When Lou (Reed) Met Edgar (Allan Poe) – Music Meets Literature

There was time when being a writer and being a musician were two completely separate things. Writers were solitary, reclusive individuals who shuffled around in their pyjamas mumbling to themselves, while musicians were rock gods who strutted the stage, ingested massive quantities of illegal substances, and … well, shall we say, got better acquainted with their fans. No more. Now writers are rock stars and rock stars are writers.

Some examples of musicians-turned-writers include Bob Dylan, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith. On the flip side, there aren’t as many examples of writers-turned-musicians, but there are a few, such as Michel Houellebecq and Neal Pollack. (And, there was a also a band called the “Rock Bottom Remainders”, that featured Stephen King, Amy Tan and Rick Moody, amongst others).

The same applies when it comes to music inspired by literature, and vice versa. Literature has inspired many songs and even entire albums. Led Zeppelin wrote a number of songs inspired by Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings; Peter Gabriel’s “Mercy Street” is based around the work of the poet Anne Sexton; and then, there’s the most obvious example, Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”. Not to mention the wonderfully-titled song by the late Warren Zevon, “Lord Byron’s Luggage”.

Another writer who has been a great source of inspiration to musicians is Edgar Allen Poe. Lou Reed released a double CD concept album called The Raven in 2003 that featured a number of musical and spoken-word interpretations of Poe. And, unsurprisingly, many heavy metal bands have made reference to Gothic Horror-writer Poe in their recordings, including Iron Maiden and the wonderfully-named Agathodaimon.

But again, on the flip side, there aren’t as many novels inspired by a specific piece of music. There are many books about music in general, Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity being one great example. There are, however, plenty of novel titles inspired by songs: everything from Douglas Copeland’s Girlfriend in a Coma and Eleanor Rigby to Bret Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero (an Elvis Costello song). (And, disclaimer: I do it too. I stole the name of my blog – “Rant, with Occasional Music” – from Jonathan Lethem’s first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music)

Of course, many people would say that performers such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are songwriters and poets, musicians and writers. Others – mostly poets – take great umbrage with the idea that a mere pop song could be considered poetry. And while this may be the case with a song like Jedward’s ‘Lipstick’, what about the staggering oeuvre of someone like Dylan?

So, there is certainly a cross-fertilisation between music and literature, and this is becoming increasingly more so. Kurt Cobain and William Burroughs made an album together; writer Alan Moore has performed spoken-word pieces live on stage with musical accompaniment, as has writer Neil Gaiman, with the added accompaniment of illustrations by artist Eddie Campbell projected on the wall behind him.

With the increasingly easy access to recording equipment and the ability to self-publish or put your writing on the internet, this is only likely to increase. There are plans to release e-books with soundtracks, and authors have started compiling “soundtracks” to their novels – the songs that inspired their novels or even original music – and posting them on their websites. It is an exciting time for both music and literature. It has been said many times in recent years that albums and books are dead; they’re not dead, they’re just evolving.

If you have any thoughts on this subject or any suggestions of other writing/music combos, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

(Image: Click the pic for credits)

If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to the blog by entering your email address in the box on the left hand sidebar. Thanks!

NEW RELEASE Ciara Ballintyne’s Epic Fantasy ‘In the Company of the Dead’

Only a fool crosses a god, but Ellaeva and Lyram will do anything to get what they want.


InTheCompanyOfTheDead_300dpi_1842x2763 FINAL 

Title: In the Company of the Dead
Author: Ciara Ballintyne
Series: The Sundered Oath #1
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Fantasy Romance


Chosen as a five-year-old orphan to be the Left Hand of Death, Ellaeva has nothing to call her own—nothing except a desire to avenge her murdered parents. Her duties leave her no time to pursue the man responsible, until both her work and revenge lead to the same place—the lonely castle where Lyram Aharris is serving out his exile for striking his prince.

Lyram is third in line for the throne, and when the castle is unexpectedly besieged, he fears his prince means to remove him from contention for the crown permanently. Ellaeva’s arrival brings hope, until she reveals she has not come for the siege, but instead she hunts the castle for a hidden necromancer dedicated to the dark god of decay.

Within their stone prison, Ellaeva and Lyram must fight to save themselves from political machinations and clashing gods. But as the siege lengthens, the greatest threat comes from an unexpected quarter.


Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Other

Chapter 1
Only a fool would split hairs with a god, least of all the goddess of death, but Ellaeva would count herself such a fool and consider it worth it—if she could get away with it.

