Hey Lolita, Hey: Bands Named After Literary Characters
Hey Lolita, hey
Hey Lolita, hey
I know what the boys like
I’m not gonna play
These are the lyrics to the refrain of Lana Del Rey’s song “Lolita.” Del Rey has been a polarizing musical figure bringing out devout love and venomous hate from self-proclaimed music critics and full-time YouTube commenters (I’m pro-Lana, can you tell?) One of the main criticisms that seems to be laid against the chanteuse is the artificiality of her persona, which she has termed “Lolita got lost in the hood.”
It seems strange that anyone would take issue with a musician donning a persona; it kind of goes hand in hand with performance (Kanye as
Jesus Yeezus, the over-the-top Lady Gaga, and, um, Prince, for example). What I would’ve expected more of a problem with (and something that I myself have a problem with) is this misappropriation of Lolita. Del Rey, like so, so many others completely misconstrues Nabokov’s complex and discomforting character as “a doll-like creature, all dark lashes, huge pout and bouffant hair, staring into the camera and singing about undressing for a man who treats her like crap” whose ”eyes flit girlishly downwards when she talks… playing up her youth.” Lolita (although by no means morally didactic) is, as is said in the novel, about a girl “deprived of her childhood,” and this rather gross way of appropriating the objectified Lolita as Humbert saw her is by no means exclusive to this singer, but has unfortunately become how the name is used in popular culture. But, I digress-that is another rant for another time! All this hoopla over Lana Del Rey has led me to thinking about singers and bands named after literary characters. Here is a list of 5 who appropriate the characters quite well.
1. Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus is a graphically violent 16th century tragedy by William Shakespeare, notable for the scene in which the evil queen is unknowingly fed her own (ground-up) sons in a meat pie. (“Why here they are, both baked in this pie!”). Titus is a renowned soldier turned grief-stricken, slightly insane revenge-fueled murderer. The band, formed in 2005, is an indie punk rock band from New Jersey. Their music has been described as “violent, overblown and irreverent” so it seems pretty clear why they chose this literary character.
2. Belle and Sebastian
Belle and Sebastian was a 1960s French children’s book series by Cecile Aubry about a young orphan boy and the white mountain dog he befriends in the French Alps. The band, formed in 1996, is an indie “wistful” pop band from Glasgow, specializing in elegant, quiet, wistful ballads that would serve well as a soundtrack for a friendship in the French Alps. Check out this video of their song about (yay) books!
3. The Boo Radleys
Boo Radley is a quiet, mysterious, and misjudged character in Harper Lee’s undisputed 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird, the tale of a tired town in the Great Depression which touches on childhood innocence, racial prejudice, and the human potential for goodness. The Boo Radleys were an alternative Britpop band in the 1990s from Wallasey. This song, “Wake up Boo!” was their most popular single. All about enjoying the summer and getting outside, it fits more with what others thought of Boo than it does with the reclusive Boo himself, who was content to stay inside.
4. Veruca Salt
Veruca Salt is the spoiled and greedy daughter of the wealthy Henry/Rupert and Ang
ina Salt in Roald Dahl’s children’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who gets a golden ticket when she demads her father buy cases of Wonka bars until he finds her one:
The band is a 1993 alt-rock, power-pop, grunge-girl band formed in Chicago whose most popular song “Seether” (watch it below) is an unashamedly bratty anthem about misunderstood women. Once again, I think you can see where the name comes from!
5. Uriah Heep
Uriah Heep is one of the main antagonists in Charles Dickens’s novel David Copperfield, known for his excessive and insincere “humbleness.” David Copperfield first meets Uriah in his ”umble abode” and instantly dislikes him. Uriah is described in negative terms, even his movements described as jerking and writhing. While one might not immediately associate the king of Victorian novels with progressive art rock, a little bit of imagination makes all sorts of connections evident! The band is a hard rock band formed in 1969 in London. Their debut album was titled Very ‘Eavy… Very’ Umble, referencing Dickens’s character’s signature phrase. You may recognize in their music some of the aforementioned “jerking and writhing” as well.
So what do you think, Bookkaholics? If you could choose a literary character for a stage persona, who would it be? Let us know in the comments below!