9 Rock Stars & Their Favorite Books
Musicians like to read as much as the next person and being a creative lot they tend to draw inspiration from their favorite books. Which pieces of literature have struck a chord in the hearts of our favorite rock stars?
9. Billie Joe Armstrong, Catcher in the Rye: This probably isn't a surprise since Green Day has a song on 1992's Kerplunk!called "Who Wrote Holden Caufield?" Armstrong refused to read the book in high school, but later on found a kindred spirit in Caulfield's character, that of an existentialist outcast searching for meaning in a world of conspicuous consumption.
8. Billy Idol, Neuromancer: I am the only person on Earth who thinks Billy Idol's best album is Cyberpunk, which is based on William Gibson's acclaimed sci-fi novel Nueromancer.
Idol was so obsessed with the book that he refused to answer any questions by reporters about the album who hadn't also done so. When entertainment journalist duly did their homework, most of them found that Idol's own knowledge of the book seemed a little spotty. He later said he didn't need to read the book as he had absorbed it through osmosis.
7. Leonard Bernstien, Alice in Wonderland: Charismatic and talented, Leonard Bernstein was an artist whom we may never see the likes of again. The composer of West Side Story and numerous other works was a lifelong fan of Lewis Carroll's novel, and would take a copy of the book on every trip. He was even buried with it.
6. Pete Wentz, The Story of Ferdinand: The bassist and lyricist of Fall Out Boy throws around pop-culture references all the time, but has a special place in his heart for Munro Leaf's touching story of a bull that refused to participate in bullfights. The title of the band's third album, From Under the Cork Tree, is a phrase from the book. Singer-songwriter Elliot Smith has Wentz topped, though: He has a tattoo of Ferdinand on his arm.
5. Kurt Cobain, The Dharma Bums: Cobain liked Jack Kerouac a lot, and his novel The Dharma Bums had some interesting effects on his life. The book was the basis of an early tune called "Beans," which Sub Pop told the band to trash along with other more experimental work in favor of the rising grunge sound.
The "Beans" demo was included in the With the Lights Out box set. Nirvana also regularly opened for the Portland-based garage band the Dharma Bums, and Courtney Love states it was at just such a gig that she and Cobain first met.
4. Dustin Kensrue, The Screwtape Letters: Thrice's singer and guitarist is a huge fan of C. S. Lewis, both of them being good examples of thinking man's Christians. He based a song called "That Hideous Strength" on the Lewis novel of the same name, but his favorite work is the Screwtape Letters where a demon instructs his nephew in the art of damnation.
3. Nick Cave, the Gospel According to St. Mark: Speaking of think man's Christians, there is the one and only Nick Cave. Pocket Canon had him pen an introduction to their release of the second book of the New Testament. He has a very interesting interpretation of the book, saying that it's the only gospel where Christ is shown engaged in his epic struggle instead of just wussily staring down from the cross.
2. Mick Jagger, The Master and Margarita: Mikhail Bulgakov's book the Master and Margarita explores the Devil's visit to atheist Soviet Russia. Marianne Faithful gave her friend Mick a new English translation of the book in 1967, and the next year the Rolling Stones released one of their most famous songs, "Sympathy for the Devil," directly inspired by the novel.
Ray Manzarek of the Doors also dreamed of making a movie based on the book, and desperately wanted Jagger to play the Devil in the guise of Professor Woland. When he told Jagger's then-girlfriend Jerry Hall his plan she said, "Don't make the movie until he's finished with the tour. It's his favorite book! The part is his! He is Professor Woland."
1. Robert Smith, The Stranger: One of The Cure's best and most controversial hits was "Killing an Arab." The song has long been associated with racist, anti-Arab sentiments, but in reality it was just Robert Smith trying to piece together the best moments of spiritual angst from Albert Camus's fantastic novel.
The broody work is standard goth reading, and it's no wonder one of the genre's patron saints was moved enough by it to pen a tune. These days Smith uses new lyrics such as "Kissing an Arab" and "Killing an Ahab."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.