She reads Simone de Beauvoir in her American circumstance
April 30, 2006 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Song ideas for a mix tape themed around writers and/or literature, please.

I'd like to make a mix tape for my housemate, who's a music and literature snob, and I figured if the theme was songs that mention writers and books he'd at least have to appreciate the idea behind it, if not the songs, ha. Of course, double points for songs that are actually good!

The best example I've come up with, in that he'd actually like the song and he likes the book mentioned too, is Piano Magic's "I Am The Sub-librarian" (A steady diet of Brautigan...). But any and all suggestions are heartily welcomed.

Also, if you know how I can go about finding suggestions elsewhere, I'd appreciate that too. I've searched the archives and tags, as well as Google and some mix communities I belong to, and haven't come up with gold yet. (Maybe my search-fu is broken, but it seems an easy query to get lots of false results for.) Also, I have a feeling Mefites would be great at coming up with unique ideas.

Thank you for your help!
posted by ifjuly to Media & Arts (63 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ryan Adams has a song called Sylvia Plath.
posted by blackkar at 4:24 PM on April 30, 2006

"Killing an Arab" by The Cure, which is based on L'Étranger by Albert Camus.
posted by camcgee at 4:26 PM on April 30, 2006

Indigo Girls' "Virginia Woolf"
Belle and Sebastian "Wrapped up in Books"
posted by Airhen at 4:27 PM on April 30, 2006

"My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors" by Moxy Fruvus.
posted by gsh at 4:29 PM on April 30, 2006

Everyday I Write The Book, Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Bookmark, Paul Westerberg
Pressed in a Book, The Shins
Bookends, Simon & Garfunkel
Books About UFOs, Husker Du
Company Book, Sugar
Open Book, Cake
The Book I Read, Talking Heads
Lady Writer, Dire Straits
Mr. Writer, Stereophonics
Paperback Writer, The Beatles
Screenwriter's Blues, Soul Coughing
The Writer, Even in Blackouts
Young Fiction Writer, Kind of Like Spitting
I Type for Miles, Jets to Brazil
Type Slowly, Pavement
Rollover DJ, Jet
Hey Jack Kerouac, 10,000 Maniacs
Don't Stand So Close To Me, The Police
Crackle and Drag, Paul Westerberg
Bukowski, Modest Mouse
Sylvia Plath, Ryan Adams
Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits
Romeo And Juliet, Indigo Girls
I Don't Want To Get Over You, The Magnetic Fields
Bite Your Tongue, Tommy Stinson
Highlands, Bob Dylan
Family Tree, Ben Kweller
posted by jodic at 4:31 PM on April 30, 2006

Myla Goldberg by The Decemberists
posted by amarynth at 4:31 PM on April 30, 2006

"My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors" by Moxy Fruvous.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 4:32 PM on April 30, 2006

Dang it, gsh!
posted by TochterAusElysium at 4:33 PM on April 30, 2006

"Cemetery Gates" by The Smiths
"Faster" by Manic Street Preachers
"Scentless Apprentice" by Nirvana
"Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush
posted by fire&wings at 4:34 PM on April 30, 2006

There used to be a label called Milles Plateaux. If she's a snob of the pomo theory variety she might know what that refers to. I don't think their releases are particularly literary though (I can't think of any with lyrics at all off the top of my head).

Also, Bill Burroughs has done a bunch of spoken word stuff, sometimes set to music.
posted by juv3nal at 4:38 PM on April 30, 2006

"Holiday" by Weezer has a Kerouac reference.
posted by the_bone at 4:45 PM on April 30, 2006

Rachel's (aka 'the Rachels') Pablo Neruda themed 'The Sea and The Bells' though you would likely need to explain in your notes.
posted by anglophiliated at 4:48 PM on April 30, 2006

Booklovers by the Divine Comedy is pretty much perfect for this. Check out the lyrics here, it would make a great opening track.
posted by greycap at 4:49 PM on April 30, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction by Bad Religion.
posted by amro at 4:56 PM on April 30, 2006

Link to preview for Divine Comedy here. (Sorry, forgot to add this in - you really need to listen to it to get the impact).
posted by greycap at 4:56 PM on April 30, 2006

Here's a link to help you out in the future (I'm in no way affiliated with the site):

Mix Tape Generator
posted by IndigoRain at 4:59 PM on April 30, 2006

Windmills by Toad the Wet Sprocket contains an allusion to Don Quixote.
posted by amro at 5:00 PM on April 30, 2006

Anything from the LP, Homage a Duras.
posted by vers at 5:02 PM on April 30, 2006

and David Foster Wallace by Tsunami
posted by anglophiliated at 5:03 PM on April 30, 2006

