"So I Want to Be a Paperback Writer": Books That Inspired Songs

"So I Want to Be a Paperback Writer": Books That Inspired Songs

A list by Shellby, Customer Service Specialist
August 18th, 2021

There are a lot more songs based on "1984" than any of us ever realized.

Books

Metallica's 1984 song of the same name tells of the horrors of war described in this classic Hemingway novel.

"White Rabbit," by Jefferson Airplane, is a trippy retelling of this classic children's novel.

Songs Inspired: "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" and "Basket Case" by Green Day, as well as "Catcher in the Rye" by Guns N' Roses.

David Bowie's album "Diamond Dogs" was meant to be a "1984" concept album; however, his idea was rejected by Orwell's estate. Other songs include, "Welcome to 1984" by Anti-Flag, the Eurythmics' “Ministry of Love,” Rage Against The Machine's “Testify,” and Stevie Wonder's “Big Brother.” However, there are still many more that could be listed.

The haunting song "One," by Metallica, is based on this infamous anti-war novel about a brutally injured WWI veteran.

"Heathcliff, it's me..." Kate Bush's song "Wuthering Heights" is the most notable song inspired by this Bronte novel. "Cath..." by Death Cab for Cutie is another.

Rush tells of a modern day Tom Sawyer in their 1981 progressive rock hit "Tom Sawyer."

Many a song has been written about the mystical world of Middle-Earth including "The Battle of Evermore," "Misty Mountain Hop," and "Ramble On," all by Led Zeppelin. Canadian band Rush also included a song called "Rivendell" on their album "Fly by Night" all about weary travelers finding peace in Middle-Earth.

This is another book with many song adaptations, most notably "Don't Stand So Close to Me" by The Police and "Lolita" by Lana Del Rey.

The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, wrote about the American classic on his 1995 album of the same name.

Rush drummer Neil Peart gained the moniker "The Professor" for the many literary references he made in the lyrics he wrote. Most notably are his songs inspired by Ayn Rand's work. The epic, 20 minute "2112" is a retelling of the novel, and their song "Anthem" celebrates the free-will aspects of Rand's writing.

Some more songs based on another Orwell classic include; R.E.M.'s "A Disturbance at the Heron House" and all of Pink Floyd's "Animals" album.

James Hetfield must be incredibly well read as we have two more Metallica songs for the list. The now classic thrash metal songs include "The Call of Ktulu" and "The Thing That Should Not Be."

From Nick Cave to Pet Shop Boys to Eminem, it seems many musicians have taken inspiration from this 17th century classic.

This novel served as the main inspiration of Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" as well as the main story of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' "Red Right Hand." The Bad Seeds song title is actually from the above mentioned "Paradise Lost."

Kate Bush reworked the closing paragraphs of James Joyce's novel for her 1989 album "The Sensual World." Jefferson Airplane also used the novel as inspiration for their song "ReJoyce."

Rush once again use J.R.R. Tolkien as inspiration for their song "The Necromancer." Actor Lenoard Nimoy wrote a song called "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins," based on the novel as well.

Soma, from The Strokes' first album, "Is This It," uses Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel as inspiration. As does the aptly named "Brave New World," by Iron Maiden.