Inspired by Lord of the Rings – WIF Music

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Music in History

10 Bands Unexpectedly

Inspired by

Lord of the Rings

10. Megadeth

Even if you’re not familiar with their music, we’d hope that the name “Megadeth” sort of clues you in on what exactly this band is all about. Thundering riffs, squealing guitar solos, and all of that other good stuff that tests the tensile strength of the vertebrae in your neck.

Dave Mustaine, the band’s chief songwriter, has admitted that despite the band’s sound being typically categorized as “all of the fast,” he has drawn inspiration from a diverse range of sources, including The Beatles, George Orwell, and more pertinently to this article, LOTR.

More specifically, the LOTR inspiration can be found with the song This Day We Fight, which fans of the series may recognize as a direct quote from Return of the King. The song’s lyricswere primarily inspired by the speeches given by the characters of Aragorn and Théoden during the Battle of the Morannon and Battle of the Pelennor Fields, respectively. Of course, being a Megadeth song, said lyrics are sandwiched between half a dozen blisteringly fast guitar solos, something we’re suddenly inspired to petition to have implemented into the audiobook version of the series.

9. Rush

Rush is a band that needs no introduction, because if they had one, their sets would be so long there’d be a risk that some of the people in their audience would die of old age. The legendary prog-rockers have sold millions of records and changed how they sound more times than a drunk Valley Girl in the south over the years. As a result, their songs have been inspired by everything from philosophy to science fiction. We’d go on, but you already know that we’re just going to bring up LOTR again.

Songs showing how much the writers’ of YYZ enjoyed being called huge nerds in high school include the unimagintely titled Rivendell, a song so clearly inspired by Tolkien that the best quality version of it on YouTube is set to poorly edited Lord of the Rings footage (as seen above).

A more subtle nod to the series is the song The Necromancer, unless of course you’ve actually read the book and recognize that “The Necromancer” is another name Sauron (the big glowing eye), or listen to the lyrics, which reference such things as “three travellers” (a nod to Frodo, Sam, and Gollum) and multiple allusions to wraiths, and kick-ass giant towers from which to brood and survey the landscape. A link to the song can be found here. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with Rush, and is confused when they see that the song is 12 minutes long, don’t worry: they do that a lot.

8. Black Sabbath

There hasn’t been a band that’s rocked harder than Black Sabbath since someone projected the cantina scene from Star Wars onto the side of a mountain, and the individual members of that band have taken what can only be described as a heroic amount of narcotics. In other words, they’re the exact opposite kind of people you’d expect to be obsessed with LOTR.

In a 2005 interview, the band’s bassist, Geezer Butler, explained that their song The Wizard was based on an amalgamation of Gandalf and the band’s drug dealer at the time, because after all, this is Black Sabbath we’re talking about. When asked what inspired him to write such a song, Butler very matter-of-factly said that he was reading Lord of the Rings at the time and took a liking to the character. We’re also presuming he was using quite a lot of drugs, given that, you know, the song is also based on his favorite drug dealer. Considering how much weed Gandalf smokes through the course of the series, we’re guessing he wouldn’t mind the comparison.

7. Led Zeppelin

Fronted by, to quote Homer Simpson, “one of the greatest thieves of American black music ever to walk the Earth,” it’s probably not going to be all that surprising that the band has “borrowed” its fair share of inspiration from the LOTR mythology over the years.

Weirdly, though, fans of both the band and the LOTR series have been unable to agree on exactly which songs written by the aging rockers were wholly inspired by the series, though the songs Misty Mountain Hop and The Battle of Evermore usually come up the most. In regards to the former, the title is an obvious nod to the Misty Mountains in The Hobbit.However, the lyrics supposedly reference the marijuana legalization rally from the ’60s, because, you know, the ’60s. In regards to the latter, the case is a little clearer, with the song obviously referencing the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, making references to Aragorn, Eowyn, and Sauron so thinly veiled they might as well be draped over a Ring Wraith’s face. And don’t forget to listen closely in the video of Ramble On up above, where you’ll hear direct references to Mordor and Gollum.

6. Blind Guardian

Though it’s likely many of you have never heard of Blind Guardian, in some (super German) circles, the band is considered to be one of the pioneers of the power metal genre. They exist in a sub-genre of metal characterized by two things: lyrics about dragons, or suplexing orcs and guitar solos.