She leaned across the knife-scarred timber of the tavern table.

“Are you sure?” she asked, her tone even and barely loud enough to be audible over the noise of the flute and the zither. Her work on behalf of the goddess Ahura, adjudicating the small war here in Dayhl, could only be abandoned in favour of a greater threat. If she was going to chase off after the man who killed her parents, she needed to be sure her arguments stacked up. The pursuit of personal justice wouldn’t be enough.

Is it justice or revenge?

No time to worry about that now. She tugged her black hood farther down over her infamous face, even though deep shadows blanketed the common room corner. She’d chosen a table far from the tallow candles mounted in their stag-horn chandeliers. There was no point taking chances; the black hair and porcelain skin of a Tembran would be remarked here among the platinum-haired Dayhlish. Besides, someone might recognise her.

“In Ahlleyn, sure as the spring comes after winter, Holiness.” The narrow-faced man across from her grinned, baring teeth more brown than yellow. The acrid smoke from the candles didn’t cover his pungent breath.

She half-stood, making an urgent, negating gesture as she glanced around, but the hubbub of chatter from the patrons and the music covered his slip. No one even glanced their way. On the far side of the room, away from the two blazing hearths, tables were pushed aside for dancing. She dropped back into her seat, her black robes fluttering around her booted feet.

Ahlleyn lay on the other side of the continent, months of travel by horse. If her informant was right and a Rahmyrrim priest had been dispatched there, he would likely be gone long before she arrived—unless she begged a favour, but she’d not do that for a lark of her own. However, if it meant catching the man who killed her parents, well then maybe she could come up with an argument that would hold water for a god. Old grief and anger, stale from a decade or more, stirred in her gut, and her fingers curled around the edge of the table.

Releasing her grip, she reached to the inner pocket in her robes where rested the smudged charcoal drawing of a man. Hard work and luck had helped her obtain that picture of the man she believed killed her parents—a man she knew to be a priest of Rahmyr. If she decided to act against her standing orders, then she needed to be sure it was the man she was after, and that he was involved in some act heinous enough to attract her goddess’s attention.

“Did you get the name of this priest? Or his description?” An unknown number of priests served Rahmyr, but she knew six by sight—six still alive anyway.

The thin man shook his head. “Nobody mentioned. I got the impression he’s already there, or on his way leastways.”

She scowled. No way to be sure then that this was the man she wanted. Begging favours of Ahura for her personal satisfaction was a risky business, especially if she neglected her duties, and perhaps it would all be for nothing.

With one hand, she flattened the map that curled on the table between them. The patrons behind them exploded with laughter at something unheard. Ignoring the noise, she stabbed her finger at an unmarked portion of the map in the foothills of the Ahlleyn mountains. If he didn’t know who, maybe he knew the what. “There, you say? What possible interest could Rahmyr have there? There’s nothing of interest at all.”

She lowered her voice even further as she uttered the name of the goddess of decay, and glanced around again. That name spoken too loudly would bring unwanted attention. But nearly all the tavern patrons were busy whirling on the impromptu dance floor or lined up to watch the dancers, their backs to her.

The nameless man leaned forward, treating her to another stomach-clenching blast of foul breath, and touched a spot perhaps half an inch away from her finger. A tiny, unlabelled picture marked something there.

“Here, Holiness.”

She squinted at the picture, letting his lapse slide. The image represented a holy place. There was an old shrine to Ahura somewhere in the Ahlleyn Borders, wasn’t there? And a castle built over it. “Caisteal Aingeal an Bhais.”

“That sounds like the name,” he agreed. “Never could get my mouth around them Ahlleyn words. Pink castle, I heard.”

She grunted. That was the one. “There’s still nothing there.”

Nothing of interest to Rahmyr anyway. The shrine wasn’t particularly important, and the castle held no political significance.

“What’s there,” the man said, “is Lyram Aharris.”

The premonition went through her like a blast of icy wind, stiffening her in her chair as the hand of the goddess brushed against her mind. A light caress, but from a giant, and so it sent her mind reeling. She clutched the table for support. Lyram Aharris’s reputation preceded him the length of the continent: eight years ago, at the age of twenty-seven, he’d brought an end to the centuries-long conflict between Ahlleyn and Velena through a series of brilliant military manoeuvres. He’d survived the Siege of Invergahr against near-impossible odds, brought the crown prince safely clear of the conflict, and fought the Velenese to a standstill using their own guerrilla warfare tactics against them. As a novice, she’d covered the tactics thoroughly as part of her studies. The man was a military genius. That he was third in line for the throne of Ahlleyn was the least there was to know about him—at least it was, until his king dismissed him from court. The rumours on everyone’s lips said he murdered his wife, even if no one could prove it.

