My two favourite things.
Kate Bush – The Infant’s Kiss
A spooky song about a spooky story. This is actually based on the film adaptation The Innocents (aka The Scariest Film of All Time According to ECW), which was based on The Turn of the Screw. All of the above are terrifying and amazing. Obviously Saint Kate has written another much more famous song about a book, but I’m guessing you already know that one.
Placebo – Our Lady of the Flowers
The best thing about being a teenage Placebo fan was that it was great for my vocabulary. When their debut album came out, I had just turned 15, I was obsessed with the song ‘I Know’ and had to look up what some of the last words of the rhyming couplets meant: ‘I’m all wrapped up in sweet attrition/It’s asking for your benediction’ etc. It also introduced me to Jean Genet before David Bowie ever did. When I discovered that this song name title was taken from the name of one of his novels. I ran straight out to my local bookshop and ordered it in specially. I have always been glad I did. It’s great, and I found that Our Lady is much as she is in the song – ‘She wears her tears on her blouse/Confused and wracked with self-doubt/She stole the keys to my house – and then she locked herself out’. It still gets me every time.
PJ Harvey – Angelene
Includes a line – ‘pretty mouth and green my eyes’ – which is in fact the title of a JD Salinger short story. Less interestingly, I once spent pretty much an entire winter listening to this song on repeat. Considering its other great lines – ‘My first name Angelene/Prettiest mess you’ve ever seen’ and ‘the devil will collect my soul – and come for me’ – you can probably establish it wasn’t a great winter.
Garbage – Cherry Lips
This one is about a writer who never even existed. JT Leroy, of course. I can claim a slight personal involvement in the literary-hoax saga – I have an email from ‘him’ still saved somewhere. I still think ‘Sarah’ is a really good novel, even if it seems slightly silly to read it back now.
Nirvana – Scentless Apprentice
Apparently KC’s favourite book was ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind. I only recently read it, and was struck by how much of the Nirvana imagery was at play. I’m still fascinated by all of it – birth and death and beauty and decay.
Ryan Adams – Sylvia Plath
I love Sylvia Plath. I like Ryan Adams – he seems quite nice, I love that he is married to Mandy Moore, and I think his song ‘New York, New York’ is still sublime. However, what makes me laugh about this song – and, thus, genuinely love it – is that I’m not sure Ryan Adams is too clear on who Sylvia Plath actually was. It starts off wistfully claiming ‘I wish I had a Sylvia Plath…’. So far so good. He then goes on to detail how they’ll get drunk together, she’ll keep feeding him gin, give him fags and pills, and then they’ll get a bit saucy together. I don’t think he realises that she was really not some poetic bohemian Frida Kahlo type, but rather a very proper young mother of two small children, a 50s wife who took her work very seriously; she didn’t drink a lot, certainly didn’t smoke, and wasn’t very keen on prescription drugs. I think maybe he just liked her name, and that’s OK too.