While other artists on this list were content to simply write songs inspired by LOTR, Blind Guardian wrote an entire album about it aptly titled, Nightfall in Middle-Earth. The album, which is freakin’ kick-ass in case you were wondering, lyrically features content inspired byThe Silmarillion, a cheat guide of sorts written by Tolkien to give readers more information about the LOTR universe. So if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the War of Wrath, the duel between Fingolfin and Morgoth or Carcharoth, “the greatest wolf to have ever lived,” maybe give the album a listen. Alternatively, if you’ve no idea what any of that means and just want to listen to a ballin’ heavy metal song by a band you’ve maybe never heard of, just listen to the song up above.

5. Donald Swann

Unless you happen to have one of the most diverse tastes in music in the entire world, the name Donald Swann probably means very little to you, which is kind of our point about the range of genres and types of artists inspired by Tolkien. To explain, Swann is best remembered for being part of a comedy singing duo from the ’60s called Flanders and Swann,arguably the furthest thing away from the hard rock and heavy metal bands mentioned thus far.

After leaving the group to do his own thing, Swann became a prolific song writer, penning music for operas and plays, including one based on a book by CS Lewis. Again, all things you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the bands we’ve already mentioned. A lifelong fan of Tolkien, Swann took a break from writing opera and songs about how delightfully racist the English are, to write a bunch of songs based on the poems of Tolkien. A tonal shift so unexpected it wouldn’t seem at all out of place in a Prince song.

4. Bo Hansson

Bo Hansson is a Swedish multi-instrumentalist known for his jazz inspired instrumental albums that we in no way expect you to be aware of. Like everyone else on this list, Hansson was greatly inspired at one point in his life by the work of Tolkien. Unlike everyone else, he went a little…over the top…with his eventual musical tribute.

The story goes that in 1969, Hansson became obsessed with a copy of LOTR he stole from his girlfriend, and stole away in a friend’s apartment intent on recording an album about how awesome it was. Said friend was eventually evicted due to the all the noise Hansson made rehearsing with his various instruments. Undeterred, Hansson heroically left his friend to deal with that mess and took his work to a remote cottage he owned, which he inexplicably hadn’t decided to go to in the first place.

Once he’d written the album, Hansson bluffed his way into a radio station that happened to own the only 8-track recorder in all of Sweden and then talked two random musicians he found hanging around to help him record it. The album, called Sagan Om Ringen in Hansson’s native Swedish, went on to be a surprisingly big hit, making into the British top 40 charts under the name “Music Inspired by Lord of the Rings.” All because Hansson really liked LOTR and made a conscious effort to lie, cheat, and steal his way to a best-selling record.

Truly a hero we can all idolize.

3. Red Rum

Red Rum is a band belonging to the unbelievably specific sub-genre of pirate metal, which is exactly as ridiculous and awesome as you’re imagining, and even more so if you didn’t think these guys wore full pirate regalia on stage. Which, of course, they totally do.

Now you’d think with how much guys like this obviously love pirates, they wouldn’t have time to focus on anything else. And you’d think wrong, as Red Rum came in and blew all that away with an accordion infused cover of They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard. A song, for those who’ve lived this long without encountering one of the most OG of memes, based on an absurd remix of a single line spoken by Legolas in the film version of The Two Towers. To break kayfabe for a moment, this writer actually saw this cover live, and about 98% of the audience totally lost their minds when the chorus kicked in. Needless to say, it’s an experience we highly recommend.

2. Christopher Lee and his Super Pals

During the decades the Earth was graced with Christopher Lee’s presence, he spent an inordinate amount of time doing basically whatever the hell he wanted to. Lee was a huge fan of the LOTR series, and was given Tolkien’s personal blessing to play Gandalf if a film version of his book was ever made during a chance meeting in a pub.

Lee was such a fan of the series that when he heard Peter Jackson was set to direct a trilogy based on it, he took a role as a wizard in a crappy TV show just so he could take a selfie of himself wearing the outfit. Lee then sent this photo to Jackson with a small handwritten note saying, “This is what I look like as a Wizard, don’t forget this when you cast the movie.”