What did Rahmyr want with him?

Ciara Ballintyne grew up on a steady diet of adult epic fantasy from the age of nine, leaving her with a rather confused outlook on life – she believes the good guys should always win, but knows they often don’t. She is an oxymoron; an idealistic cynic.

She began her first attempts at the craft of writing in 1992, culminating in the publication of her debut work, Confronting the Demon, in 2013. Her first book to be published with Evolved Publishing is In the Company of the Dead. She holds degrees in law and accounting, and is a practising financial services lawyer. In her spare time, she speculates about taking over the world – how hard can it really be?

If she could be anything, she’d choose a dragon, but if she is honest she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House M.D. – both the good and the bad. She is a browncoat, a saltgunner, a Whedonite, a Sherlockian, a Ringer and a Whovian… OK, most major geek fandoms. Her alignment is chaotic good. She is an INTJ.

Ciara lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, her two daughters, and a growing menagerie of animals that unfortunately includes no dragons.

Ten Signs That YOU Could Be Dating a Psychopath


Ladies, we all know how hard the dating game can be. How do you read the signs? How can you tell if he’s *really* a nice guy? What’s he hiding in the trunk of his car?

It’s tough. So, to help you out – and in the tradition of those very helpful lists that we all see posted every day – I’ve put together a few things to look out for.

You’re welcome.

  1. He never picks up the check.
  1. He says things like, “I think I might be a psychopath.”
  1. He wears dresses made from human skin.
  1. His dog’s name is Ted Bundy.
  1. His “dog” is actually a stuffed fur coat with a squirrel’s head glued on top.
  1. He leaves the toilet seat up.
  1. When you ask what he’s thinking, he sheepishly says, “Nothing”, while surreptitiously hiding the masking tape and rope behind his back.
  1. He never holds the door for you.
  1. You saw him on “America’s Most Wanted” but he claims it’s a guy that just looks like him.

And has the same name.

And who also killed his entire family in a bloody rampage.

  1. He thinks Donald Trump makes some interesting points.

*New Music Monday* My Version of the Beach Boy’s “I Can Hear Music”

257. I Can Hear Music

This week’s new music is a Beach Boy’s song that’s not a Beach Boy’s song. It’s their cover of The Ronette’s “I Can Hear Music”. But the Beach Boy’s version is my favourite. And this is my version of it:

I Can Hear Music

This is the way
I always dreamed it would be
The way that it is, oh oh
When you are holding me
I never had a love of my own
Maybe that’s why when we’re all alone

I can hear music
I can hear music
The sound of the city baby seems to disappear
I can hear music
Sweet sweet music
Whenever you touch me baby
Whenever you’re near

Lovin’ you
It keeps me satisfied
And I can’t explain, oh no
The way I’m feeling inside
You look at me we kiss and then
I close my eyes and here it comes again

I can hear music
I can hear music
The sound of the city baby seems to disappear
I can hear music
Sweet sweet music
Whenever you hold me baby
Whenever you’re near

I hear the music all the time,
I hear the music all the time, now baby
I hear the music all the time
I hear the music all the time, now baby

I can hear music
I can hear music
The sound of the city baby seems to disappear
I can hear music
Sweet sweet music
Whenever you hold me baby
Whenever you’re near

Written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector

*New Music Monday* My Version of Blondie’s “Call Me”

257. Blondie

Welcome to New Music Monday! This week, it’s my stripped down, acoustic version of the Blondie classic “Call Me”:

Call Me

Colour me your colour, baby, colour me your car
Colour me your colour, darling, I know who you are
Come up off your colour chart; I know where you’re coming from

Call me on the line,
Call me, call me any anytime
Call me I’ll arrive,
You can call me any day or night, call me!

Cover me with kisses, baby, cover me with love
Roll me in designer sheets, I’ll never get enough
Emotions come, I don’t know why; cover up love’s alibi

Call me on the line,
Call me, call me any anytime
Call me I’ll arrive,
When you’re ready we can share the wine, call me

Ooh, she speaks the languages of love
Ooh, she speaks the languages
Ooh, she speaks the languages
Anytime, anyplace, anywhere, anyway!
Anytime, anyplace, anywhere, any day!

