[This is literally a literary list. How...literate of us. Or at least of Brent Chittenden. - AC]
I love reading. Beyond dealing with large amounts of music on a regular basis, I love to read; comics, newspapers, books, etc. A good chunk of my time is spent reading while listening to music. So when Alan asked me to put together a list of songs inspired by books, I jumped at the chance. Here’s the Top Ten Songs Inspired By Books Of All Time!
10) Killing An Arab – The Cure
One of The Cure’s first real singles, it was often mistaken as an anti-Arab song when in reality it’s inspired by L’Etranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus. The narrator of the song shoots a man of Middle Eastern decent in the back and unfortunately you can see how that be misconstrued. But after a number of years the song was added back into The Cure’s live set but with some changed lyrics.
9) The Thing That Should Not Be – Metallica
Metallica took a fair amount of inspiration in the early years from writer HP Lovecraft but The Thing That Should Not Be from Master of Puppets is probably the best example coming from the story “The Call of Cthulu”. The version from S&M is adds something of dread to the song as well.
8) Tales of The Brave Ulysses – Cream
Cream went past novels and short stories and went into early recorded legend by recording this tale adapting Homer’s The Odyssey. Legend and a wah wah pedal, how can you beat that?
7) 1984 – David Bowie
Taken from Diamond Dogs, this track is heavily influenced by George Orwell’s novel of the same name. In fact a lot of the tracks on Diamond Dogs take inspiration from 1984 as many had been intended for a musical based on the book that failed to materialize. [George's widow nix all permission - AC]
6) Scentless Apprentice – Nirvana
A grunge song inspired by the novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer where a perfume maker that has no scent hunts down virgin women to make the ultimate perfume.
5) Bloodletting –Concrete Blonde
If you’ve ever read Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, this song really hits the attitude and theme of those novels dead on. (Personnel note: The first two are the best in the series). How this never made Interview with a Vampire’s soundtrack, I’ll never know.
4) Blood and Thunder – Mastodon
Taken from an entire album based on Moby Dick, Blood and Thunder is the best example of the theme and of how awesome Mastodon is.
3) Animal in Man – dead prez
Based heavily on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, dead prez really do the book justice with both content and style.
2) The Ghost of Tom Joad – Bruce Springsteen
The roots of this go to the great Steinbeck novel The Grapes of Wrath and manages to connect the themes and ideas of the novel with today’s economic hardships. The third verse is a direct reinterpretation of a a famous speech in the novel and used in the film adaptation. There’s also a very kick ass Rage Against The Machine cover.
1) White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
In case it wasn’t clear enough in the lyrics, White Rabbit is a retelling of Through The Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland. It may also be about drugs. Maybe. But so might the book so it all works out.
This list is by no means complete and we can easily come back to this subject. We can even get even more specific as I found dozens of songs and albums based on Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World and dozens and dozens of songs based on Lord of the Rings [Calm down, Zep fans. We know. -AC] and Moorecock’s Elric novels.
And don’t get me started on songs around Anne Rice. It killed me not to put Sting’s Moon Over Bourbon Street on the list but sometimes we’ve got to let some songs go. Iron Maiden has made career of doing songs themed around novels and films.
So to you we go dear reader. What songs should we add? What books/albums do we need to tackle in a future list? Please leave your ideas down below.
[Coheed and Cambria fans: You first - AC]