Moving back to music, Lee as a classically trained opera singer, and has lent his booming man-voice to numerous musical projects, most notably the albums of a band calledRhapsody of Fire. This is a band who have taken so much inspiration from Tolkien’s work that fans often refer to their sound as “Tolkien Metal,” a label the band neither seem to mind nor dispute.

Which makes it just amazing that they managed to convince Lee to sing on a song about wizards, flanked by an entire orchestra, because it’s probably the closest we’re ever going to get to hearing Saruman’s theme song.

1. Ed Sheeran

Now, we know what you’re thinking: we’re cheating by putting Sheeran as our number one entry because he wrote the closing song of The Desolation of Smaug. He wasn’t so much “inspired” by the LOTR series, as he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to write a song about it. To which we say: you have no idea just how excited Sheeran was to sing that song.

Sheeran is a huge LOTR fan who spent his early childhood having a first edition copy of The Hobbit read to him by his grandfather, which he enjoyed so much he eventually just taught himself to read so he didn’t need to wait for some other loser to read it to him.

When Sheeran met Peter Jackson’s daughter at a concert, he didn’t waste any time telling her how much he loved the LOTR films, while she simultaneously gushed about his music. This eventually led to Jackson’s daughter putting Sheeran forward as a possible candidate to write a song for the closing credits of The Desolation of Smaug. When Jackson agreed and called Sheeran, who was at a wedding at the time, the musician fought an epic hangover to make it New Zealand in less than two days.


Inspired by Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings

– WIF Music

Comeback Music Monday @ WIF

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Successful Comeback Albums

The music business is a fickle beast. Taste and trends are always changing, and if a musician doesn’t evolve or continue to put out quality music, they can quickly fall into obscurity. These 10 artists were standing on the edge of oblivion, only to release an album that reignited their careers and secured their legacy in music history.

10. The Next Day

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David Robert Jones, better known as David Bowie, first achieved fame in 1969 with his song “Space Oddity.” The theatrics of his albums and his androgynous style made him stick out amongst the English rock stars of the time. He was also known for his eclectic tastes, as Bowie never seemed to settle into any particular genre. Instead, for over 30 years he released a variety of albums that were innovative and influential.

In 2003 Bowie released Reality, which was met with a lukewarm reception and moderate sales. With Reality being his 25th album, people thought that Bowie was done releasing music. What did he have left to prove? His seminal work of the ’60s and ’70s proved he was one of the most talented and original artists of all time. His work in the ’80s and ’90s showed that he understood musical trends, and even decades after releasing his first album he was releasing innovative music.

Then in 2013, he surprised the media and fans alike by releasing The Next Dayafter a 10-year hiatus. The album drew excellent reviews and some critics went as far to say it’s one of the best albums Bowie’s ever released. It also sold well; it was his first number one album in the United Kingdom since 1993. The Next Day was nominated for three Grammys, including one for Best Rock Album, and it was also shortlisted for the Mercury Award, which is given to the best British or Irish album of the year.

9. Van Lear Rose

 

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At the age of 72, country legend Loretta Lynn had nothing to prove after releasing 55 albums in her long, illustrious career. She was one of the biggest country stars of the 1960s and ’70s, and there was even a movie about her life called The Coal Miner’s Daughter. Sissy Spacek won an Academy Award for playing Lynn. Lynn retired from music in the 1990s to look after her sick husband, and while in retirement she sporadically released albums, there was nothing earthshaking. Then in 2004, Lynn decided to work with a 28-year-old producer named Jack White. The two came together after The White Stripes dedicated their albumWhite Blood Cells to Lynn and covered one of her songs. Lynn invited Jack and Meg White to visit her. After meeting them, she agreed to do an album that Jack White wanted to produce. Lynn wrote all 13 songs, while White produced, co-wrote one song, performed a duet and played a number of instruments.

The album, Van Lear Rose, was released to universal acclaim. It peaked at No. 2 on the country charts and No. 24 on the Billboard 200. The album was nominated for five Grammys and took home two, Best Country Album and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

8. 2001

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Dr. Dre was one of the founding members of the originators of gangster rap, N.W.A. After leaving N.W.A., Dr. Dre released his first solo album, The Chronic, in 1992, and it was critically and commercially successful. He won the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, and the album also helped launch the career of Snoop Dog, who was featured on it.

