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J.D. Salinger’s Short Story Inspired The Cure’s Robert Smith

NineStoriesPJ Harvey wasn’t the only English musician to get inspiration from J.D. Salinger’s short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.”

The Cure’s singer Robert Smith titled the song Bananafishbones with Salinger’s short story in mind. The song was released in the album The Top in 1984. The New Yorker originally published the story in 1948, but later collected in Salinger’s 1953 book Nine Stories.

“The title (for the song), for some no-reason, from ‘a perfect day for bananafish’ – a short story by j d salinger .. again me hating myself,” Smith said according to the Cure News, a 1990 fan-produced newsletter.

[audio http://a.tumblr.com/tumblr_mcvtnoFRIg1rzbts1o1.mp3]

As incoherent as that respond is, Smith had great respect for Salinger, who was a recluse. In an interview with French magazine Rock and Folk, the singer said he was impressed by Salinger’s lifestyle and writings.

The_Cure_-_The_Top“He’s a character that I admire and that intrigues me also; isolating himself from the world, living as a recluse in a monastery, giving up writing and refusing any contact with the outside, it’s fascinating,” Smith said of Salinger in 2003.

Smith continues: “Sometimes as I look back at myself as a teenager, reading Salinger…it makes me want to laugh. But it would be a pathetic reaction, typical of a mocking father facing his child’s first emotions. The amazement is too pure to be laughed at. Authors for teenagers are considered as caricatures.”

This isn’t the only literature-inspired tune that Smith has written. In fact, many of his songs allude to classic literature. For example, Killing an Arab’s lyrics retell french author Albert Camus’ story the Stranger.

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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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