Tag Archives: literature

Lana Del Rey’s ‘Ultraviolence’ Inspiration from Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orage’

Clockwork_orangeFor many, Lana Del Rey had glorified domestic violence in her 2014 song ‘Ultraviolence’ from her third album of the same name.

But before her critics voiced their concerns over lyrics such as…

He hit me and it felt like a kiss
I can hear violins, violins
Give me all of that ultraviolence


…there was much celebration from the foundation for Anthony Burgess, an English writer who coined the term ultra-violence in his most popular dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange. The term was commonly used by the book’s protagonist Alex, and his “droogs,” who would go on a rampage of violence.

While Lana Del Rey’s song isn’t a direct reference to the novel, which was originally 220px-Ultraviolencesinglepublished in 1962, the single’s title was lifted from Alex’s lexicon.

“We’ve definitely heard about Lana’s choice to title her record Ultraviolence,” Clare Preston-Pollitt, events and marketing officer at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, told MTV News in May 2014. “We picked up on it some time ago and we were intrigued by it … It’s fantastic that ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is still providing inspiration to such a diverse range of artists around the world over 50 years since its original publication.”


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Alt-J Inspired by Childhood Book, Where the Wild Things Are

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_(book)_cover.jpgLike many of us, the band members of British indie rock band Alt-J read the beloved children’s book Where the Wild Things Are.

The book, which was published in 1963 and written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, inspired the band’s single “Breezeblocks,” — a song from their 2012 debut studio album An Awesome Wave.

In a talk with the magazine Interview, Alt-J’s frontman, Joe Newman, goes into some detail of how Sendak’s most famous book inspired the band’s song.

“The song is about liking someone who you want so much that you want to hurt yourself and them, as well,” he said, according to a June 2012 article.  “We related that idea to Where the Wild Things Are, which we all grew up reading, where in the end the beast say, ‘Oh, please don’t go! We’ll eat you whole! We love you so!”


Cover art for the single “Breezeblocks.”

In the last verse of the song, he sings:

“Please don’t go, I’ll eat you whole
I love you so, I love you, so I love you so
Please don’t go I’ll eat you whole
I love you so, I love you so, I love you so, I love you so”

And in the second verse, he mentions the book’s title: “Do you know where the wild things go?”


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Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon Inspired by Philip Dick & Other Dystopian Writers

girilinabandcoverIn her memoir, Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon explained the inspiration to name Sonic Youth’s album Sister and lyrics to a song in her band’s subsequent album Daydream Nation.

Gordon, 63, was a singer and bassist for the band Sonic Youth, which hailed from New York City and eventually split sometime in 2011. Between 1983 and 2011 the band released 16 studio albums.

Among them include Sister and Daydream Nation, the band’s fourth and fifth albums respectively, which had inspirations from writers such as Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, and Denis Johnson.

Shortly before the release of Sister in 1987, Gordon wrote in her book that she and her then-husband and bandmate, Thurston Moore, had been reading science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.

“Philip Dick had a twin sister who died shortly after she was born and whose memory plagued him his whole life–which is maybe how and why our new album ended up being called Sister,” Gordon wrote. “We never decided this, of course; everything between us always had an air of undiscussed ambiguity about it.”

For the song “The Sprawl,” of Daydream Nation, Gordon has said she got the title from William Gibson’s novel, Mona Lisa Overdrive, the third book of the author’s trilogy known as “The Sprawl,” according to the band’s website. The website also provides a note that part of the song’s lyrics are based on the novel The Stars at Noon, a book by Denis Johnson.

But, Gordon provided a specific answer in her memoir to what book inspired the song.

fiskadoroIn chapter 27 of her memoir, Gordon wrote that she had read one of Denis Johnson’s books titled Fiskadoro, a book that she described as “a haze-filled dream world of a novel about the survivors of nuclear fallout attempting to rebuild their lives and society.”

“The whole time I was writing [“The Sprawl], I was thinking back on what it felt like being a teenager in Southern California, paralyzed by the still, unending sprawl of L.A., feeling all alone on the sidewalk, the pavement’s plainness so dull and ugly it almost made me nauseous, the sun and good weather so assembly-line unchanging it made my whole body tense,” she wrote. “The nutmeg headband of smog floating above my hometown reminded me of Fiskadoro, as if L.A. were already surviving its own nuclear fallout.”

