Below is a list of songs I think would make for great literary theme songs. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, mostly because I spend a good deal of my time wishing I had my own theme song. This desire arose after watching a particularly inspiring episode of Family Guy where Peter wishes for and is granted his own theme music.
I had a brief moment of thinking I too could jump on the bandwagon, hopefully helping to create a new fad but I quickly gave up on it when I realized that:
1. I have limited musical talent and
2. Far from getting the reference, most people thought I was crazy like a fox.
But in my pursuit to give something a theme song I realized I could assign songs to books and allow them to act as each books personal theme song. Simples right? Not so. Not so at all. This activity was in fact a lot more difficult than I expected. But in the end I came up with a handful that I think are rather apropos.
Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
Song: Uninvited, Alanis Morissette
If we ignore the fact that this song was used in the awful Meg Ryan/Nicolas Cage vehicle that was City of Angels the song in and of itself encompasses perfectly the books main theme. DOSAB is all about forbidden love, unrequited love, heartache and jealousy, love gained and love lost, and it’s all so unexpected, and totally uninvited.
Like any uncharted territory/I must seem greatly intriguing
You speak of my love like/You have experienced love like mine before
But this is not allowed/You’re uninvited/An unfortunate slight
Book: Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe
Song: Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones
Technically it’s a play – but it still works, Marlowe’s controversial play about a man who sells his soul to the devil has had such an indelible impact on literature, from its orgins in German Legend to its reinterpretations by Goethe, Mann and even – yes people, even Ghost Rider, the Faustian protagonist is a very permanent and beloved character for any morality tale.
Just call me Lucifer/Cause I’m in need of some restraint/
So if you meet me/Have some courtesy/
Have some sympathy/and some taste/
Use all your well-learned politesse/Or I’ll lay your soul to waste/
Book: Frankenstein, Mary Shelly
Song: The Monster Mash, Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt Kickers
I’m sorry. I know. Too easy.
I was working in the lab/late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight/
For my monster from his slab began to rise
Book: The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp
Song: Time to Pretend, MGMT
Sutter Keely – loveable ne’er-do-well, slacker, alcoholic, rock star (in his own mind at least) he is the great pretender. Though his hearts always in the right place his unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions and own up to his own shortcomings leave him with two choices – prepare himself for the inevitable bleak future of life as a big fat loser, or drink himself into awesome oblivion.
This is our decision to live fast and die young/
We’ve got the vision/Now let’s have some fun/
Yeah it’s overwhelming/but what else can we do?/
Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?
Book: The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
Song: I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, Tom Waits
Here’s the absolute truth about Holden Caulfield, he’s a whiny git who’s paralyzed with fear by what growing up encompasses. And, like most teenagers he rails against the system because he knows one day it’ll pull out the ‘phony’ in him. Yeah, I said it.
Seems like folks turn into things/That they’d never want
The only thing to live for/Is today
Now enjoy this music video – because what in the world is Tom Waits doing?
Book: James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
Song: Peaches, The Presidents of the United States of America
I do in fact realize that this is the second time within this list I’ve used the most obvious song choice possible, but come on! How can I not? Does it really matter that the song and the actual story share little in common but the central theme of peaches? I think not.
I took a little nap where the roots all twist/
Squished a rotten peach in my fist/ And dreamed about you woman
I poked my finger down inside/makin’ a little room for an ant to hide/
Nature’s candy in my hand or can or a pie
(It really makes no sense but you can’t knock a group that got rich off a song about peaches.)
Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver
Song: Pumped Up Kicks, Foster The People
The melody may be fun and catchy but the lyrics are serious and evoke the image of a kid who’s snapped – with seemingly no sense of the sanctity of life and no regard for the pain his actions will inflict on others – kind of perfectly sums up the probably sociopathic Kevin in Shriver’s novel.
Robert’s got a quick hand/He’ll look around the room/He won’t tell you his plan/
He’s got a rolled cigarette/hanging out his mouth/He’s a cowboy kid
Book: An Abundance of Katherines, John Green
Song: The Ex-Factor, Lauren Hill
I really wanted to use either Danke Shoen by Wayne Newton or Ben Folds Five Song For The Dumped but the former is maybe just a little too happy and the latter a little too angry, so I’ve gone with sad and mushy. Colin Singleton is obsessed with Katherines, but Katherines keep dumping him, after being dumped by Katherine XIX Colin attempts to win her back by achieving “genius” status through a mathematical equation that will predict who in a relationship will be the dumper and who will be the dumpee.
Tell me who I have to be/To get some reciprocity/No one loves you more than me/
And no one ever will
Orwell’s dystopian novel about a world in perpetual war run by an elite group led by the omnipotent (and possibly non-existent) Big Brother is a bleak tale of the loss of individuality, thought police, ultimate control and historical revisionism. It’s only fitting that Rage Against the Machine – a group whose name itself demands rebellion – would provide the best possible choice for a theme song.
Your voice it is so soothing/That cunning mantra of killing/
I need you my witness/To dress this up so bloodless/
To numb me and purge me now/Of thought of blaming you
Book: Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
Song: Anyone Else But You, The Mouldy Peaches
I’m currently in the process of re-reading this gem of a novel (after which I do in fact plan to write a review) but this story of two misfits who unexpectedly fall in love is kind of amazing.
I kiss you on the brain in the shadow of the train/
Kiss you all starry-eyed/My body swingin’ from side to side/
I don’t see what anyone can see in anyone else but you.
If you’ve got any suggestions leave them in the comments!