song book

I'd forgotten about it until I came across this classic Costello song, but at a conference on literature promotion a year or so ago, we had a late night session in the bar wracking our brains for pop songs containing book references.
It seemed surprising that lyricists so seldom refer to literature, let alone engaged in cross art, transliterate creative projects.

For the rest of the event we swapped titles day and night. As I try to encourage more readers to this blog and more readers of this blog to leave comments, let me put out a request for more of these:

"Kind of like Verlaine and Rimbaud" - Bob Dylan, You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome
"Who (who) who wrote the book of love?"
"Please sir or madam will you read my book, it took me years to write won't you take a look." - Beatles, Paperback Writer
""Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov" - The Police, Don't Stand so Close to Me.
"He's reading Balzac, knocking back prozac" - Blur, Country House
and of course "Everyday I Write the Book" - Elvis Costello
"Oh, Heathcliff!" - Kate Bush, Wuthering Heights

Thanks to Prof Ronald Soetaert, Michael Cross and others for these.
Any more? Extra points given for digital book references.


Chris Meade said…
Another good one courtesy of Michael:

"Someday I'll have a disappearing hairline
Someday I'll wear pyjamas in the daytime
Times when the day is like a play by Sartre
When it seems a bookburning's in perfect order -
I gave the doctor my description
I tried to stick to my prescriptions
Someday I'll have a disappearing hairline
Someday I'll wear pyjamas in the daytime
Afternoons will be measured out
Measured out, measured with
Coffeespoons and T.S. Eliot"

- Crash Test Dummies
Uncle Petie said…
Seems to me there was a time in the sixties when you couldn't listen to music for people trying to show off their literary creds. The Doors named their damn band after the title of an Aldous Huxley book (itself cobbled from Blake). Led Zepplin had a stage where they couldn't get through a song without dropping some reference to Lord of the Rings, there waas a general obsession with Alice In Wonderland (most obviously with Jefferson Aeroplane's "White Rabbit"), and I seem to remeber reading that Sympathy for the Devil was inspired by The Master and Margarita.

You could do a whole page on Dylan alone:

"Shakespeare he's in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells."

"Ezra pound and T.S Eliot
Fighting in the captain's tower."

"Ophelia she's 'neath the window"

"You've read all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books."

So much so that today, dropping a couple of literary references seems to be the lazy man's way of announcing to the world that they are, in fact, a bit Dylan-like:

The Libertines
"When she gets up in the morning, and writes down all her dreams,
Reads like the Book of Revelations, or the Beano, or the unabridged Ulysses."

And Okkervil River's most-excellent "John Allyn Smith Sails" is all about John Berryman.
Michael Cross said…
Mine are a mixed bag...

Lou Reed gets us started:
"These are the stories of Edgar Alan Poe- Not exactly the boy next door"

The Smiths will:
"meet you at the cemetery gates,
Keats and Yeats are on your side,
while Wilde is on mine"

Wilde also makes it into the Pretenders "Message of love"
"Now look at the people,
In the streets, in the bars,
We are all of us in the gutter,
But some of us are looking at the stars,"

Whilst Natasha Beddingfield:
"Studdied Byron, Shelley and Keats, recited them over hip hop beats." Or so she calims.

According to Noel Cowards's "Marvelous Party"
"If you have any mind at all,
Gibbon's divine Decline and Fall
Seems pretty flimsy,
No more than a whimsy"

"Marvelous Party" was covered/remixed by The Divine Comedy, who in "Gin Soaked Boy" declare that:
"Im'm the why not in the why,
I'm the Catcher in the Rye"
and in the same song claim to be
"The ghost in the Machine"
A much abused phrase that originates as "the dogma of the Ghost in the machine" in Gilbert Ryle's "The Concept of Mind."

If children's books count then R.E.M get two refferences to Doctor Seuss into "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" and there must be lots of "Wizard of Oz" songs- "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (Elton John) and "Return to Oz" (Scissor Sisters) for starters- or might you argue that they are probably refering to the film?
Michael Cross said…
Now I think about it the Divine Comedy sang all of Wordsworth's "Lucy" poems too. Called it "Lucy".

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