Books

UPDATED: Stephen King's Five Best Rock and Roll References

UPDATED (Friday, 11:50 a.m.) to correct the ID in the top photo.

This past week saw the release of Stephen King's latest short novel of hard-boiled crime fiction called Joyland, by my count his 70th overall, not counting reprints and compilations. What fuels output like that? By King's own admission, at one point it was cocaine; nowadays it's just nicotine and caffeine. But he also consumes a steady diet of rock and roll music spanning the genre's beginnings to today's young bucks.

With the release of Joyland, I decided to look back at some of King's best rock references and fixations throughout his legendary bibliography, and even his best-forgotten foray into directing films.

5. Pet Sematary King's Pet Sematary featured one of his darkest plot twists and one of his most enduring film adaptations due to its scenes that teeter between goofy and legitimately creepy. It was also one of the only films whose script King personally wrote.

One element he decided to carry over from the novel was a Ramones motif. The novel quotes from "Blitzkrieg Bop," and the film plays "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" in a particularly tragic scene. The band also recorded a theme song for the film, "Pet Sematary," which played over the credits and became one of their biggest late-career hits.

4. Lisey's Story Though contains a minor reference, 2006's Lisey's Story is included here just because of how cool it is that King included it. While describing "so-called smart bars" where hipsters inhabit, King alludes to the fact that they are the kind of places with "Bright Eyes on the jukebox instead of My Chemical Romance."

Just in case you thought King might not keep up with rock as he gets on in years, he throws in a reference like that to keep you on your toes. Not to mention that in 2008 he listed his 20 favorite songs to listen to while working and included Ryan Adams, Wilco and Billy Bragg, and LCD Soundsystem.

3. Christine King's Christine is about three things: a haunted car, a love triangle between three all-American teenagers, and 1950s rock and roll. Each chapter of the novel begins with a lyric from a '50s rock song about cars, a ubiquitous lyrical subject of the era, and its plot roughly mirrors a typical "car crash song"; though with a lot more supernatural stuff included.

Ultimately, Christine can be read as a tribute of sorts to not only the era itself but the music of the era. King grew up in that time and no doubt absorbed a great deal of that early rock into his psyche, which is evident all over the novel.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Corey Deiterman