Gimme Shelter

13/09/2011 by Nick O'Kelly

A song has been released to mark publication of Harlan Coben's new novel Shelter

US thriller-writer Harlan Coben publishes his first young adult novel Shelter tomorrow - with a unique soundtrack.

The first in a series following the life of school student Mickey Bolitar, Shelter so inspired singer-songwriter David Berkeley that he wrote a song of the same name after being given an advanced proof of the novel. Berkeley and Coben were already friends after Coben mentioned one of Berkeley’s songs in his earlier novel Caught.

Coben has said: “the fact that Shelter inspired David to write one of his most beautiful and haunting songs, well, I couldn’t be more pleased. The first time I heard the song, I started to well up".

It's not the first time that literature has inspired music, as Michael Lydon, founding edition of Rolling Stone, writes in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: "albums unfold as books and movies unfold, each track (or chapter or scene) carrying us further into unknown territory, past terrifying peaks and pools of calm".

Five other musical artists inspired by books:

Kate Bush

Probably Kate Bush’s most well-known song, Wuthering Heights, was inspired by Emily Bronte’s classic novel and sung from the perspective of Bronte's passionate protagonist Catherine Earnshaw. However, it wasn’t Bush’s only song to have been inspired by books.

In Sensual World, the titular song of her sixth studio album, Bush takes on the persona of Molly Bloom, the somewhat tortured character from James Joyce’s Ulysses, bringing to music her famous "yeses" on which the epic novel ends.

And The Wedding List, from her third album Never for Ever, is inspired by Cornell Woolrich’s 1940 novel The Bride Wore Black.

David Bowie

David Bowie’s most explicitly literature-inspired songs can be found in his 1974 album, Diamond Dogs. The second part of the album is almost entirely based upon George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, featuring songs such as 1984 and Big Brother. We Are The Dead, the eighth song on the album, takes its name from 1984’s protagonist Winston Smith’s words to his lover Julia upon fully realising the danger of their affair. Orwell himself took the phrase from the First World War poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae.

Klaxons

The Klaxons’ debut album, Myths of the Near Future, is named after J.G. Ballard’s 1982 collection of short stories. Packed full of colourful references, the album is a vivid and chaotic testament to science fiction. With Gravity’s Rainbow referring to Thoman Pynchon,  Atlantis to Interzone to William Burroughs and Magick to occultist writer Aleister Crowley, the album is almost encyclopedic in its selection of weird and wonderful literary references.

Led Zeppelin

The influence of J.R.R. Tolkein can be found in much of Led Zeppelin’s work and is partly responsible for hard rock’s preoccupation with fantasy themes. Lyrics from Ramble On include: "T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair. But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her."

The band’s fourth album had in place of a title four mystical symbols, each representing a band member. The mysticism of Tolkien is evident most in this album, with songs such as Misty Mountain Hop and The Battle of Evermore. Herman Melville can also be cited as an influence; the song Moby Dick features on the Zep's second album, Led Zeppelin II.

Bloc Party

A Weekend in the City, Bloc Party’s second studio album, draws inspiration from Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero. The album’s first track, Song for Clay, is an ode of sorts to Ellis’ protagonist, Clay, and repeats the novel’s mantra "disappear here".

Dealing with themes that parallel in the novel - the disaffection of youth, the devastation of consumerism - the album is a discomforting tribute to a 21st century London in much the same way as Less Than Zero was to 1980s LA.

Pointedly, Less Than Zero takes its name from the song by Elvis Costello, demonstrating the intense and ongoing relationship between literature and music.

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die edited by Robert Dimery is published by Cassell Illustrated.

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