“If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.” ― Stanley Kubrick
The world of creativity is, by nature, a collaborative realm where influences and inspirations rub-off on each other. There are some forces within it, however, that are so singular their impact is almost seismic.
Stanley Kubrick was a visionary director who imparted a giant footprint on culture. His seminal work 2001: A Space Odyssey was so revolutionary and ahead of it’s time that it changed the face of cinema. Tom Hanks was so inspired by the picture that he told the BBC, “[When I watched it] I realised that cinema was nothing more than a collection of colour and sound and the end result is an emotional wallop that you might not be able to understand. This was the wow moment […] that led me to being a kid yearning to be an artist.”
Later works like A Clockwork Orange proved similarly revolutionary. People hadn’t seen such violent abandon on screen and it stirred a reaction from the art world which is still felt today. Kubrick’s unique blend of visuals, sound and story, coupled with his unwavering artistic integrity and single-minded creative intent has spawned a generation of disciples in the creative realm, whether that be in movies, music or other areas of art.
Here, we’re taking a look at when that inspiration is transposed by musicians into glowing odes or subtle nods to the legendary filmmaker.
Ten times Stanley Kubrick inspired musicians:
Blur – ‘The Universal’ music video
The visual aesthetics of A Clockwork Orange are instantly recognisable and utterly iconic. The otherworldly vibe of the film’s Korova Milk Bar and the ‘droog’s’ costumes were captured perfectly by Blur for their entrancing video for the single ‘The Universal’. The Kubrick feel is encapsulated down to an eye make-up tee.
Aside from the stylistic choices on the video, the song itself has something of the spaced-out vibe captured in Wendy Carlos’s soundtrack with string arrangements akin to the reimagined Beethoven movements.
Kanye West – ‘Runaway’
Eyes Wide Shut was Kubrick’s last movie before he died. The film was a dark twisted fantasy and befittingly, Kanye West took that theme and made it titular for his fifth studio album.
The eroticism and disillusionment of the movie proved to be the perfect platform for Hip Hop’s most chaotic artist to mould into his own. Beneath the overdubs and 808’s on ‘Runaway’, Kanye thread the pictures austere piano motif from the score to form the song’s stirring backbone. There is certainly a kinship between the two visionary K’s.
Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino era
The influence of Kubrick seemed to permeate Arctic Monkeys most recent era as a whole. Whether it be the albums lunar theme lamenting the saturation of technology in our modern lives that draws heavily on 2001; or tracks that document his filming style with ‘One Point Perspective’, there’s a plethora of nods to luminary from the band.
Perhaps the most obvious ode comes in the shape of their video for ‘Four Out of Five’. The Ben Chappell-direct music video was even filmed at Castle Howard, where Kubrick filmed a number of Barry Lyndon scenes.
Pink Floyd – Echoes
Perhaps some things are just meant to find themselves together – like cheese and onion or Bowie and Eno – or perhaps other times, the pairings are more purposefully constructed and don’t simply fall into place. That is the argument posited by many Pink Floyd fans who claim that echoes pairs-up perfectly with Kubrick’s sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Although the band have denied the connection, there is an undeniable synergy between the two when the mercurial forces meet.
Led Zeppelin – John Bonham
Bonham was no doubt the least sartorially striking member of Led Zeppelin, choosing to forgo the becloaked stylings of Jimmy Page or the leather trousered aesthetic of Robert Plant in favour of the crazy couture of Clockwork Orange.
Following the release of the film Bonham often took to wearing the iconic outfit of a ‘droog’. His white boiler suit and bowler hat wardrobe garnered him the nickname Mr. Ultraviolence from Robert Plant.
Kate Bush – ‘Get Out of My House’
On Kate Bush’s 1982 album The Dreaming was a track that depicted a nightmare. ‘Get Out of My House’ places the narrator in the same terrifying realm as Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel from The Shining.
The song takes on disturbing domestic asylum with a pounding drum that lends it an equally claustrophobic feel. The lyrics are just as spooky too, as she wails “This house is as old as I am / This house knows all I have done.” The dark world of Kubrick is just as unsettling in song.
New Order – Ultraviolence
The synth-driven upbeat sound of the iconic New Order record, Power, Lies and Corruption, might not immediately draw comparisons to Kubrick but a quick glance at the tracklisting reveals one of the band’s inspirations.
Ultraviolence runs throughout both the novel and Kubrick’s adaptation of A Clockwork Orange and once the melody is sequestered and the lyrics are laid bare, it would seem that this song documents similar situations that the sickening protagonist, Alex, welcomes.
Slipknot – ‘Spit it Out’ video.
It comes as little surprise that a group who wore grotesque masks throughout their career had a penchant for horror. If the aesthetic and sound of the band didn’t make their intent to disturb clear enough, then caricaturing The Shining for the music video of ‘Spit it Out’ certainly did.
On top of the viscerally violent tones of the song is the video that traverses all the most perturbing scenes in the iconic movie. The eerie undertone might have been bludgeoned out it, but the cocktail of screeching sound spooky visual still makes for an effecting mix.
Guns N’ Roses – ‘Welcome To The Jungle’
One of the most iconic images in Kubrick filmography is the still of Alex from A Clockwork Orange, with his eyeballs propped open being force-fed pacifying imagery. The combination of his demented face and the shudder-inducing machinery he is strapped to is not for the squeamish.
It was this same iconic scene that Guns N’ Roses propagated for the video for their classic track Welcome To The Jungle. The video sees Axl Rose imitate Alex, in a straight jacket that band members no doubt wish they kept on hand after the shoot concluded.
David Bowie – Space Oddity
In 2003 explained the origin of his spellbinding ‘Space Oddity’ in an interview with Bill DeMain, stating: “In England, it was always presumed that it was written about the (sic) space landing because it kind of came to prominence around the same time. […] It was written because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing. I was out of my gourd anyway, I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing.”
The song is a masterpiece befitting of the movie. On both counts, they were pieces of brilliance that traversed the boundary of being ahead of their time yet conversely era-defining.