Another Divine Comedy suggestion: their song "Lucy" is based Wordsworth (and of course, extra points for the band name derived from Dante). There's also "Marx and Engels" by Belle & Sebastian if your housemate's a political theory snob, too.
posted by scody at 5:15 PM on April 30, 2006

based ON Wordsworth...
posted by scody at 5:15 PM on April 30, 2006

"Cherry Lips" by Garbage was based on two novels by JT LeRoy.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 5:16 PM on April 30, 2006

The Lucy suggestion sparked another memory - the Verve's History is based on the poem London by William Blake.
posted by greycap at 5:21 PM on April 30, 2006

The first and last lines of If You Really Want to Hear About It by The Ataris are the same as the first and last lines of Catcher in the Rye.
posted by amro at 5:24 PM on April 30, 2006

There She Goes by Nick Cave
posted by Hildago at 5:28 PM on April 30, 2006

Wait, I take that back. Not the first line, the title of the song.
posted by amro at 5:29 PM on April 30, 2006

Previous ask mefi thread: Songs about writing.
posted by dmo at 5:44 PM on April 30, 2006

"Don Quixote," Gordon Lightfoot
posted by Jeanne at 5:45 PM on April 30, 2006

"love is more thicker than forget" by the Story is an e.e. cummings poem.

Greg Brown set Blake's "Innocence and Experience" poems to music.

Peter Gabriel's "Mercy St."

Alan Parsons Project "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" is all Poe stuff.
posted by Biblio at 5:45 PM on April 30, 2006

ZWAN - Number of the Beast (Kerouac mentioned)
Material - Soul Killer (Burroughs featued)
Manic Street Preachers - The Girl Who Wanted To Be God (about Plath)
Manic Street Preachers - 1985 (Nietzsche referenced)
posted by evil holiday magic at 5:48 PM on April 30, 2006

Franz Kafka at the Zoo - The Clean [very good name-dropping in this one...]
Reader meet Author - Morrissey
Book Depository - Michael Nyman [The Cook, The Theif Soundtrack...instrumental]
The House the Jack Kerouac Built - Go Betweeens

Alan Parsons Project "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" is all Poe stuff.

Lou Reed recently set some music to Poe - The Raven.

And points for recognizing the Lloyd Cole lyric?
posted by meech at 5:51 PM on April 30, 2006

"Richard Cory" by Simon and Garfunkel (and later performed by Them) is based on the poem by Edward Arlington Robinson

"The Highwayman" by Loreena McKennitt is a musical version of the poem by Alfred Noyes

There are also some bootleg recordings of Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg
posted by Cochise at 5:52 PM on April 30, 2006

There's a pretty brief allusion to Thomas Mann's Death In Venice in Rufus Wainwright's song "Grey Gardens."
posted by ktrey at 5:56 PM on April 30, 2006

"Goldenhair" by Syd Barrett -- a musical setting of a James Joyce poem.
posted by ROTFL at 5:57 PM on April 30, 2006

Loreena McKennitt has also recorded a version of Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott."
posted by Gator at 6:00 PM on April 30, 2006

Ah all that talk about Poe (Edgar Allen) reminds me, other Poe's album Haunted supposedly references her brother, Mark Z Danielewski's novel House of Leaves though I've not listened to the album. The book is freaking awesome though.
posted by juv3nal at 6:03 PM on April 30, 2006

"Who Wrote Holden Caulfield" by Green Day, and the response, "I Wrote Holden Caulfield" by Screeching Weasel. Though, the lyrics of both leave something to be desired.
posted by mullacc at 6:24 PM on April 30, 2006

Our Retired Explorer (Dines With Michel Foucault In Paris, 1961) by The Weakerthans.
posted by jeffmshaw at 6:41 PM on April 30, 2006

Sonic Youth has a song called "Pattern Recognition," based on William Gibson's book about coolhunters.
posted by radioamy at 6:55 PM on April 30, 2006

"Golden Hair" is good for music and lit snobs, though it doesn't mention writers or books. Along that theme, Emerson, Lake and Palmer did a version of the hymn "Jerusalem", which draws its lyrics from a poem by William Blake.

Haunted is a great album and references House of Leaves all over the place but if you haven't read House of Leaves it might not seem so literary.

Bob Dylan is full of literary references.... "Desolation Row" pops into my head for its mention of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, and because it's one of my favorite songs, but I'm sure there are many others you can find.

Led Zeppelin is all about the Tolkien references ("Battle of Evermore", "Ramble On")
posted by dagnyscott at 7:02 PM on April 30, 2006

Peter Blegvad - "The Unborn Byron"
posted by shinybeast at 7:17 PM on April 30, 2006

I can't believe nobody has suggested "La Vie Boheme" yet, from the musical Rent. Lyrics.
posted by WCityMike at 7:30 PM on April 30, 2006

English Murder Mystery - the Lucksmiths ("I love her but she loves Agatha Christie / And she’s so wrapped up in the English Murder Mystery")
posted by jdl at 7:31 PM on April 30, 2006

"Lorca's Novena", "Hell's Ditch" (references Jean Genet), and "Down All the Days" (about Christy Brown), all by the Pogues.

