Lately I’ve been enthralled by the idea of creating a playlist for my projects. I enjoy watching movies and I’m a sucker for a great soundtrack, so when I’m building scenes, conflicts, characters, or anything else, I like to let my mind wander to whatever I think the most fitting song for that moment is. (Plus I like to fantasize about the idea of selling the rights to one of my books at some point and having an actual soundtrack for an actual film based on one of my stories, but that’s just a dream at this point.)
As I’ve been looking for motivation recently, I’ve found myself driving around in my car, letting my music shuffle, looking for literary themed songs to get the creative juices flowing. I’ve come up with a handful that I really enjoy, so I decided to turn to Google to find some that I possibly hadn’t thought of. With that, I’d like to provide the following definitive literary soundtrack. Several of these are obvious and well known, but hopefully you’ll spot a few surprise sleepers on here that you hadn’t thought of before! Check it out, see what you think, and let me know if you think I missed anything in the comments below!
- Ramble On – Led Zeppelin (Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkein) Just like the books, this song details an epic journey through The darkest depths of Mordor. It even name drops Gollum, leaving no question about the source of inspiration for this song. (Although, several other lyrics may leave the listener confused, as a fair maiden has no place in Mordor, and Gollum wouldn’t be interested even if she was.)
- Brave New World – Iron Maiden (Brave New World – Aldous Huxley) The title was actually intended for the album, but then Iron Maiden front-man Bruce Dickinson decided it could make a cool song too, so he re-read the book then wrote the song. Seems pretty straightforward to me.
- For Whom the Bell Tolls – Metallica (For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway) Metallica finds inspiration for this song from Hemingway’s stance on the idea of war with a lot of violent imagery and the futility of slaughtering people. Plus it’s a killer track. Seems contradictory to me.
- Tom Sawyer – Rush (Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain) Just like the book, the song is all about a guy named Tom Sawyer living his life and taking in the experiences as he perceives them. Nothing too confusing here.
- The Catcher in the Rye – Guns N’ Roses (The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger) So this selection might get a mixed reaction. Some people will be mad at the mere mention of this album, given its long history and the status of the band while it was being recorded and mastered. Regardless, if you put your feelings on that aside, it is a really good song. And it’s clearly inspired by themes from the book, such as losing youthful innocence, and the books’ involvement in the murder of John Lennon. Axl Rose has provided quite a bit of insight into this song, revising and adding to his interpretations, so I’ll leave that up to you if you want to learn more about it.
- Centerfield – John Fogerty (Casey at the Bat – Ernest Thayer) Not that the whole song is inspired by this great story, but there are some direct references to watching the mighty Case strike out from the bench with the Mudville Nine. That’s enough for me, plus this song is catchy as hell.
- Moby Dick – Led Zeppelin (Moby Dick – Herman Melville) While this song is an instrumental, the title still seems quite fitting. As the story goes, drummer John Bonham’s son would ask him to play a long drum solo. When the drummer asked why, the response was simple: because it was big like Moby, the white whale.
- Feed My Frankenstein – Alice Cooper (Frankenstein – Mary Shelley) I’m getting a little loose with my requirements with this one, but I like this song and technically it’s about an out of control monster, even if it’s really just a cheap cover for cheesy sexual innuendos in actuality.
- Paranoid Android – Radiohead (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams) This song wasn’t solely inspired by this book, but the title was gleaned directly from the name of one of the characters, Marvin the paranoid android. The song itself is based on a night of bar hopping by Radiohead’s singer, but it still manages to get in a lyric referencing the book, “When I am king you will be first against the wall, With your opinion which is of no consequence at all.”
- White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane (Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll) This seems fitting on so many levels; a psychedelic band performing a song about a psychedelic story. Not sure I need to expand any more on that.
- Three Little Pigs – Green Jelly (Three Little Pigs – James Halliwell-Phillipps) This song needs no explanation. It’s the literal telling of the Three Little Pigs children’s story (with the introduction of Rambo at the end, so that’s cool). Plus it has a bitching guitar riff. I’ll take it.
So there you have it. My ultimate bookish soundtrack. There are a ton of other songs out there named after and inspired by well known works of literature, but I don’t listen to them, so they aren’t on my radar and there’s no point in putting them on my playlist. What would your list look like?