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Filed under Denis Johnson, Philip Dick, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson

The Libertines Inspired By Oscar Wilde


Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony via Wikipedia

The frontmen for English band the Libertines have been vocal about their literary inspirations in interviews. Oscar Wilde is just one of many writers Pete Doherty and Carl Barât, singers and guitarist for the band, have looked up to.

“[I]t was always my dream to study literature and to write. It fell by the wayside a little bit, but yeah, an amazing writer and amazing inspiration,” Doherty said according to music magazine NME.

His bandmate, Barât, an cofounder of the band, has also echoed Doherty’s sentiment on Wilde. In fact, he would would “like to spend [Christmas] with Oscar Wilde in the Dordogne,” Barât said, according to a Q&A with NME in 200 reposted on a blog.

Among some of the songs inspired by Wilde includes “Narcissist,” from the self-titled 2004 album, which alludes to the Picture of Dorian Gray.

In the song Barât sings: “Well wouldn’t it be nice to be Dorian Gray just for a day? They’re just narcissists! Oh, what’s so great to be Dorian Gray every day?”

[audio http://cdn.radiolala.com/T/The Libertines/01. The Libertines – Narcissist.mp3]

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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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Elliott Murphy’s Tribute To F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Gatsby_1925_jacketThe Jay-Z-produced soundtrack to the new Great Gatsby film gave the opportunity to contemporary artists to pay tribute to one of the most acclaimed novels in literature.

But before the Great Gatsby was cool, singer-songwriter Elliott Murphy had already lionized the book by writing a song titled “Like a Great Gatsby.” The tune was released in his debut album Aquashow, in 1973.

The reason why he idolizes the book’s author F. Scott Fitzgerald so much he says, according to the culture site Critical Mob: “On one level there was just the tragedy of his life – he is really the Van Gogh of authors, in that when he died he was so unknown there were still copies of the first edition of The Great Gatsby in  Scribner’s [the book-publishing company] warehouse, it wasn’t very successful. And that he kept at it, I think I found that inspiring.”

Murphy is from Long Island, New York, where the novel takes places.  That’s only one of the few things he finds in common with what he calls “my favorite writer, my literary hero.”

“Also, Gatsby took place in Long Island; I was from Long Island, and I think he dealt with this question of what it is to be an American, and I identified with that as well,” Murphy explained.

To show how much he idolizes the book, in his debut album cover he is pictured with a white Gatsby-like suit at the Palm Court of the Plaza Hotel, where some scenes took place in the novel.

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Café Tacvba Inspired By Mexican Poet José Emilio Pacheco


Front cover of Las batallas en el desierto, published in 1981.

Artists who make literary references in his or her lyrics do it to pay homage to great writers. Others do it to drive a theme through the song. But at times those references go unnoticed by music listeners.

But José Emilio Pacheco, one of Mexico’s most celebrated poets, has great gratitude for the rock band Café Tacvba for bringing new readers to his short story Las batallas en el desierto.

“I like it a lot and I’m very grateful, because you have no idea how many people have read the book [Las batallas] thanks to Café Tacvba,” Pacheco said in 2010 at a public event.

The band is one of Mexico’s most successful rock groups, and in its 1992 freshman self-titled album included the track “Las batallas,” which retells Pacheco’s story in the lyrics.

Café Tacvba's 1992 self-titled album.

Café Tacvba’s 1992 self-titled album.

When asked by Peru’s newspaper El Peruano in 2010 what Pacheco thought about Café Tacvba’s song he had this to say jokingly: “A really young Peruvian writer, Santiago Roncagliolo, had told me he found out about the book thanks to Café Tacuba. He asked me how much [money] I have made. I responded not a single cent.”

The story is about Carlos a grade-school boy who falls in love with his friend’s attractive mother. When he confesses his love to her, his young life starts to unravel. His parents call him crazy and his friends start picking on him.

The book was published in 1981, but it is still one of Mexico’s most read books. Part of its success is the winsome story, but the book has been hailed because of it’s reminiscence of  the country’s pop culture of the 1940s and United States’ cultural influence on Mexicans.

José Emilio Pacheco tells an anecdote of Café Tacvba, inviting him for dinner after a concert, at the National Autonomous University of Mexico with Mexican novelist Ignacio Solares in 2010.


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