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)

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*New Music Monday* My Version of “Runaway (U & I)” by Galantis

248. Runaway (U & I)

It’s #NewMusicMonday! Today it’s my version of “Runaway (U & I)” by Galantis

Runaway (U & I)

Think I can fly, think I can fly when I’m with U
My arms are wide, catching fire as the wind blows
I know that I’m rich enough for pride,
I see a billion dollars in your eyes
Even if we’re strangers til we die

I wanna run away
I wanna run away
Anywhere out this place
I wanna run away
U and I
U and I, I, I, I, I
U and I, I, I, I, I
U and I, I, I, I, I
Just U and I

I wanna run
Catch the morning sun when I’m with U
Give it all away
Catching fire as the wind blows
I know that I’m rich enough for pride,
I see a billion dollars in your eyes
Even if we’re strangers til we die

I wanna run away
I wanna run away
Anywhere out this place
I wanna run away

U and I
U and I, I, I, I, I
U and I, I, I, I, I
U and I, I, I, I, I
Just U and I


Click on image for credits

Brutally Honest Writing Advice from Brutally Honest Writers

Getting Started

Dorothy Parker

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favour you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” – Dorothy Parker

Following the Rules

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” – W. Somerset Maugham

First Drafts


“The first draft of everything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly.” – Joshua Wolf Shenk

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” – Mark Twain

Taking Criticism


“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” – Neil Gaiman

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” – Harper Lee

Be You

“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you.” – Neil Gaiman

And Finally

“Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.” – Lev Grossman

*New Music Monday* My Version of Country Classic “Galveston”

247. GalvestonIt’s been a while since there’s been a New Music Monday. Hope you enjoy this version of the Jimmy Webb penned and Glen Campbell performed “Galveston”:


Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowin’
I still see her dark eyes glowin’
She was 21 when I left Galveston

Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea waves crashing
While I watch the cannons flashing
I clean my gun and dream of Galveston

I still see her standing by the water
Standing there lookin’ out to sea
And is she waiting there for me?
On the beach where we used to run

Galveston, oh Galveston, I am so afraid of dying
Before I dry the tears she’s crying
Before I watch your sea birds flying in the sun
At Galveston, at Galveston

Written by Jimmy Webb
(Click on image for credits)

*New Music Monday* My Version of Leonard Cohen’s “So Long Marianne”


It’s New Music Monday! This week, Uncle Leonard is back. This is my version of Leonard Cohen’s “So Long Marianne”:

So Long Marianne

Come over to the window, my little darling
I’d like to try to read your palm
I used to think I was some sort of gypsy boy
Before I let you take me home

Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began
To laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again

Well you know that I love to live with you
But you make me forget so very much
I forget to pray for the angels
And then the angels forget to pray for us


We met when we were almost young
Deep in the green lilac park
You held on to me like I was a crucifix
As we went kneeling through the dark


Your letters they all say that you’re beside me now
Then why do I feel so alone
I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web
Is fastening my ankle to a stone


For now I need your hidden love
I’m cold as a new razor blade
You left when I told you I was curious
I never said that I was brave


Oh, you are really such a pretty one
I see you’ve gone and changed your name again
And just when I climbed this whole mountainside
To wash my eyelids in the rain

Written by Leonard Cohen

(Click on image for credit)

*New Music Monday* My Version of “Tom Traubert’s Blues” by Tom Waits

246. Tom WaitsIt’s New Music Monday! This week, it’s my version of “Tom Traubert’s Blues” by Tom Waits:

Tom Traubert’s Blues

Wasted and wounded, it ain’t what the moon did
I’ve got what I paid for now
See you tomorrow, hey Frank, can I borrow a couple of bucks from you
To go waltzing Mathilda, waltzing Mathilda,
You’ll go waltzing Mathilda with me

I’m an innocent victim of a blinded alley
And I’m tired of all these soldiers here
No one speaks English, and everything’s broken
And my Stacys are soaking wet
To go waltzing Mathilda, waltzing Mathilda,
You’ll go waltzing Mathilda with me

Now the dogs are barking and the taxi cabs parking
A lot they can do for me
I begged you to stab me; you tore my shirt open,
And I’m down on my knees tonight
Old Bushmills I staggered, you’d bury the dagger
In your silhouette window light go …

No, I don’t want your sympathy, the fugitives say
That the streets aren’t for dreaming now
And manslaughter dragnets and the ghosts that sell memories,
They want a piece of the action anyhow …

And you can ask any sailor, and the keys from the jailor,
And the old men in wheelchairs know
And Mathilda’s the defendant; she killed about a hundred,
And she follows wherever you may go …

And it’s a battered old suitcase to a hotel someplace,
And a wound that will never heal
No prima donna, the perfume is on an
Old shirt that is stained with blood and whiskey
And goodnight to the street sweepers, the night watchmen flame keepers
And goodnight to Mathilda, too

Written by Tom Waits

(Photo Credit: Colm Henry)

*New Music Monday* My Version of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”

245. Taylor Swift

It’s New Music Monday! This week it’s my version of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”:

Blank Space

Nice to meet you where you been, I can show you incredible things
Magic, madness, heaven sin, saw you there and I thought
Oh my God, look at that face, you look like my next mistake
Love’s a game, want to play?

New money, suit and tie, I can read you like a magazine
Ain’t it funny rumors fly and I know you heard about me
So hey, let’s be friends, I’m dying to see how this one ends
Grab your passport and my hand
I can make the bad girls good for a weekend

So it’s gonna be forever or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain
Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane
Cause you know I love the players and you love the game

Cause were young and we’re reckless, we’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless, or with a nasty scar
Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane
But I got a blank space baby and I’ll write your name

Cherry lips, crystal skies, I could show you incredible things
Stolen kisses, pretty lies, you’re the queen, baby, I’m your king
Find out what you want, be that guy for a month
Wait the worst is yet to come, oh no

Screaming crying perfect storms, I can make all the tables turn
Rose garden filled with thorns, keep you second guessing
Like “Oh my god who is he?” I get drunk on jealousy
But you’ll come back each time you leave
Cause darlin’ I’m a nightmare, dressed like a daydream

Girls only want love ’cause it’s torture
Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn you
Girls only want love ’cause it’s torture
Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn you

Written by Taylor Swift, Max Martin and Shellback

(Click on image for credit)