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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Persecution & Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On the Road)/Aztec Two-Step

This week Classics Rock! is observing Banned Books Week 2009 (September 26-October 3) by featuring songs based on frequently challenged books.

Aztec Two-Step's song The Persecution & Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On The Road), from their 1972 self-titled album, is an homage to Jack Kerouac's 1957 beat classic On the Road, and specifically to the character of Dean Moriarty. Although the book is classified as a novel, it is essentially autobiographical, based on road trips Kerouac made over a period of years and describing incidents involving such friends and fellow writers as Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. Kerouac used real names in his original manuscript (which he typed out on a 120-foot continuous scroll of paper) but his publisher insisted that the names be fictionalized. So, Kerouac became Sal Paradise, Ginsberg became Carlo Marx, Burroughs became Old Bull Lee, and Cassady became Dean Moriarty. "With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road," Kerouac writes in the book's opening paragraph, and Moriarty is very much the catalyst for what follows. The song depicts Moriarty as almost alarmingly free-spirited and unpredictable: Look at him running don't he know how to walk/He's just too damned cunning you can tell by his talk/You can tell he is rude, like a typical dude/If you want my opinion he belongs under lock. However, it ends on an admiring note: So relax for a moment as you would for your hobby/His beauty abounds in his mind and his body/He’s like the setting sun’s hues, or the dust on his shoes/He’s living he’s naughty, he’s Dean Moriarty, yeah.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lord of the Flies/Iron Maiden

This week Classics Rock! is observing Banned Books Week 2009 (September 26-October 3) by featuring songs based on frequently challenged books.

Iron Maiden's Lord Of The Flies, from their 1995 album The X Factor, is based on William Golding's 1954 novel of the same name. In Lord of the Flies Golding depicts a group of British school boys who are stranded on a deserted island. Without adult supervision or the constraints of civilization to guide their behavior, they descend into savagery and violence. The song takes the point of view of a boy who has embraced this wild lifestyle: I like all the mixed emotion and anger/It brings out the animal the power you can feel/And feeling so high with this much adrenaline/Excited but scary to believe what we've become. [In another musical reference to Lord of the Flies, U2's song Shadows And Tall Trees, from their 1980 debut album Boy, takes its name from the title of Chapter 7 in the novel.]

Monday, September 28, 2009

Here Comes That Rainbow Again/Kris Kristofferson

This week Classics Rock! is observing Banned Books Week 2009 (September 26-October 3) by featuring songs based on frequently challenged books.

Kris Kristofferson's song Here Comes That Rainbow Again, released as a single in 1981, was featured on the album The Winning Hand--a collaboration with Brenda Lee, Dolly Parton, and Willie Nelson--and appeared on one or two live albums as well. It is currently available on The Essential Kris Kristofferson. The song is based on an episode from John Steinbeck's 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. Set during the Great Depression, the novel follows the Joads, a family of Oklahoma sharecroppers, who set out to escape the drought and desolation of the Dust Bowl to try to find work and a better life in California. The song is based on Chapter 15, a vignette set at a cafe on Route 66. A waitress named Mae takes pity on two 'Okie' children, telling them that the nickle-a-piece candy is actually two for a penny because she knows that's all the kids have to spend. After they leave, some truck drivers drinking coffee comment on Mae's generosity. "What's that to you?" she says. The truckers, in turn, overtip Mae when they get up to leave. When she tells them they have change coming, one says, "You go to hell." (Kristofferson's lyrics have the truckers repeating Mae's line: "So what's it to you?" they replied.) The refrain And the daylight was heavy with thunder/With the smell of the rain on the wind/Ain't it just like a human/Here comes that rainbow again seems to suggest that such acts of kindness will usher in better times. In his book Cash: The Autobiography, Johnny Cash said that this song "might be my favorite song by any writer of our time." [See this earlier post for another musical reference to The Grapes of Wrath.]

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?/Green Day, and More

Classics Rock! is observing Banned Books Week 2009 (September 26-October 3) by featuring songs based on frequently challenged books. Today we're hoping J.D. Salinger won't sue us for reprising our post from June 5th, a roundup of songs about The Catcher in the Rye:

As J.D. Salinger files a lawsuit to stop publication of 60 Years Later, an unauthorized sequel to his classic novel The Catcher in the Rye, we thought we'd revisit a few songs inspired by the original that somehow dodged the Salinger litigation bullet.

Green Day's Who Wrote Holden Caulfield? from their 1992 album Kerplunk, is named for the novel's protagonist. Apparently the book is a favorite of the band's lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong.

In answer to Green Day's query, Screeching Weasel released I Wrote Holden Caulfield on their 1994 album How to Make Enemies and Irritate People. The song includes the suit-provoking lines: I wonder if you'll ever come to realize what I always knew/I wrote Holden Caulfield and so did you.

The definitive statement on the question of authorship comes from the Shy Guys 2006 album Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, with their song J.D. Salinger Wrote Holden Caulfield.

The Guns 'N' Roses song "The Catcher in the Rye" appears on their Chinese Democracy album from 2008. It seems to have as much to do with John Lennon's murder as with Salinger's novel--Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, had a copy of The Catcher in the Rye in his possession when he was apprehended.

