June 21, 2018
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Music is the connection between Stephen King’s real and fictional worlds

University of Maine | BDN
University of Maine | BDN
John Mellencamp and Stephen King were on hand at the Collins Center for the Arts this week as preparations for the national tour of their musical "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" were underway.
By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff
Updated:

From the “na na na” refrain of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” wafting unnervingly through a Mid-World honky tonk in “The Gunslinger” to the Ramones writing songs for the 1989 Hollywood adaptation of “Pet Sematary,” music plays an integral role in the books and films by Stephen King.

Outside his fictional worlds, King is a real-life fan — and not just in a casual way. He played guitar and sang in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a former band of published writers, and he owns three local radio stations: adult alternative channel WZLO 103.1, retro rock and oldies station WZON 620 AM, and classic rock station WKIT 100.3, which has been No. 1 in the eastern Maine market since 1990.

Bobby Russell, co-host of WKIT’s Morning Show and general manager of the Zone Corp., which owns all three stations, said King often recommends music to him.

“He has made me aware of lots of songs and groups over the years that have made it on WKIT or WZLO, like John Eddy, the Mavericks, Slaid Cleaves, who is a Mainer,” Russell said. “We are always talking music. Steve will send me a link to a song and say ‘check this out,’ and I will do the same to him.”

King has personally recommended music to the general public lots of times, including lists he has compiled for everyone from Entertainment Weekly (many times, in fact) to the BBC, as well as an iTunes playlist released in 2005. He’s written about ’60s pop idol turned country rocker Ricky Nelson for Spin Magazine and penned liner notes for albums from bands and artists as divergent as the Ramones and Al Kooper.

He even wrote a musical play, 2012’s “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” with his friends John Mellencamp and T-Bone Burnett — and wrote the story that became the basis for Michael Jackson’s 1997 short film “Ghosts.”

There are too many songs mentioned in King books and movies to list here, or put together in a playlist — though fans on the RateYourMusic.com message boards compiled an exhaustively researched list of hundreds references to songs in King’s novels and stories

But to help you get a sense of King’s musical tastes, we’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of more than 80 songs that over the years he has said he loves.

It showcases how diverse his tastes really are. There’s classic rock, like AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen, but there’s also plenty of punk rock, from the Sex Pistols to Rancid, who he saw in Bangor last summer. There are cult favorite songwriters like Fred Eaglesmith, Alejandro Escovedo and King’s beloved James McMurtry. Then there are thrash metal legends Metallica and Anthrax, which King says he sometimes likes to listen to while writing, and garage rock from the Standells, the Lyres and Inmates.

There are even a few unexpected entrants, like electronic rock band LCD Soundsystem, indie pop band the Gothic Archies, and jazz vocal group the Manhattan Transfer.

In short, he’s basically the coolest dad on the block.

There’s more than five hours of music on this playlist and the songs aren’t in any particular order. Our suggestion is to throw it on shuffle, keep your mind open and see where the songs take you. The sewers of Derry? A prison in Castle Rock? A hotel in Colorado? A desolate wasteland in an alternate dimension? A pleasant neighborhood in Bangor? Those all sound pretty good to us.

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