Happy World Book Day! Five Albums Named For Books
In 1995, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declared every April 23 to be World Book Day, and encouraged us to celebrate by reading. The date was chosen as the anniversary of the deaths of both Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. However, in actuality neither man actually died on that date -- they only appeared to thanks to calendar discrepancies.
Nonetheless, we love books here at Rocks Off, and so do many of the great bands in the world. Sometimes they love them enough to name a whole album after their favorite.
Photo illustrations by Jef With One F
The Book: In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley takes a reader through a terrifying future where an all-seeing government controls every aspect of our lives and freedom is forbidden. It's a classic struggle between stability and liberty that you probably were forced to read in school and which a Libertarian has almost certainly cited as coming true in your Facebook newsfeed today.
The Album: Iron Maiden is one of the best bands in the world for dropping literary references throughout their albums. Interestingly enough, little of Brave New World has anything to do with Huxley's novel, though they do cite works by C.S. Lewis.
The Book: One of Richard Laymon's best books, The Traveling Vampire Show, is about a trio of teenagers coming of age in the '60s as they try to get a glimpse at a captive and beautiful vampire in a traveling freak show. It's a wonderful and gripping narrative of sexual tension and dark seduction that makes for good beach fodder.
The Album: Calabrese makes great horror-rock. Their 2005 album was named in a fan contest by Illinois' Regina Gottlieb. It's a step up from the purely punk sound of their previous work, but maintains that DIY energy that makes them so damned fun to listen to.
The Book: Remember Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? If you liked that then pick up My Life in the Bush of Ghosts sometime. Amos Tutuola's 1954 work is a collection of stories about what happens to people that stray into a Limbo-like jungle where the dead dwell. It's a really chilling work that haunts you for days afterwards.
The Album: Brian Eno and David Byrne actually hadn't read My Life in the Bush of Ghosts when they put together their 1981 album. It wasn't easy to get in the United States, though both men were big fans of Tutuola's previous novel, The Palm-Wine Drinkard. Still, the two works ended up being eerily complementary, with African influences, strange ambient surroundings, and borrowed voices. If you get one, make sure you grab the other. You won't be disappointed.
The Book: Anaïs Nin's A Spy In the House of Love is a very daring novel. A married woman named Sabrina pursues a hedonistic lifestyle that leaves her caught in a web of deceit to maintain, but also unabashedly thrilled as an avatar of sexual force. It's also a hugely influential book with rock stars, and everyone from Steve Winwood to Carly Simon has referenced it.
The Album: In fact, one band named themselves after it, House of Love. They eventually utilized the book's whole title for a 1990 compilation of B-Sides and studio tracks.
The Book: C.S. Lewis is always big with bands looking for snazzy handles, because the man could certainly write a clever title. Till We Have Faces was his retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche told from Psyche's older sister Orual's point of view. It's arguably the best thing Lewis ever wrote, and for people than consider him something of a children's author it should prove a blessed, more mature and sad tale.
The Album: Noise Ratchet just came and went so fast... a sort of lost act birthed from the same sun and boredom in California that gave us Green Day and No Doubt but without quite the strength to make it past 2004. Their debut album named for Lewis' novel is still a good, hard poppy groove, though, which makes it something of a strange mirror for the darker work of deep identity that the novel represents.
Not that bands always have to define themselves by their inspirations. Billy Idol penned an entire concept album about a book he never even bothered to read. Still, Noise Ratchet might make for a good object lesson. If you're going to try to piggy-back on a grand literary work, try actually absorbing enough of that work to grow and change yourself. Which, I believe, is sort of what this day is all about.
What's better than musicians naming albums after books? Musicians writing them! Neil Peart and Kevin J. Anderson collaborated on a Rush novel that ain't half bad. Or if you prefer memoirs, you can go wrong with our own Christian Kidd's history of The Hates.
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