"Classics Rock! is the best of both worlds--music and books."
-- CNBC.com "Bullish on Books" blog

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tales of Mystery and Imagination/The Alan Parsons Project

Not just a song--an entire album based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976), the first release from The Alan Parsons Project, includes musical versions (some of them instrumental) of "A Dream Within a Dream," "The Raven," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado," "(The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and "To One in Paradise." A remixed version of the album, with narration by Orson Welles that had been dropped from the original edition, was released in 1987. After leaving the band, founding member Eric Woolfson produced his own follow-up album, Poe: More Tales of Mystery & Imagination, in 2003. (A later APP release featured an instrumental called The Gold Bug--a leftover...?)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hey Jack Kerouac/10,000 Maniacs

A song about the Beat Generation writers--"the San Francisco beat boys," as the lyrics have it--from 10,000 Maniacs' 1987 album In My Tribe. Jack Kerouac is front and center, but also featured are Allen Ginsberg (Allen baby, why so jaded?/Have the boys all grown up and their beauty faded?) and William Burroughs (Billy, what a saint they've made you/just like Mary down in Mexico on All Souls' Day). Howl!

Moon Over Bourbon Street/Sting

Something creepy's going on in this song from Sting’s first solo album The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985), and it all seems familiar somehow: the New Orleans setting; the narrator who "was trapped in this life like an innocent lamb" and can only come out at night; his conflicted feelings about the young girl he has his eye on. . . The clincher is in the CD's liner notes: "'Moon over Bourbon Street' was inspired by Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice."

Sirens of Titan/Al Stewart

Based on Kurt Vonnegut's second novel The Sirens of Titan, published in 1959, this song from Al Stewart's Modern Times album (1974) features the book's protagonist, Malachi Constant; the papery Mercurian life forms known as Harmoniums; various interplanetary locations; and a line taken directly from the text--Malachi's fatalistic conclusion that "I was the victim of a series of accidents, as are we all." Nothing to base your term paper on, but a bouncy tune that you'll appreciate more if you've read the book.

Dolores/Freedy Johnston

This Lolita-inspired tune appeared on Freedy Johnston's 1994 album This Perfect World. It is filled with references not only to Vladimir Nabokov's novel (Dolores was her middle name/She'd read the book and everything) but to Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film version (Have you ever seen that film? and I look like James Mason's ghost). The title refers to Lolita's real name, Dolores Haze.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Don't Stand So Close to Me/The Police

This song, from Zenyattà Mondatta (1980), the third album by The Police, tells of a young teacher pursued by--and attracted to--an underage student. The allusion to Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel Lolita is found in the lines: It's no use, he sees her/He starts to shake and cough/Just like the old man in/That book by Nabokov. "The old man" is a reference to Humbert Humbert, the book's middle-aged protagonist, who develops an obsession for the 12-year old title character.