After his initial success, Dr. Dre became more interested in producing and launching other artists. He released one single in 1996, “Been There, Done That” and was met with a lukewarm reception. By the late ’90s, everyone assumed that Dr. Dre was just going to be a producer and would stop releasing his own music. However, after launching the career of Eminem, Dre released his second album,2001, in 1999. It was a hit with both critics and listeners. It reached No. 2 on the US billboard charts and ultimately went six times platinum. He was nominated for five Grammys, and won two for best Rap Performance by A Duo or Group and Producer of the Year. After proving he can still put out great solo music, Dr. Dre has turned his focus back to producing and promoting headphones.

7. Songs For Young Lovers

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Frank Sinatra is an American icon. He had a plethora of hits, and starred in many classic movies. However, things weren’t always going that way. By the end of the 1940s, Americans had become disenchanted with Sinatra. People’s musical tastes were evolving away from what he performed. There were also reports about his ties to the mafia that didn’t sit well with people, and Americans were getting weary of his personal life — he had divorced his wife, with whom he had three children, and had a publicized affair with Ava Gardner. His voice had also gotten much weaker throughout the years. So by the time the 1950s rolled around, he didn’t have any movie contracts or a record label. Basically, most people wrote Sinatra off as being washed up.

Then, in 1953, Sinatra won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in From Here to Eternity. He also signed with Capitol Records, who gave him more artistic control. The first album he recorded was called Songs for Young Lovers, and Sinatra started working with band conductor Nelson Riddle. Over the next 20 years they produced some of the biggest hits of Sinatra’s career. With Capitol, he started recording albums focusing on one theme or mood. While this is common today, the concept was considered risky then. However, Sinatra released 16 albums in this style, giving him newfound fame and securing his legacy in the annals of American pop culture.

6. Brian Wilson Presents Smile

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The incredibly talented Brian Wilson is one of the co-founders of the Beach Boys. Their style started off as surfer rock, but under the guidance of Wilson they became known for their sophisticated and artistic approach to pop music. The Beach Boys’ most famous album, Pet Sounds, was released in 1966 and is widely regarded as one of the best and most influential albums of all time.

The Beach Boys planned on following up their landmark album with a record called Smile, but that never happened because of Wilson’s deteriorating mental health. Instead, in 1967 they released Smiley Smile, which they recorded in six weeks in Wilson’s home studio. After this album, Wilson handed control of the band over to his brother Carl. Wilson also shelved Smile, and it looked like it was going to be one of those famous unfinished albums.

Over the next couple of decades, Wilson lived in seclusion while he struggled with his mental health. He was diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia. He had a number of nervous breakdowns and became obese. He also had problems with addictions to cocaine, LSD and alcohol. Then, in the 1980s, he started seeing a psychiatrist and in 1988 he released his first solo album. He also started to work sporadically with the Beach Boys. Throughout the 1990s, he released a few albums that received mixed reviews. But in 2004, 37 years after he started working on the album, he released Smile. It was universally adored by critics and was nominated for three Grammys. Wilson took home his first ever Grammy for Rock Instrumental Performance.

5. American Idiot

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Green Day became internationally known after starting a mud fight at Woodstock 1994. Their major label debut, Dookie, would go on to sell 20 million copies and they won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance. After their initial success, Green Day continued to release albums that performed well on the Modern Rock charts, but their other albums didn’t enjoy the same mainstream success as Dookie.

Then in 2004, 10 years after the release of their most successful album, Green Day released American Idiot. The rock opera was a departure from Green Day’s normal three chord California punk songs. Critics and audiences were surprised at the depth of the album from a band most people had written off as a one-album wonder. Critics loved it and Green Day won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance. They gained a whole army of new fans who were too young to know Dookie. In 2015, they’ll be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

4. 13

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Pioneers of heavy metal Black Sabbath formed in 1968 and released their self-titled debut in 1970. They had a massive hit with their second album, Paranoid, which was released in 1970. The band released eight albums, but by the end of the ’70s they were getting frustrated with lead singer Ozzy Osbourne. Osbourne had developed a drug habit and this led to him being kicked out. After the split, Black Sabbath released Heaven and Hell in 1980 with their new singer Ronnie James Dio, and it was well regarded. Osbourne released Blizzard of Ozz in the same year and it was the start of a very successful solo career. In the ensuing years, Osbourne became more popular than Black Sabbath, even though he was still dealing with drug problems.

