Spenser? Crowley? No, Joni Mitchell! Rowling Reveals Music In and Of Strike 5

J. K. Rowling has recorded two and a half hours of ‘Tracks of My Tears‘ BBC programming that will begin airing on 21 September, six days after the release of Troubled Blood, the fifth in the Cormoran Strike series of detective novels. Today we learned from Ken Bruce, the host of the show, that the music of Strike 5 comes from a rock album popular in 1974:

The fifth book ‘Troubled Blood’ came out earlier this month, and heavily references the songs of Canadian singer songwriter Joni Mitchell, in particular her most successful album ‘Court And Spark’, which was originally released in 1974. …

Music has always played a big part in J.K.’s life and during lockdown she’s discovered many more songs and musical pieces that resonate with her busy and much travelled life. The first two tracks she’s chosen today come from Kate Bush and Emeli Sandé.

Ken also has the daily love song, record and album of the week plus another round of the legendary PopMaster Quiz.

Like you, I’ve read all of Troubled Blood’s Part One and its seven chapters and almost three of Part Two’s seven chapters. Each has been introduced by a quotation-as-epigraph from Spenser’s Faerie Queen, which we expected and hoped for based on hints Rowling has given and from the title (Thank You, Nick Jeffery!). The book itself has an epigraph from Spenser and from Aleister Crowley as well. The Crowley was not a surprise because Rowling had Crowley’s natal horoscope as her twitter header not long ago (again, Nick Jeffery) and the Whittaker clues and Marilyn Manson tweet had us leaning in that direction.

Joni Mitchell? Really? Do the epigraphs from ‘Court and Spark’ begin in Troubled Blood’s Part Three? Help Me!

Sorry for the snark and head shaking, but I confess missing all the allusions to ‘Court and Spark’ in the first Parts of Troubled Blood. If Joni Mitchell is the Blue Oyster Cult beating heart of Troubled Blood, it’s going to have to be in the center or back-half of the book. Please do share the connections you see that I have missed — and, remember, I was thirteen years old in 1974, and, like everyone else who can say that, I have that album all but memorized because you couldn’t go anywhere in the country that year shy of being ten miles off road in Death Valley and not hear ‘Free Man in Paris’ playing in the background.

Here are some links about ‘Court and Spark’ for those interested in learning more:

And here are urls about Ken Bruce’s ‘Tracks of My Years’ BBC radio programming:

Anyone out there want to make a guess about which songs from Kate Bush and Emeli Sandé Rowling will have chosen as representative favorites? I’m clueless once again. Well, Wuthering HeightsBeneath Your Beautiful?

Hat tip to Nick Jeffery once again for this ‘Tracks of My Tears’ find!


  1. Nick Jeffery says

    Oonagh tells Anna in chapter 6 about her mother: “—how she was addicted to chocolate and was an obsessive Joni Mitchell fan. My mother came more alive to me when I was talking to Oonagh than through the photographs, or anything Dad or Cyn had told me.”

  2. Ah, yes! Good memory, Nick; you’ll go far!

    Just a note that Rowling did an interview with a similar BBC program in 2000: Desert Island Discs. https://www.hogwartsprofessor.com/bbc4-desert-island-discs-revisited-joanne-rowling-interview-2000/

  3. I can totally see JK recommending Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”, because Charlotte is kind of an Emily Brontë’s Catherine. I see this parallel specially during the “meeting” they have at Franco’s during Lethal White, when Charlotte has that mini-monologue where she says “I’ll love you on my deathbed.”

  4. Bonni Crawford says

    So…Margot was an ‘obsessive’ Joni Mitchell fan as we learn from Oonagh. How might that relate to any revelations later on in the investigation into her disappearance/murder? The Blue Öyster Cult lyrics linked very closely with Laing in Career of Evil… Will Margot turn out to have been abducted by a fellow obsessed Joni Mitchell fan?! Folk song lyrics don’t seem as fitting for violent intentions as heavy psychedelic rock and I’m assuming the pattern won’t be a direct copy of book 3 anyway! So maybe some hint in terms of names? The lead guitarist and only founding member of Blue Oyster Cult still in the band, as far as I can see, is called Donald (“Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (lead guitar, vocals) ” – Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Öyster_Cult) which is certainly a nice link to Donnie Laing.

    The only potential lyrical relevance I can see so far is in the repeated mention of how Creed lived in a basement off Paradise Park and the book title dubbing him the demon of Paradise. I don’t know many Joni Mitchell songs, but I have heard Big Yellow Taxi, in which she sings about how “they paved paradise and out up a parking lot”…. I can’t see how that might be a clue, and it’s a bit of a stretch but maybe there’s some line of Big Yellow Taxi that in some way is relevant….

