PJ Harvey Inspired by J.D. Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”

A New Yorker 1948 cover were J.D. Salinger's story was published.

A New Yorker 1948 cover were J.D. Salinger’s story was published.

Like PJ Harvey’s “Angelene” the 1998 single “A Perfect Day, Elise” is loosely based on a J.D. Salinger New Yorker story.

Released in the album Is This Desire? the song alludes to Salinger’s short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” which was originally published in 1948, but later collected in the author’s 1953 book Nine Stories.

The short story is about Seymour who just returned from World War II and his socialite comely wife Muriel vacationing at a resort. But his spouse seems to be oblivious to the vetaran’s mental health. Coming back from the war you can see that it has affected his personality negatively as a pale-faced Seymour has a hard time getting along with adults around him. But he gets along just fine with children as he befriends Sybil a 3-year-old blond-haired girl he meets at the resort.

PJ Harvey's 1998 single "A Perfect Day, Elise."

PJ Harvey’s 1998 single “A Perfect Day, Elise.”

Harvey mentions Sybil in the song’s second verse as she sings “the water soaked her blonde hair black.” But it’s the last two paragraphs of the story that PJ Harvey gets her muse from:

He got off at the fifth floor, walked down the hall, and let himself into 507. The room smelled on new calfskin luggage and nail-lacquer remover.

He glanced at the girl lying asleep on one of the twin beds. Then he went over to one of the pieces of luggage, opened it, and from under a pile of shorts and undershirts he took out an Ortgies caliber 7.65 automatic. He released the magazine, looked at it, then reinserted it. He cocked the piece. Then he went over and sat down on the unoccupied twin bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol, and fired a bullet through his right temple.

Harvey adjusts her lyrics changing the room number from 507 to 509.

He got burned by the sun.
His face so pale and his hands so worn
Let himself in room 509,
Said a prayer pulled the trigger and cried,
‘It’s a perfect day, Elise’


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PJ Harvey Alluded To J.D. Salinger’s 1951 New Yorker Story


The cover for The New Yorker cover, where J.D. Salinger’s short story “Pretty My Mouth and Green Eyes” was published in July 1951.

A two-time Barclaycard Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey gave a subtle tribute to the late novelist J.D. Salinger in her album Is This Desire?

In fact, the English singer-songwriter has a few literary allusions in the album, which was released in 1998.

But in the second verse of the album’s opening track “Angelene” you hear Harvey achingly singing, “Rose is my color, and white / Pretty mouth and green my eyes.” [audio http://ordre.blogspirit.com/media/01/01/1080882819.mp3]

You can read similar lines in “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes,” a Salinger story originally published in The New Yorker  in 1951

The short story, later collected in Nine Stories, is about Arthur, a New York lawyer, whose wife is cheating on him. In a phone conversation, Arthur hysterically tells his friend about a poem he dedicated to his wife Joanie.

“Or I start thinking about–Christ, it’s embarrassing–I start thinking about this goddam poem I sent her when we first started goin’ around together. ‘Rose my color is and white, Pretty mouth and green my eyes.’ Christ, it’s embarrassing–it used to remind me of her.”

In contrast to the song, Harvey is singing about a prostitute named Angelene who is searching for love. Either way, her allusion to Salinger’s story can’t be mistaken.


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Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” Inspires Iron Maiden

It’s a world free of pain and troubles. Emotional distress is encouraged to be suppressed with a recreational drug known as soma. Relationships are looked down upon on, and you can be as promiscuous as you’d like. But you give up your freedom in exchange for all the happiness in the world.


A 1932 first-edition book cover of Brave New World.

This dystopia society that the English writer Aldous Huxley created in his 1932 novel “Brave New World” is what inspired Iron Maiden’s song by the same name. The song was released in the English band’s 2000 album titled “Brave New World.”

It recounts the story of John the Savage, a white man who grew up outside the trouble-free country known as the World State. When he is taken to there he notices a moraless civilization, and he sees himself as a misfit. He choses to exile himself to a lonely place and as a result he commits a tragedy.

Bruce Dickinson sings: “Dying swans with twisted wings, beauty not needed here.”


Iron Maiden’s 2000 album Brave New World.

“I don’t recall there being any dying swans in Brave New World the book. But I wanted an image that represented tragedy and sadness, as Brave New World had done,” the singer explained to Classic Rock Magazine in 2000. “‘Dying swans, twisted wings’, you know, the agony, the death ‘Brave New World’ doesn’t want to see that, it has no use for either the life or the death, all it has use for is the image.”

But it’s the irony of a man being emotionally distraught in a flawless world that attracted Dickson.

“I reread it [Brave New World] a couple of times and some of the lyrics were based upon my feeling about the book,” Dickinson said to Phoenix New Times. “There’s an element of irony to it.”

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Albert Camus’ “The Stranger” Inspires The Cure’s “Killing an Arab”

When the Cure released the album “Boys Don’t Cry” in 1980 the English band always dealt with having to explaining a song that was deemed racist by many at the time.

The cries to censor the rock band’s first single “Killing an Arab” came from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a civil-rights organization, when a radio deejay confused the song with an anti-Arab anthem.


A 1946 first-edition cover to “The Stranger” by Albert Camus.

With incendiary lyrics “I’m alive…I’m dead…I’m a stranger…Killing an Arab,” a lot of music fans overlooked the fact that the tune simply retold a scene in the short novel “The Stranger” by French writer Albert Camus.

“If there’s one thing I would change, it’s the title,” lyricist Robert Smith told Chart Attack, a Canadian music online publication, in 2001. “I wrote it when I was still in school and I had no idea that anyone would ever listen to it other than my immediate school friends.”

But many did.


The disclaimer labeled on the album “Standing on a Beach.”

So, in order to clear the negative connotations from the song the record company labeled the 1987 album “Standing on a Beach,” which started of with the “Arab” song, with Smith’s statement:

“The song ‘Killing an Arab’ has absolutely no racist overtones whatsoever. It is a song which decries the existence of all prejudice and consequent violence. The Cure condemn its use in furthering anti-Arab feeling.”

Till the day, you can still find rare copies of the album with the disclaimer label.


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