Music To My Eyes: Six Musicians Who Should Have Written a Novel

Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Jimmy Buffett have all done it. Twice. Bob Dylan’s ‘Chronicles’ felt very novelistic in style (and for that reason, and because it’s just too obvious that everyone would like to read a novel by Bob Dylan, I’ve left him off the list.)

Here are six musicians I’d love to read novels by. I’ve even done the hard work for them – chosen the book’s name from one of their song titles and an opening line from their lyrics – so I’m hopeful they might jump to it. (Except for the two who are sadly no longer with us*. But I would have loved to have read novels by them as well.)

PETE DOHERTY

WHY: Because he might write the great rock’n’roll novel. Lyrical, romantic, tragic.
NOVEL’S TITLE: Music When The Lights Go Out
OPENING LINE: (from ‘The Saga’ by The Libertines): “A problem, becomes a problem when you lie to your friends. And you lie to your people. And you lie to yourself.”

PJ HARVEY

WHY: Because PJ Harvey is terrifying. Terrifyingly brilliant. But also, just terrifying. Try listening to this (A Woman a Man Walked By, lyrics here) while imagining yourself a lover who’s recently spurned her. And then try sleeping soundly for the next few weeks.
NOVEL’S TITLE: Black-Hearted Love
OPENING LINE: (From ‘The Soldiers’ with John Parish) “I imagine a dream in which I’m a soldier and I’m walking on the faces of dead women and everyone I’ve left behind me.”

JARVIS COCKER

WHY: Because no one else sings about the spiteful underbelly of the human soul with so much honesty, zest and such sly humour.
NOVEL’S TITLE: I Will Kill Again
OPENING LINE: (from ‘I Spy’ by Pulp) “You should take me seriously. Very seriously indeed. ’Cause I’ve been sleeping with your wife for the past sixteen weeks – smoking your cigarettes, drinking your brandy, messing up the bed that you chose together. And in all that time I just wanted you to come home unexpectedly one afternoon and catch us at it in the front room.”

*THELONIOUS MONK:

WHY: Because his middle name is Sphere and Theonious Sphere Monk is clearly a cooler name than any novelist has ever had. (Although Jerome K. Jerome comes close.) And because he’s the finest jazz composer/musician who ever lived. And jazz and writing just go.
NOVEL’S TITLE: Crepuscule With Nellie
OPENING LINE: Thelonious wrote melodies not lyrics, so instead, a quote from the documentary Straight No Chaser: “I’m famous. Ain’t that a bitch!”

*AMY WINEHOUSE:

WHY: Because it would be sad and bawdy and funny and beautiful and complex, but ultimately tragic, just like its writer.
NOVEL’S TITLE: Back To Black
OPENING LINE: (from ‘He Can Only Hold Her’) “What’s inside her never dies. Even if she’s content in his warmth she is plagued with urgency, searching kisses.”

MORRISSEY:

WHY: Because in ‘Handsome Devil’ he sings, ‘There’s more to life than books, you know, but not much more.’ So come on, Morrissey, isn’t it time for one of the greatest lyricists in history to write one?
NOVEL’S TITLE: Pretty Girls Make Graves
OPENING LINE: “Good times for a change. See, the luck I’ve had can make a good man turn bad. So please let me get what I want. Lord knows, it would be the first time.” (I cheated here slightly. This is the song ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’ paraphrased and with repetition removed.)

Let me know in the comments section a musician you wish had written a novel. Or feel free to offer improvements upon my titles and opening lines.

 

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