William Holden Caulfield, from Too Much Joy's 2005 album From All of Us to Both of You, includes the lyrics: I'm afraid of people who like Catcher in the Rye/Yeah I like it too but someone tell me why/People he'd despise say I feel like that guy.

Bodi Bill expresses a sentiment we can all get behind in their song I Like Holden Caulfield.

There are also songs called Holden Caulfield from a variety of artists, including Tom Freund, Stefan Couture and the Campfire Orchestra, Harris Eisenstadt, Paul Kotheimer, and the Green Pajamas.

Songs with the title Catcher in the Rye have been recorded by a number of artists as well.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rejoyce/Jefferson Airplane, and More

Classics Rock! is observing Banned Books Week 2009 (September 26-October 3) by featuring songs based on frequently challenged books. Today we literally "rejoyce" by reprising our post from June 16th (Bloomsday) about James Joyce's Ulysses:

All of the events in James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses take place on June 16th. To celebrate Bloomsday (so called after Joyce's protagonist, Leopold Bloom), here are some songs with ties to the book and the author.

Jefferson Airplane's Rejoyce, from their 1967 album After Bathing at Baxter's, is an homage to Ulysses and includes specific references to characters from the book, e.g.: Mulligan stew for Bloom/The only Jew in the room and Molly's gone to blazes/Boylan's crotch amazes (Mulligan is a rowdy medical student in the book; Bloom's wife Molly begins an affair with a character known as "Blazes" Boylan in the course of the novel).

Kate Bush's The Sensual World, from her 1989 album of the same name, is drawn from the 18th and final episode, or chapter, of the novel. Often referred to as Molly Bloom's Soliloquy, it recounts the largely unpunctuated stream-of-consciousness thoughts running through Molly's mind as she lies in bed at the end of the day. The song employs the conceit of Molly leaving the fictional setting of the novel behind and entering reality (Stepping out of the page into the sensual world). The Joyce estate denied Bush the right to use wording from the book, so she revised passages for the song.

Also drawn from Molly Bloom's Soliloquy is Amber's song Yes!, from her album Naked. The word "yes" both begins and ends the soliloquy, and is the final word in the book. The lyrics hew closely to Joyce's original, and repeat virtually word for word the closing lines of the novel: I put my arms around him, yes/And draw him down to me so he can feel my breast/And his heart was going like mad/I mean yes, I said yes, I will yes. No word on whether Amber got permission from the Joyce estate, or whether Kate Bush was ticked off about it.

The Florida band PopCanon recorded a song called Bloomsday for their 2000 album The Kingdom of Idiot Rock. It juxtaposes Bloomsday observances with images of a crucifixion. It would be nice to think the crucifixion was metaphorical, but the band insists it actually happened--part of a birthday celebration that got out of hand. (You can get the whole story here.) The lyrics include the lines: In the land of the Lotus-Eaters Leopold Bloom said/"Iron Nails Ran In"--a reference to Bloom's explanation of the notice INRI that was posted above Christ on the cross.

Songs called "Bloomsday" are also available from Four Men and a Dog (from the 2009 album Wallop The Spot), Andy West (from 2002's Rama 1), and the Plague Monkeys (from the 1999 album Surface Tension).

Lou Reed's song My House (making it's second appearance in these pages), from his 1982 album The Blue Mask, alludes to characters from Ulysses in describing Reed's relationship to his mentor, Delmore Schwartz: My Dedalus to your Bloom, was such a perfect wit.

Roger Waters, a co-founder of Pink Floyd, alludes to Ulysses' main character in the song "Flickering Flame," found on Flickering Flame: The Solo Years, Vol. 1, with the line: On a back seat in a court room/Sat Molly Malone and Leopold Bloom/Until the police came down with a new broom/And swept them clean.

Alan Munde has an instrumental called Molly Bloom, from the 2009 album Festival Favorites Revisited, that seems appropriate to the day.

A song called Golden Hair by another Pink Floyd co-founder, Syd Barrett--found on his 1969 solo album The Madcap Laughs--has lyrics taken verbatim from Joyce's poem Lean Out the Window.

In 2008, Fire Records released Chamber Music: James Joyce, in which a variety of alt-rock bands perform musical adaptations of all 36 of the poems featured in Joyce's 1907 collection Chamber Music.

Van Morrison's song "Summertime in England," from the 1980 album Common One, notes: And James Joyce wrote streams of consciousness books. Another Morrison song, Too Long In Exile, from the 1993 album of the same name, includes the lines: Too long in exile, been too long in exile/Just like James Joyce, baby.

Jimmy Buffett's If It All Falls Down, from 1986's Floridays, also mentions Joyce (My life's an open book/By James Joyce and Agatha Christie).

On the morbid side, we have James Joyce In Memoriam by Mikel Laboa (from 2005's Xoriek 17), and Looking for James Joyce's Grave by Andy White (from his 2000 album Andywhite.compilation). Individual listeners will have to decide if I Got Laid on James Joyce's Grave by Black 47 (from their 2000 release Trouble in the Land) strikes the proper note for their Bloomsday celebration.

Finally, Breathe by U2--from No Line On The Horizon, released earlier this year--has no particular link to Joyce or Ulysses, but as the lyrics make clear, the song takes place on the 16th of June, a significant date for any Irish rock band.