Kate Bush gets approved to use James Joyce soliloquy: Five songs that skipped that step

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jamesjoyceguitar.jpeg
James Joyce playing "Stairway to Heaven"
The James Joyce estate is well known for its nearly-impossible-to-break hold on the copyright of his works. Case in point, 22 years ago Kate Bush asked to use a soliloquy from Ulysses in one of her songs and was denied. Most people would just give up, but she didn't. Now, with Joyce's work about to drop into public domain, the estate has finally granted her permission to use the words in her music.

Seeing as how James Joyce is one of the most popular writers in history, we decided to tally up a few more musicians who either referenced him or just skipped getting the blessing of his estate and just went ahead and recorded their own songs.

5. Crystal Castles - "Air War"
Don't worry if you're feeling a bit stupid for not realizing the lyrics for this are totally copped from James Joyce's Ulysses, as they're about as easy to comprehend as a rambling from a drunken Smurf. The vocals are not Alice Glass, in case you were wondering, they are actually a sample of Cathy Berbarian reading a section of the book that starts with "Bronze by gold heard the hoofirons, steelyringing, imperthnthn thnthnth." The sample comes from a recording by composer Luciano Berio called Omaggio a Joyce. So, its kind of like a two for one package of references for this one.

4. John Cage - Roaratorio: an Irish circus on Finnegans Wake
John Cage being John Cage and not Rebecca Black, this one's a little more obscure. Actually, it's nearly impossible to really nail down if you don't know what to look for. This composition is based on a collage of sounds mentioned in Finnegans Wake, which includes Cage reading from his text Writing for the Second Time Through Finnegans Wake. The composition supposedly features 2293 sounds (we're not about to count) depicted in the novel, including thunderclaps, farts, music, singing, guns and more.

3. Jefferson Airplane - "Rejoyce"
The best way to skirt around copyright is to change things around a little bit. Case in point: This Jefferson Airplane track is, according to the albums liner notes, "a highly selective cap of Ulysses. Highly selective indeed, as the song is only four minutes long -- which happens to the exact amount of time it takes for a college student to break into tears after being assigned the novel. Still, it's clearly inspired by the book and many of the characters are all here, even if some of the lines are a little mushed up.


2. Flying Saucer Attack - "XXIV"
This track is from a 2008 record released by Fire Records that puts a number of Joyce's poems to music. The album is notable for putting together a ton of big name musicians, including Peter Buck, Gravenhurst and Lee Ranaldo, and having them provide music accompaniment for the poems; we have no idea if they actually got licensing for this, but considering Kate Bush was denied for 22 years, we suspect they didn't. This track happens to be one of our favorites, for no real reason other then the fact it's kind of scary and creepy.


1. Syd Barrett - "Golden Hair"
We actually have no idea if Barrett ever got permission from the Joyce estate to release this song, which directly uses words from James Joyce's "Poem V." The song originally appeared on his first solo album, The Madcap Laughs, right after the relatively successful single, "Octopus." It's probably no surprise it happens to be one of the more sinister tracks from the album, with Barrett's subdued vocals creeping through the poem like a predator lurking behind a bush.

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1 comments
Shullamuth
Shullamuth

There's also Black 47's "I got laid on James Joyce's Grave" and Andy White's "Looking for James Joyce's Grave."

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