Recently, I've been noticing how many musicians nick lines from literature.
I suppose it can add a certain weight and intertexuality in referencing certain well known passages. It can also, however, make the musician seem like a right proper idiot. 'I know about books - I read books! God, just because I'm sexy and can bend in half at the MTV Awards doesn't mean I don't read, Jeez.' You know? Like they're trying to prove it. Like in Bad Romance, where Lady Gaga (second verse) quotes the titles of three Hitchcock movies before the extraneous French segment (who knows fatal love patterns better than the French ....?!). Because she's like, so in touch with all art history and stuff.
Perhaps the pop star knows their lyrics will never beat the great wordsmiths of by-gone eras. Perhaps they just read it and liked it and became inspired by it/stole it.
Anyway, here's some I've noticed of late:
1) '... Light of my life, fire of my loins, be a good baby, do what I want.' - Off To The Races (allegedly) by Lana Del Rey.
Originally from the first paragraph of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov:
'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.'
It is interesting to note that on the special edition of Del Rey's Born To Die album there is a bonus track actually entitled Lolita. She's such a fierce betch.
(My favourite comment on this clip so far is: SHE HAS MORE VOICES THAN THE EXORCIST! ... Youtubers can be so cruel.)
2) 'Girls can wear jeans, And cut their hair short, Wear shirts and boots, 'Cause it's OK to be a boy, But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, 'Cause you think that being a girl is degrading, But secretly you'd love to know what it's like, Wouldn't you, What it feels like for a girl.' - What It Feels Like For a Girl by Madge.
Basically completely ripped from a monologue in Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden, as spoken by incestuous seventeen-year-old sister Julie, to our narrator Jack, her fifteen year-old-brother, who she later has sex with. In the film, this line is spoken by Charlotte Gainsbourg, taking us to the inevitable next step of Madonna nicking it to make another point. It's a good point though.
3) 'Heathcliff, don't you know that it's me - it's Cathy! - I've come on home - oooohhhhh let my in at your window!'
Need I say any more?
(This next one's well controversial)
4) Killing An Arab, entire song (and incidentally also first single), by The Cure.
In the words of Robert Smith, this song, 'was a short poetic attempt at condensing my impression of the key moments in L'Etranger by Albert Camus.'
I love this book. I like very much that it has blossomed into music. Although, perhaps they could have chosen a different title ... ? [DISCUSS]
5) To The Lighthouse by Patrick Wolf.
Patrick likes to let people know he reads a lot and isn't just some dumb pop tart. To The Lighthouse not only takes it's name from the Virginia Woolf novel of the same name but also references Virgil in the line, 'Great, great minds against themselves conspire.' Apt given the Woolf shout out. He's a clever bloke - and he knows it. And now we know it. OH GOD!
I'm sure this list is potentially exhaustive. But this is the end for now. I'm off to shit my pants at Harry Potter and The Woman In Black. Another literary adaption. When will things just stick to their own medium for once?