cops could do no wrong, but private eyes see more than the general population do, which is most likely why Sam Spade is so skeptical of them. One last connection to the novel is in one of the opening lines of the song. They sing, “Dusted for prints, pried up the floorboards.” This is related to The Maltese Falcon because Sam Spade uncovers a lot of evidence and clues by going through people’s stuff. This song reminds me of when he went to Joel Cairo’s hotel and searched through all of his belongings. Things that might not seem suspicious or off to the untrained eye are easily picked up by private eyes like Sam Spade.
Track 5: Watching the Detectives by Elvis Costello
Like the previous song, this song also has many connections to The Maltese Falcon. In the beginning of the chorus, the line, “She is watching the detectives as they shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot,” reminds me of Brigid O’Shaugnessy. The lyric makes me think of someone who is pretending to be an innocent by-stander, or someone who isn’t really involved. Brigid attempts to make Spade think that she is merely a victim in all of this, even though she is the one who is really “shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot[ing]”, Just after these lines comes the line, “They beat him up until the teardrops start, be he can’t be wounded ‘cause he’s got no heart.” To me, this line is exactly like Sam Spade. The beating up part is like him, but I think the part that relates most to Spade is how he doesn’t have a heart. Though there were traces of it all throughout the book, by the end, Spade made it clear that his heart, if there even was one, would never be attached to anyone. Not Effie, Iva, and especially not Brigid. Like the detective in the song, Spade’s lack of emotion prevents him from being wounded, along with his street smarts of course. Finally, the song touches on a large part of Sam Spade’s life: Smoking. The song says, “You snatch a tune, you match a cigarette,” which is very much like the life of Spade. Everywhere he goes, he is lighting up. He is either smoking or rolling a cigarette for the vast majority of the book.