Call me on the line,
Call me, call me any anytime
Call me au revoir,
Call me, call me for some overtime

Call me in my life,
Call me, call me any sweet desire
Call me, call me for your lover’s lover’s alibi, call me

Written by Debbie Harry and Giorgio Moroder

(Click on image for credits)

The Validation Generation: The Dangers of Living in a Social Media World

O' Neill

Over the past week, you may have read the story of Essena O’Neill, an 18-year-old Australian who quit Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr, despite having half a million followers and lucrative financial rewards. She did this, she said, because the images and videos on these sites are “contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other.”

“Without realising, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance. Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real … It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self absorbed judgement. I was consumed by it.”

Coincidentally, while thinking about this, I heard an interview about mental health on the “Today with Sean O’Rourke” show on RTÉ Radio 1. Dr. Harry Barry, spoke about what he calls “the world of rating”:

“The world of rating is what it’s all about … we have the highest rate of suicide in young girls, between 2009 and 2011, and the second highest of young boys. And, of course, they are all living [in] this world of rating … girls at the age of 10 and 11 are already spending hours wondering what kind of post will I put up, how will I look, etc, etc.”

This is backed up by O’ Neill herself, who admits she was doing this from the age of 12. And she’s not alone:

“Actually, it was a serious hobby for a lot people in my life. Girls would upload together and have sleepovers revolving around ‘watching their photos’. People would gossip about likes at school, over text, to teachers, to parents… ‘She got 200 likes, she’s basically a model now’. ‘I can’t believe he only gets like 4 likes a photo, it’s embarrassing’ ‘ look at her photos, she looks nothing like that in person’ ‘she’s such a try hard’ ‘she’s so weird’ ‘she’s so fake’ ‘she’s so boring.’”


Writing in The Guardian, June Eric Udorie had this to say about the pressures of social media:

“It’s becoming more and more obvious how the pressures of social media disproportionately affect teenage girls. I can see it all around me. Pressure to be perfect. To look perfect, act perfect, have the perfect body, have the perfect group of friends, the perfect amount of likes on Instagram. Perfect, perfect, perfect. And if you don’t meet these ridiculously high standards, then the self-loathing and bullying begins … What is really worrying is that time and time again, these studies pop up and demonstrate that the mental health of teenagers, especially teenage girls, is on the line.”

Unfortunately (but perhaps not unexpectedly) O’ Neill’s comments have generated a backlash, with many claiming that her newfound epiphany is merely another way of stroking her ego and garnering attention. I don’t know whether or not this is the case, but I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt. Either way, it hardly matters. What matters is that she has started a conversation. Her story has gone viral and people are beginning to discuss the issues she raises and are hopefully starting to recognise some of the dangers inherent in this kind of obsessive need for validation.

Teenagers (or adults for that matter) seeking validation is not a new phenomenon. But the level that it has reached through social media most certainly is. And we all do it. New technologies can become so pervasive in our lives that we don’t notice the changes they bring about. But if we stop and think about it for a moment, when did we get to the stage where our happiness – our mental health – is predicated on a ‘Like’ button?

sad woman sitting alone in a empty room

There is no simple solution to this situation. Social media sites such as Instagram are not going away. Instead, we – as a society – have to learn how to live with them. These issues badly need to be addressed in schools, as well as by parents. Posts by the likes of O’ Neill and others need to be shared as widely as possible, and parents and teachers need to showcase them. Every child from the age of 10 upwards should be shown these posts and encouraged to talk about them and any issues that they raise. It might not be an ultimate solution but it would be a start.

*New Music Monday* Derek Does Cole Porter!

253. Cole Porter

It’s New Music Monday! This week, a classic Cole Porter tune covered by Ella Fitzgerald and Kirsty McColl, amongst others. This is my version of “Miss Otis Regrets”:

Miss Otis Regrets 

Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today, madam
Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today
She is sorry to be delayed
But last evening down in Lover’s Lane she strayed, madam
Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today

When she woke up and found
That her dream of love was gone, madam
She ran to the man who had led her so far astray
And from under her velvet gown
She drew a gun and shot her love down, madam
Miss Otis regrets, she’s unable to lunch today

When the mob came and got her
And dragged her from the jail, madam
They strung her upon the old willow across the way
And the moment before she died
She lifted up her lovely head and cried, madam
Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today
Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today

(Written by Cole Porter)

(Click on image for credit)