So many artists actually reference famous authors as their biggest influencers. You’d be surprised to know some of your favourite songs were actually written with a specific piece of literature in mind. There may be a few of these titles you’ll want to add to your summer reading list!
1) Killing An Arab – The Cure
The song was inspired by the 1957 Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus‘ book The Stranger. The lyrics are an introspective into a passage from the book where the main character stands next to the body of a man he killed, contemplating life and emptiness.
2) Breezeblocks – Alt J
The song was influenced by the children’s book Where The Wild Things Are written by Maurice Sendak. The childlike imagery of the storybook is darkened by the plot of the music video, a chilling scene of dangerous, desperate love. Alt J front man Joe Newman explains the idea of the song to Interview Magazine,
“We related that idea to Where The Wild Things Are, which we all grew up reading, where in the end the beasts say ‘Oh, please don’t go! We’ll eat you whole! We love you so!,’ that they would threaten cannibalism to have that person — it’s a powerful image.”
3) In Hiding – Pearl Jam
Eddie Vedder wrote this song about being “in hiding” with author Charles Bukowski in mind. Bukowski was known to stay in a room for days at a time. The dark, edgy but thoughtful nature of the author seems to have influenced so many artists. Bukowski smoked, he drank and he liked women. You’d be surprised how many bands reference the author in their music (U2, Modest Mouse, The Red Hot Chili Peppers…the list goes on).
4) Dust Bowl Dance -Mumford and Sons
As Marcus Mumford’s favourite author, John Steinbeck’s influence in apparent in much of Mumford’s music. The song “Dust Bowl Dance” was directly inspired by the novel Grapes of Wrath. The story is about a severe drought that affected the South Western Great Plains of the United States during the Great Depression. No doubt Mumford has a way with lyrics, throw in some banjo and you’ve got yourself a classic.
5) Exit Music (For a Film) – Radiohead
The tile literally doesn’t lie. This song was written specifically for closing credits of the 1996 film version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Thom Yorke of Radiohead says he could never understand why Romeo didn’t immediately jump out the window and run away with Juliet. Hence the lyrics,
“Pack you backs… and get dressed
Before your father hears us
Before all hell breaks loose”.
6) Resistance – Muse
Matthew Bellamy of Muse has said the song is basically a retelling of the love story told in George Orwell’s 1984. The novel examines love and sex in a political light. As the title track on the album Resistance, the entire album was heavily influenced by Orwell’s work.
7) The Call of Ktulu – Metallica
The Call Of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft was Metallica’s inspiration for this tune. In the book, ‘Cthulhu’ is a dangerous beast who is beaconed once its name is uttered (for the Harry Potter fans: think “Voldermort”), hence the band using the altered name ‘Ktulu’ in the song title.
8) Venus in Furs – The Velvet Underground
Can anyone say Fifty Shades of Grey? If the world of S&M comes to mind after listening to this song, you aren’t mistaken. During the sexual revolution of the 1960s, this song was written about the book Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The book was written in 1870 about sexual dominance and masochism. Here’s a little English lesson for you, the term “Masochism” was actually derived from the author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s name. Go figure!
9) Scentless Apprentice – Nirvana
This song was written about the book Perfume by Patrick Suskind. Kurt Cobain has said this was his favourite book. A story is about a man with a superhuman sense of smell but no body odor of his own. It apparently spoke to Kurt, who reportedly carried the book around, read it multiple times and wrote a song about it.
10) Calamity Song- The Decemberists
Colin Meloy of The Decemberists wrote this song shortly after reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1500 thought provoking pages later, this is an accomplishment in itself). The video was actually directed by Michael Schur, co-creator of TV show Parks and Recreation.
Now, go read! It’s good for you!