I always think it is fun when I’m listening to a song and the lyrics try for a little more than just “Oh, baby baby” (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and stray into sophistication. Not all rock stars want to be paperback writers like Lennon and McCartney, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest those rock and rollers have at least read their share of paperback books (hardcover too).
Have you ever read Lolita (or as Sting puts it, “that book by Nabakov”)? Have you ever tried The Hobbit, Tolkien’s famous fantasy that inspired Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop”? Led Zeppelin fans are much obliged to stay with Tolkien and read The Lord of the Rings while they listen to “Ramble On.” Just don’t let Gollum and the evil one steal your girlfriend!
Of course, the classic of the rock-is-literary genre must be Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” with its psychedelic allusions to Alice in Wonderland. If you’re sticking with the trippy tunes, check out Pink Floyd’s underrated “Animals.” This entire short album is based on George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Like the harder stuff? Metallica’s “One” was an attempt to reconstruct Dalton Trumbo’s harrowing anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun in song. And it’s just possible that Aerosmith took their name from Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith, though I’m not sure on that one. Still, it’d be fun to think so!
Yo rappers, peep this: Eminem said in “Lose Yourself” that he didn’t want to grow old in Salem’s Lot, but you can still read the classic vampire novel by Stephen King. I promise the scares won’t take more than a decade off your life, max.
Of course, sometimes you get the reverse. Wallace Stegner’s novel Big Rock Candy Mountain comes directly from the Harry McClintock song of the same name. It just goes to show that whether a novel references a song, or a song references a novel, reading always makes you a rock star. It’s just too bad that sitting in front of a TV waving a plastic book around doesn’t make for a very good Playstation game!
You all have any other examples of novels mentioned in popular songs? Let us hear about them!