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From Novels to Lyrics

Musicians seemingly find inspiration in absolutely anything they can, whether it be a trip to the supermarket or a certain line in a book they’ve found themselves engrossed in.

Following on from our previous musings into the world of musicians turned authors, or authors who have a particular fascination with metal music, here, we turn to musicians who took inspiration for their lyrics or titles from great literary works. Let’s dive in shall we? [why not listen to the accompanying playlist while you read too - here]

Pet Sematary by The Ramones:

First off, we have the late 80’s track from rock greats, the Ramones. Recently re-released as a motion picture in 2019, Pet Sematary is the eerily dark tale created by none other than legendary writer Stephen King.

Based on a mysterious ancient burial ground that seemingly possesses other-worldly powers, it’s no wonder The Ramones found inspiration in such an intricate tale of wild fascination. The song is equally fantastical, naming goblins and warlords and following the tale of the King novel.

‘I don't want to be buried in a pet cemetery/ I don't want to live my life again.’

Baptized In Blood by Helstar:

Following on from the theme of dark fantasies, Baptized In Blood is a hail to Bram Stoker’s novel ‘Dracula’. The entire first half of the album ‘Nosferatu’ follows the tale of the cinematic adaptation of Dracula and even includes audio samples of Frank Legella’s monologue in John Badam’s film.

Baptized In Blood, in particular, offers significant references to the title novel, with lyrics including

Dusk, I rule the night/ And rest by the light of the day/ Blood, I thirst the blood of the corpses/ That befall me I,/ I have a lustful need to kill

offering almost an insight into the thoughts of the main character.

Ramble On by Led Zeppelin:

Rock pioneers Led Zeppelin are hailed for their signature sound and their ripping guitar performances. Headed by Jimmy Page, the late 60’s signalled the inception of the ambitious quartet and has since seen plentiful album and single releases.

‘Ramble On’ is filled with incredible isolated vocals and influential guitar effects and is surprisingly inspired by the works of J. R. R. Tolkein. With several lyrics directly citing his works, including ‘Gollum and the evil one’, Plant later claims a certain embarrassment over his choice of lyrics, but this upbeat track is here to stay.

One and For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica:

If you’re not familiar with Metallica’s iconic use of thrash metal and obliterating sound, then you need to stop right here and head straight to Spotify. No seriously, go put on ‘Enter Sandman’ and then come and join us again.

Dalton Trumbo’s ‘One’ is a tale of a first world war soldier who loses almost everything – his legs, arms, eyes, face and tongue, yet still battles on despite being trapped in his own mind. This dark tale is not too surprising to have inspired James Hetfield when you listen to the undertones present in their tracks.

‘Now that the war is through with me/ I'm waking up, I cannot see.’

For Whom The Bell Tolls is based on the book of the same title by Ernest Hemingway, another war-oriented tale and is cited as one of the best war novels ever written. We could easily be here for hours talking about all of the Metallica tracks that have had brainwaves come from reading novels, but we’ll swiftly (and reluctantly) move on.

Scentless Apprentice by Nirvana:

In this track, Kurt Cobain gives a nod to his apparent favourite novel of all time, Patrick Suskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murder. Following on in style from the rest of the entries on this list, Perfume is a horror tale of a perfumer’s apprentice whose super-sense of smell sets him apart from his peers and seemingly alienates him from the rest of the world. Cobain turns this tale into a guitar-laden track topped with gritty vocals and filled with their timeless grunge inflexions.

In an interview, Cobain divulged: “I’ve read Perfume, by Patrick Süskind, about ten 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.”

Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush

And last, but by no means least, there’s no way that this list would be complete without the angelic wonder that is Kate Bush. Penned by Emily Bronte, Kate Bush took lyrics word-for-word right from the novel and created a whole new piece of art with them. Written when she was just 18, Bush has a certain penchant for delivering delicate masterpieces full of aphorisms and deep meaning that lead to moody atmospheres – don’t give this one a miss.

Worthy Mentions:

‘1984’ – David Bowie

‘Sympathy for the Devil’ – The Rolling Stones

‘Killing An Arab’ – The Cure

‘I Am the Walrus’ – The Beatles

‘Venus In Furs’ – The Velvet Underground

You can check out all the songs mentioned in this article and the other one on our playlist here

This article was written by Alannah Williams. All-round legend and Dead Head staff writer.

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