-by Bookbarn's Retail Manager Janey Thornton

It was the famous Austrian painter Gustav Klimt who said 'Art is a line around your thoughts.' But what about when that line has already been drawn? The idea that art can inspire art is a captivating one - and for me it doesn't get more interesting than listening to great songs inspired by great books. Below you'll find a list of my 'Top 10' songs inspired by books.

  1. Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush (1978)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk-4lXLM34g

This song almost needs no introduction - written by Bush when she was just 18, the song is based on the novel of the same name. Bush was inspired to write the song by the last ten minutes of a 1967 BBC mini-series based on Wuthering Heights. She then read the book and discovered that she shared her birthday (30 July) with Emily Brontë.

2. I Am The Walrus by the Beatles (1967)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19sAewJH22I

In 1967, John Lennon received a letter from a pupil at his old school which mentioned that one of the school's English masters was making his class analyse Beatles' lyrics. Lennon was so amused by this that he decided to write his next Beatles song  using the most confusing references he could. I Am The Walrus was the result - taking its title from a reference in Lewis Carrol's Alice Through The Looking Glass.

3. Don't Look Back In Anger by Oasis (1995)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8OipmKFDeM

Don't Look Back In Anger was the fifth single released off of Oasis' album (What's The Story) Morning Glory? Written by Noel Gallagher, it takes its name from John Osborne's similarly titled 1956 play Look Back In Anger. 

4. Scentless Apprentice by Nirvana (1993)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYPDJg9mz1g

In a 1993 interview with Ehm, Kurt Cobain stated that his favorite book was Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, the inspiration for the Nirvana song Scentless Apprentice.

“I read Perfume by Patrick Suskind about 10 times in my life, and I can’t stop reading it. It’s like something that’s just stationary in my pocket all the time. It just doesn’t leave me,” Cobain told Ehm at the time. “Cause I’m a hypochondriac and it just affects me–it makes me want to cut off my nose.”

5. Ramble On by Led Zeppelin (1969)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmaN-z8PoE8

The lyrics of Ramble On were highly influenced by J R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings. Throughout the song there are references to Mordor and the infamous character Gollum, such as: 'Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor/I met a girl so fair/But Gollum, and the evil one crept up/And slipped away with her'. The song was co-written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and was recorded in 1969 at Juggy Sound Studio, New York.

6. Breezeblocks by alt-J (2012)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVeMiVU77wo

One of the songs on alt-J's debut album An Awesome Wave released in 2012,  Breezeblocks contains multiple references to Maurice Sendak's children's book Where The Wild Things Are. 

7. I Wanna Be Yours by Arctic Monkeys (2013)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJLQCf4mFP0

Arctic Monkeys lead man Alex Turner has always cited his inspiration for I Wanna Be Yours as the poem of the same name by John Cooper-Clarke. As a teenager, the poem had featured on his GCSE syllabus.  He said: 'It made my ears prick up in the classroom because it was nothing like anything I’d heard. Had I not seen him do his thing, I wouldn’t have started writing like that.'

8. Off To The Races by Lana Del Rey (2012)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET1MhXiUDVg

Off of her album Ultraviolence, which took its name from Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, Lana Del Ray's song Off To The Races fuses the singer's own lyrics with lines from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Perhaps the most obvious reference to Nabokov's protagonist Humbert Humbert is this lyrical take on the first line of Lolita: 'Light of my life/fire of my loins/be a good baby/do what I want.'

9. The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen (1995)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-c6GphpAeY

"The Ghost of Tom Joad" is a folk rock song written by Bruce Springsteen. It is the title track to his eleventh studio album, released in 1995. The character Tom Joad, from John Steinbeck's classic 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath, is mentioned in the title and narrative.

Besides The Grapes of Wrath, the song also takes inspiration from "The Ballad of Tom Joad" by Woody Guthrie, which in turn was inspired by John Ford's film adaptation of Steinbeck's novel.

10. Gravity's Rainbow by Klaxons (2007)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXgjdhLnufo

The title of Klaxons' album ‘Myths Of The Near Future’ (2007) came from a collection of J.G. Ballard's short stories. But the band also took on the cryptic (and wonderful) ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ by Thomas Pynchon too: a book renowned for its length and complexity.


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