"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Elvis Costello
You might think the above theme of this year’s Summer Reading programs is a bit incongruous for some place as staid as public libraries have always been portrayed (wrongly or rightly, you decide) but did you know there are actually a few musicians who have proved the point? Read on to discover a short list of songs about libraries and books that not even Marian Paroo would shush. After all, she started her own rock band, even if it was Bubblegum.
Who would have thought classic rockers could be so literate? Oh right, they’re from Canada. Here they inform us they’ve been “hangin’ around libraries, learnin’ about books… workin’ on words.” Nice, eh?
I’m sure Jim James meant this ode to the stereotypical buttoned up librarian to sound quirkily romantic in some kind of undefinable indie band way, but listening now from ten years removed it’s more than a little creepy (or maybe that was the point, it’s Jim James after all). Most of the librarians I know would find someone peering through the stacks at them regularly somewhat off-putting, not to mention if they knew he was imagining dinner and beyond. Oh well, at least he’s using the library, not the Interweb.
One of the most famous of all Beach Boys tunes includes a call-out to the library, even though it’s quickly forgotten in favor of a T-Bird and Top 40. Did any parent in the history of the world ever believe their kid was going to the library to study?
Libraries are not mentioned in this nineties era hit that was literally all you could hear on the airwaves 26 years ago, but more than any other song on this list it shines a light on the dirty little secret of reading for pleasure: “And all I can do is read a book to stay awake, and it rips my life away but it’s a great escape.”
This song gets points for not only mentioning the singer trying to overcome writers block in a “dusty library” (more stereotypes), but also for shamelessly rhyming “dietary restriction” with “a lot of conviction”.
The twee Scottish rockers with the definition of what it means to be a librarian, and a video right from the stacks.
And finally, a song that actually explains how to use a library. Walt uses "his will to work hard / and a library card" to successfully launch a one-man submarine. You go, John!
Eric Molinsky selects and purchases music for JCLS. He considers himself a musician, since he once sold a guitar because he needed the money.
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