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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.

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