10 Alt Songs Based on Books

 These 10 bands chose their inspiration from the pages of some very interesting literature.

1. The Strokes “Soma”

From “A Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, a book about genetic pre-determination. Soma is a hallucinogen taken for pleasure.  Artists like The Smashing Pumpkins and Deadmau5 have also derived inspiration from this literary drug.

“..there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon…” – Aldous Huxley “A Brave New World”

2. Alt-J “Fitzpleasure”

“Last Exit to Brooklyn” by Hubert Shelby Jr. from 1964 where the blue-collared, artists, criminals, druggies and prostitutes collide in dark, gritty ways. Mr. Shelby Jr. also wrote “Requiem for a Dream” so you know the cheery kind of mind this author works. The chant “Tra-la-la” isn’t just taking space. Tralala is actually a character in the book.

“Georgette was a hip queer. She (he) didnt try to disguise or conceal it with marriage and mans talk” – Herbert Shelby, Jr. “Last Exit to Brooklyn”

3. Nirvana “Scentless Apprentice”

A sense of smell so keen, in Patrick Suskind’s “Perfume: The Story of Murderer” that his lead character kills to derive the ultimate smell. The book was also made into a very memorable film with an even more memorable ending.

“For people could close their eyes to greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they couldn’t escape scent. For scent was a brother of breath. Together with breath it entered human beings, who couldn’t defend themselves against it, not if they wanted to live. And scent entered into their very core, went directly to their hearts, and decided for good and all between affection and contempt, disgust and lust, love and hate. He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.” – Patrick Suskind “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”

4. Radiohead “Paranoid Android”

This song is named after the character Marvin the Paranoid Android in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. The song is actually pieces of four other songs pieced together a la “Happiness is a Warm Gun” by The Beatles.

“My capacity for happiness, you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches first” – Marvin the Paranoid Android in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams

5. Bastille “Poet”

This song is based on The Bard’s “Sonnet 18.” What better inspiration could you find to base an open song on an album than the ultimate literary inspiration (aside from The Bible, I suppose). The band has stated the song is based on this with the romantic notion of immortalizing your lover. Awwwww…

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May…” – Shakespeare “Sonnet 18”

6. Green Day “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?”

J.D. Salinger did, of course. Maybe I haven’t been giving Green Day enough credit. I never really took them for readers. Or maybe I was right as Holden Caulfield is the protagonist from “Catcher in the Rye” and not the name of the book. Oh well. As Billie Joe Armstrong has said of the song, “It’s a song about forgetting what you’re going to say…It’s trying to get motivated to do something because your elders tell you, you have to get motivated. So then you get frustrated and you think that you should do something but you end up doing nothing. But then you enjoy it.”

“‘Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.’
‘Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it.’
Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right—I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.” – J.D. Salinger “Catcher in the Rye”

7. Muse “The Resistance”

Obviously, Muse is not afraid to write verse regarding big government, so it’s no surprise they would take on the influence of George Orwell’s “1984.” According to Daily Record, Matt Bellamy said of this song, “I reread the George Orwell book ‘1984’ and was touched by the love story. It was tragic…The lyrics of the song Resistance are very influenced by this love story.” David Bowie, Incubus, The Offspring and more have been inspired by this major work. If you haven’t’ read this – DO IT NOW!

“Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” – George Orwell “1984”

8. Panic! at the Disco “Time to Dance”

Simply not based on Chuck Palahniuk’s “Invisible Monsters” a lot of the lyrics are pulled right from the book. They can do that, right? I used to borrow George Carlin routines for papers in high school. Exactly the same thing except I didn’t make big money from it.

“Give me envy, give me malice, give me your attention.” – Chuck Palahniuk “Invisible Monsters” (and word for word in the song)

9. Red Hot Chili Peppers “Yurtle the Turtle”

It is the title of a Dr. Seuss book, “Yurtle the Turtle”, so there is little mystery here. In case you didn’t get enough exposition from one of the Doc’s lesser-known works, well, it’s your lucky day. If you’re read Flea’s autobiography, “Acid for the Children” then you know he loves to read, and finding inspiration in literature should be no surprise.

“And the turtles, of course … all the turtles are free, as turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.” – Dr. Seuss from “Yurtle the Turtle”

10. Jimmy Eat World “Goodbye Sky Harbor”

Inspired by John Irving’s “A Prayer for Owen Meany” According to, “Jim Adkins wrote this song on a plane. As he was taking off he kept looking at his girlfriend who was outside.” Since the book deals with loss and reminisance, you can see why this song was inspired by Irving’s best-known novel.

“‘The main thing is, Johnny,’ Dan Needham said, ‘you have to show Owen that you love him enough to trust anything with him—to not care if you do or don’t get it back. It’s got to be something he knows you want back. That’s what makes it special.'” – John Irving “A Prayer for Owen Meany”


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