I like my songs lyrics, maybe because I don’t read poetry. I usually go out of my way to finding out more about what they mean and what inspired them. Not rarely, they have more or less obscure references to books (thought: maybe I can do something like this for paintings?)
This is a list of my favorite 15 songs about books. Let me know if your favorites are not included, I’d like to make a bookish playlist.
(in no particular order)
Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush
This one comes first because I imagine it’s the first on everyone’s mind. Ghostly just like the book. A classic.
Too long I roam in the night
I’m coming back to his side to put it right
I’m coming home to wuthering, wuthering,
Moon Over Bourbon Street by Sting
When I first drove into New Orleans this song was on my CD player. It was inspired by Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and some people say it’s the POV of Lestat, others of Louis – do you have any insight? I never read it…
It was many years ago that I became what I am
I was trapped in this life like an innocent lamb
Now I can only show my face at noon
And you’ll only see me walking by the light of the moon
42 by Coldplay
Chris Martin said this song is called 42 because it’s his favorite number. When asked directly if it had anything to do with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy he helpfully answered “It is and it isn’t.” Right.
In the book, 42 is the number from which all meaning (“the meaning of life, the universe, and everything”) could be derived. All the same, it has some literary connection, and that’s good enough to make it to this list. Great album, great song.
Time is so short and I’m sure
There must be something some
Brandy Alexander by Feist
Another one that’s debatable. Brandy Alexander is a cocktail, but in my humble opinion, this song is about the main character in Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters. Chuck Palahniuk tops the list of authors I’m surprised I love and Brandy Alexander has to be one of his best characters. She’s a larger-than-life transsexual that takes a former fashion model (now disfigured by a gunshot) under her wing.
He’s my Brandy Alexander
Always gets me into trouble
But that’s another matter
Book Lovers by The Divine Comedy
The perfect bookworm song. Not something I would listen in a loop, but I always have great fun when my shuffle hits it. The whole song is a list of authors’ names with a very short comment (sometimes just a sound) afterwards. I feel like copying the full lyrics, but it’s just to big. See it here.
William Makepeace Thackeray: Call me ‘William Makepeace Thackeray’
Nathaniel Hawthorne: The letter ‘A’
Herman Melville: Ahoy there!
Charles Dickens: London is so beautiful this time of year…
Anthony Trollope: good-good-good-good evening!
Romeo And Juliet by Dire Straits
Modern day Romeo and Juliet, or what happens after the happy ending.
A love-struck Romeo sings the streets a serenade
Laying everybody low with a love song that he made.
Finds a streetlight, steps out of the shade
Says something like, “You and me babe, how about it?”
Bonjour from the movie Beauty & the Beast
Confession: I know this song by heart and can sing all the voices. Cheesy I know, but I just love it, the village discussing Belle, how weird she is and how her nose’s always “stuck in a book”. One of these days I have to make a top list of my favorite bookworm heroines. The YouTube video I linked to is a rhapsody of the song in several languages – hilarious!
Where you off to?
The book shop…
I just finished the most wonderful story,
About a beanstalk and an ogre and an…
That’s nice. Marie! The baguettes! Hurry up!
Por este rio acima by Fausto
This one is probably completely unknown for those of you who don’t have the honor of being Portuguese It’s not a song but a conceptual album based on the memoirs of Fernão Mendes Pinto, a 15th century explorer. Having to run for his life, he hurriedly embarked on a ship to India and on to a 21 years long travel that would take him as far as Japan with multiple adventures and life threatening situations in Arabia, Ethiopia, India, China, Indochina, Malaysia and other Near and Far Eastern places. It’s an album heavily influenced by Portuguese folk songs and uses many of our traditional instruments. One of my favorites of all time.
Resistance by Muse
1984 inspired many bands (Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Radiohead), but I prefer this one by Muse. Andre has tried for ages to make a Muse fan out of me, but so far I only like isolated songs, and this is one of them. Actually the whole album (also called Resistance) is heavily influenced by Orwell’s dystopia. This song in particular is about the relationship between Winston and Julia.
Love is our resistance
They’ll keep us apart and they wont to stop breaking us down
our lips must always be sealed
Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones
Probably also one of the most famous songs about books. I was hoping to read Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita during the Trans-Sib this summer but it was not to be. The first lines of the song and the book are very similar:
Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith
Wrapped Up In Books by Belle & Sebastian
Not directly connected to books apart from the title and the chorus, but I like it. Perfect humming song.
We didn’t get wet, we didn’t dare
Our aspirations are wrapped up in books
Our inclinations are hidden in looks
This Charming Man by The Smiths
I’m a late The Smiths fan, only really discovering them early this year. This song was inspired by the book Loving by Henry Green. In it, one of the characters, the caretaker of a castle accuses his pantry boy of being “Jumped-up” and “Not knowing his proper place.”
Ah! A jumped-up pantry boy
Who never knew his place
He said ‘return the ring’
He knows so much about these things.
Giving Up the Gun by Vampire Weekend
Vocalist Koenig said in a recent interview that he got the idea for this song from “a book my dad gave me called Giving Up The Gun. It’s a history book about the time when Japan expelled all the foreigners from the country, closed off all trade and stopped using guns and reverted back to the sword. It seems unimaginable now that humanity could willingly go back to an older technology. It got me thinking about whether you could give up all the things that you have and go back to a simpler way of life.“
Has anyone out there read this book? Sounds interesting.
Your sword’s grown old and rusty, burnt beneath the rising sun
It’s locked up like a trophy, forgetting all the things it’s done
And though it’s been a long time, you’re right back where you started from
I see it in your eyes that now you’re giving up the gun
Charlotte Sometimes by The Cure
Charlotte Sometimes, the children’s novel by Penelope Farmer, was a favorite of Robert Smith’s. It’s about a girl who, during her first day in boarding school, mysteriously travels forty years back in time. It’s on my TBR.
The people seemed so close
playing expressionless games
the people seemed
Love and Destroy by Franz Ferdinand
Another one based on The Master and Margarita, about the part where Margarita flies over Moscow wreaking revenge on the enemies of her lover, on her way to the ball of the dead.
I’m so free I could lacerate
Rip the robes right off my chest
I fly high above the Muscovite’s sky
I’m going to rip, rip, I’ll never rest
I’m going to meet you at midnight