  5. Bonni Crawford says

    I’ve found a mention of bad blood in the Court and Spark song ‘Raised on Robbery’

    We had a little money once
    He drunk up all the rest
    That son of a bitch
    His blood’s bad whiskey
    I was raised on robbery

    The next song in the album is called Trouble Child, and one part leaps out at me as similar to Strike’s musings about the way in which Joan and Lucy relate to hkm:

    They open and close you
    Then they talk like they know you
    They don’t know you
    They’re friends and they’re foes too

    The start and end verses I the song sound reminiscent of what we’ve been told so far about Creed’s childhood:

    Up in a sterilized room
    Where they let you be lazy
    Knowing your attitude’s all wrong
    And you got to change
    And that’s not easy
    Dragon shining with all values known
    Dazzling you-keeping you from your own
    Where is the lion in you to defy him
    When you’re this weak
    And this spacey

    So why does it come as such a shock
    To know you really have no one
    Only a river of changing faces
    Looking for an ocean
    They trickle through your leaky plans
    Another dream over the dam
    And you’re lying in some room
    Feeling like your right to be human
    Is going over too
    Well some are going to knock you
    And some’ll try to clock you
    You know it’s really hard
    To talk sense to you
    Trouble child
    Breaking like the waves at Malibu

    The sterilized room where they let you be lazy sounds more like maybe condiment in one’s prison cell than Creed’s childhood.

    Anna said she went “a bit off the rails”, quite understandably, as a teen and maybe Margot’s parents also saw her as a bit of a trouble child (if they disapproved of the Bunny Girl work and of her being a “liberated” womam) .

    There are some lines in the last verse that seem very fitting to some of Robin’s past experiences and thoughts (To know you really have no one; Another dream over the dam/ And you’re lying in some room). And I guess Strike might have felt similarly while he was recovering from his leg being blown off.

  6. Bonni Crawford says

    *confinement in one’s prison cell, not condiment! Stupid autocorrect

  7. Bonni Crawford says

    The last song on the album is called Twisted, and there’s a bit of an anecdote about the background underneath the lyrics at https://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=67

    Nothing leaps out at me in the lyrics except that it mentions delusions of grandeur in a young child

    They say as a child
    I appeared a little bit wild
    With all my crazy ideas
    But I knew what was happening
    I knew I was a genius…
    What’s so strange when you know
    That you’re a wizard at three
    I knew that this was meant to be
    Now I heard little children

    Were supposed to sleep tight
    That’s why I got into the vodka one night
    My parents got frantic
    Didn’t know what to do
    But I saw some crazy scenes
    Before I came to
    Now do you think I was crazy
    I may have been only three
    But I was swinging

    Again, this may be reminiscent of some of Creed’s unhealthy coping mechanisms in his abusive childhood home.

  8. Nelli Rajala-Rahko says

    Beth Gea – I would also go with Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush. I also saw on RB’s new and real Instagram account written on a (catalogue? Not sure what they’re called -) card Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte…

    Oooh I just realised I was in London in September 2014 because my brother went to Kate Bush concert which are Rare! Having a stupid illogical fangirl moment here imagining being close to fictional characters who might have also been there, lol… anyway there were multiple gigs during September/October by Kate Bush. Maybe some on in the book will attend.

  9. Who is “RB”?

  10. Nelli Rajala-Rahko says

    Ahh sorry my brain clearly isn’t working… Robert galBraith… ahh. Embarrassing.

  11. Nelli Rajala-Rahko says

    Next you’re going to remind me that Troubled Blood is set 2013 not 2014 and I’m going to call it an early night and hope that my brain is back to working condition tomorrow. Bye now…

  12. Bonni Crawford says

    I’ve been reading some more song lyrics. The Same Situation (https://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=53), especially the last verse, seems to echo some of Robin’s struggles:

    Still I sent up my prayer
    Wondering who was there to hear
    I said Send me somebody
    Who’s strong and somewhat sincere
    With the millions of the lost and lonely ones
    I called out to be released
    Caught in my struggle for higher achievements
    And my search for love
    That don’t seem to cease

    In the song Just Like this Train (https://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=137), there’s a verse early on that might chime with Cormoran’s love life in Troubled Blood:

    I used to count lovers like railroad cars
    I counted them on my side
    Lately I don’t count on nothing
    I just let things slide

    Although knowing Cormoran, his distress over Joan might lead him to ‘hook up’ with someone new…

    …And later on in the same song is a verse that seems to echo the current state of Robin’s love life:

    What are you going to do now
    You’ve got no one
    To give your love too

    If both their situations can be summed up in one song, maybe Strike will realise that his and Robin’s love-life histories and preferences are not as totally opposite as he thought they were.

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