Parts of Tom Waits' The Black Rider were written and performed with William Burroughs.

There's also the entire conceit around the album cover art for Thick as a Brick, but that's probably not quite what you're looking for.
posted by dilettante at 7:46 PM on April 30, 2006

"Heroes" by Jill Sobule. A lot of the heroes she mentions are authors.
posted by hermitosis at 7:52 PM on April 30, 2006

Joanna Newsom - Inflammatory Writ
The Fall - How I Wrote Elastic Man
John Cale - Graham Greene
The Cocktails - Waiting for Godot
Brigitte Fontaine - Comme Rimbaud
The Mekons/Kathy Acker - Pussy, King of the Pirates
Sonic Youth - Hits of Sunshine (For Allen Ginsberg)
Cornershop w/ Allen Ginsberg - When the Light Appears Boy
The Embarrassment - Hip and Well Read

Also, have you seen this very long list of songs inspired by literature?
posted by hydrophonic at 7:53 PM on April 30, 2006

Another: "Spanish Bombs" by the Clash references Garcia Lorca.
posted by scody at 7:57 PM on April 30, 2006

(hit "post" too soon!) And "Absolute Beginners" by the Jam was written in reference to the Macinnes novel of the same name.
posted by scody at 7:58 PM on April 30, 2006

Stephen Merritt The Book of Love
posted by theora55 at 8:07 PM on April 30, 2006

Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Sea of Tears) by Destroyer. literate is the sixth mood.

Mastodon's Leviathon is based in its entirety upon Moby Dick. I like the track Blood & Thunder.
posted by carsonb at 8:23 PM on April 30, 2006

Richard Cory - Simon and Garfunkle
Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Iron Maiden
Where Eagles Dare (based on the Icarus myth) - Iron Maiden
Stranger in a Strange Land - Iron Maiden
Hey Jack Kerouac - 10,000 Maniacs
The Wanderer - Johnny Cash and U2 - contains the great line "I went out walking, with a bible and a gun"
posted by Ostara at 8:54 PM on April 30, 2006

The Fall - Jerusalem (incorporates lines from William Blake's hymn of the same name)
posted by Kronoss at 9:05 PM on April 30, 2006

The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" is based on The Master and Margarita by Mikhal Bulakov. I just noticed it got left out of the Artists for Literacy song list that I linked to earlier.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:16 PM on April 30, 2006

Oh wait, there they are, under "T" for The.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:26 PM on April 30, 2006

The SIBL Project is a CD of songs inspired by literature. Half the songs are really good, the other half, not so much. It benefits a worthy cause though.
posted by willnot at 12:32 AM on May 1, 2006

There's a Queensryche-esque metal band from the late '80s / early 90's called Crismon Glory that does a song "Masque of the Red Death" based on the Poe story of the same name. Funny. I actually (oh the shame) spoke in my high school lit class and played this song comparing the two works many years ago.
posted by smartypanties at 3:55 AM on May 1, 2006

Magazine : *a song from under the floorboards* - based around Dostoyevski: *notes from the underground*.

Jah Wobble has an entire CD of William Blake set to music, but that could be cheating...

hydrophonic: WTF? Jagger et al were cool enough to know Bulgakov?!?!? My world has been turned upside-down...
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:15 AM on May 1, 2006

It's "Song for Myla Goldberg" by The Decemberists.


Engine Driver - The Decemberists
Billy Liar - The Decemberists
The Tain - The Decemberists
I Should be Suspended from Class - Camera Obscura
Fiction - The Lucksmiths
World Encyclopedia of 20th Century Murder - The Lucksmiths
Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying - Belle and Sebastian
Judy and the Dream of Horses - Belle and Sebastian
posted by ludwig_van at 6:17 AM on May 1, 2006

Just Like Hemingway-Blue Clocks Green
posted by bryghtrose at 8:59 AM on May 1, 2006

To Jane Gallagher by Steve Goldberg
posted by Packy_1962 at 10:19 AM on May 1, 2006

There's also "Sylvia Plath" by Peter Laughner.

"Bernice Bobs Her Hair" is another Divine Comedy song modeled after a work by F. Scott Fitzgerald; they also adapt Wordsworth's "Lucy" to beautiful effect.
posted by mykescipark at 5:46 PM on May 1, 2006

... and to redeem the doublepost of Wordsworth's "Lucy," I offer the arrangement of Blake's "London" by Sparklehorse for your list/mix.
posted by mykescipark at 5:49 PM on May 1, 2006

Just because nobody's mentioned it yet -- "Rave On, John Dunne" by Van Morrison.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:02 AM on May 2, 2006

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