After Black Sabbath released their 18th album, Forbidden, in 1995, they stopped releasing new music. In 1997, the band reunited with Osbourne on vocals and played on the Ozz-Fest tour. After the initial reunion Osbourne would occasionally play with Black Sabbath, but he still was focusing on his solo records, Ozzfest, and of course, the reality show The Osbournes.

In late 2011, the band reunited and announced they would be releasing a new album. While it was good news, not many people were clamoring for a new release. Yet, the band released 13 in 2013, making it Black Sabbath’s first album in 18 years and the first with Osbourne in 35 years. Expectations were low, but with the help of producer Rick Rubin they made an album that was liked by criticsand fans alike. It was described as having the same energy and sound of their early albums, reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, was nominated for three Grammys and won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Black Sabbath plan on recording a final album in 2015, which will be followed by a farewell tour.

3. Mama Said Knock You Out

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In the opening lines of the title track of LL Cool J’s 1990 album, he says “Don’t call it a comeback / I been here for years.” But people did call it a comeback — one of the best in rap and hip-hop. After the immense success of his debut album,Radio, in 1985, LL Cool J released two albums that were poorly received. By 1990, not a whole lot was expected out of him. People simply thought of him as out of touch or a sellout. Then when Mama Said Knock You Out was released 1990, it showed a revitalized rapper with an edge that had been lacking in his previous two outings. He received positive reviews and sold millions of copies. It re-launched LL Cool J’s career; he would go on to release more albums and star in movies and television shows. The album is now considered a classic.

2. Taking the Long Way Home

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Sometimes a comeback doesn’t need to be after a hiatus or slump. In early 2003, the Dixie Chicks had a No. 1 single and were set to go on a sold-out worldwide tour. On March 19, 2003 they were playing in London, England, when lead singerNatalie Maines said, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” This was nine days before the start of the US invasion of Iraq.

The comment sparked immediate boycotts, album burnings and condemnation by conservative pundits. When Maines made her statement, rock bands like Pearl Jam were continuously railing against the Bush administration, but while they angered people they didn’t even come close to feeling the wrath that the women who sang country received. A lot of comments were sexist and they were threatened with violence and death. There were massive boycotts of their music by radio stations, and people picketed their concerts across the United States.

Responding to the backlash, the lighthearted pop country band released their most personal album, Taking the Long Way, in 2006. Produced by Rick Rubin, the lead single was “Not Ready to Make Nice,” their response to all their detractors who told them to “shut up and sing.” The song struck a chord with critics and found a new audience because of the ferocity of the defiant lyrics and their passionate performance. Taking the Long Way Home was the biggest hit of their career, winning three Grammys. Their comeback album, which was written about losing fans, re-launched the Dixie Chicks and gained them more fans than they lost.

1. American Recordings

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Johnny Cash’s long history of success dates back to his first single in 1955 called “Cry, Cry, Cry.” From there, Cash’s popularity grew over the ’60s and he became one of the dominant forces in country music. But by the ’70s Cash was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and the caliber of his music wasn’t nearly as good. Things reached a low point in 1986 when Columbia Records dropped him after 26 lucrative years together.

After being dropped Cash signed with Mercury Records, but by 1991, he didn’t have a label. No one expected much from a country musician who was in his ’60s. Country music had changed too much and there was no place for him. That’s why it was unusual when he signed with hard rock and hip-hop producer Rick Rubin. Rubin, who had only worked with young bands, produced the first album in Cash’s American Recordings series at Cash’s cabin in Tennessee. The stripped down album only featured Cash on an acoustic guitar, covering songs picked by Rubin and himself. The goal was to bring out what made Cash so unique — his voice. Cash had the ability to sound powerful and vulnerable at the same time. When he sang the lyrics sounded wise, yet humble.

The final product, released in 1994, was called stark and gripping. It was unmistakably Johnny Cash, but an older and wiser version. It did well with critics and was enjoyed by a younger audience whose parents would have even been too young for his music. Cash himself said the late stage of his career felt like the glory days in the 1950s because he was making the music he wanted to make. Cash released six American Recordings, and during this time he had an incredible resurgence in popularity.

 

Comeback Music Monday

@ WIF