Stephen King’s connection to music is as strong and potent as any artist’s. The writer, acclaimed for the sheer volume of work he has not only written but sold in vast quantities, King has often found himself as a cultural touchpoint. As the years roll by and King’s contribution to literature grows with every passing new release, he, more so than most writers, is working as an unofficial biographer of our times, providing moments to be remembered and stories to be told forever.
Another artist who is likely to be a constant in our cultural conversations is the archetypal British invasion band and one of the most widely-adored pop groups of all time — The Beatles. A child of the time, it seems only fitting that King should make heavy reference to the band throughout his time behind the typewriter, through a myriad of books, King has paid tribute to the Fab Four and, below, we’ve collated them all and provided the perfect playlist to boot.
Famed for his penchant for horror fiction, King has written some incredible books such as The Shining, Carrie, Pet Sematary, and so many more. While literary snobs may turn their nose up at King, it’s hard to ignore his widespread contribution to the art form. Mammoth sales may well encourage some people to proclaim the writer nothing but a populist fad. Still, large sales and huge popularity usually mean that the artist in question has hit upon a winning formula, something The Beatles themselves could attest to.
For much of their early years, the Fab Four operated like one would imagine a boyband would today. Though Paul McCartney and John Lennon certainly crafted the vast majority of the music they released in those days, both songwriters would likely admit to sticking to a tried and tested formula for success. And boy, did they get it. The group became one of the biggest bands the world had ever seen as Beatlemania swept the globe. One person caught up in that furore was a young Stephen King.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, King noted that he would include one song from The Beatles in his collection of eight ‘must-have’ tracks. ‘She Loves You’ from the Fab Four has always been a top track from the band. It struck a chord with a young King: “Of all The Beatles songs, it seems to me that it’s travelled the best over the years to my ear. It still sounds totally fresh when I hear it today, as it did when I first heard it when I probably at 16 years old. It just gets in, it has only one thing to say, and it says it.”
The story doesn’t end there for King and the band. In fact, the story goes that songwriter John Lennon ended up inspiring one of King’s greatest titles, The Shining. The lyrics “We all shine on” from Lennon’s iconic single, ‘Instant Karma’ was said to have stopped King in his tracks when searching for the perfect title for his hotel horror. And it is there where we will start in introducing every Beatles song that features in King’s books.
Within the list, which you can see in full below, we haven’t included two discs that may be regarded as being included in King’s work. First of all, there is the mention of A Hard Day’s Night LP, the record that acted as the soundtrack to the motion picture, which features in the 2018 novel The Outsider. Also mentioned in that novel is Meet The Beatles, which suggests that King has been opening his musical tastes to his audience in his later work. Also not included in our list below are songs used or mentioned in the film adaptations of the books King wrote.
Even with those restrictions, the playlist below is truly brilliant. Featuring ‘Ticket to Ride’, which appears in The Shining, written back in 1977. Though the band aren’t named the otherworldly Big Band at The Overlook Hotel perform “Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Ticket to Ride'” for their ghostly audience. Another noted song from the time is ‘Back in the USSR’, which a serial killer hums in The Dead Zone, released in 1979.
One Fab Four number which makes a few appearances is ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ in Danse Macabre from 1981 and 2011’s 11/22/63, with the former making a direct reference to the John Lennon lyric “What do you see when you turn out the light? / I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine”. Another Beatles classic, ‘Hey Jude’, is also used multiple times by King in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger from 1982, the follow-up to The Shining, 2013’s Doctor Sleep and once again in Sleeping Beauties as a ringtone. It confirms King’s admiration for the band.
Stephen King and The Beatles will still be remembered long after we’re all gone; such is their mammoth and vital contribution to their fields. The real joy is noting when these two cultural goliaths cross paths. Below, you can see the list of every Beatles song mentioned in Stephen King books, as well as a killer playlist too.
Every Beatles song in Stephen King books:
- ‘Ticket to Ride’ in The Shining
- ‘Back in the USSR’ in The Dead Zone
- ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ in Danse Macabre / 11/22/63
- ‘Hey Jude’ in The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger / Doctor Sleep / Sleeping Beauties
- ‘Drive My Car’ in Christine
- ‘Here Comes The Sun’ in Dreamcatcher
- ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ in Duma Key
- ‘I Am The Walrus’ in Dreamcatcher
- ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ in 11/22/63
- ‘Lady Madonna’ in Doctor Sleep
- ‘Let It Be’ in Doctor Sleep
- ‘Not A Second Time’ in Doctor Sleep
- ‘Bad Boy’ in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
- ‘Eleanor Rigby’ in End of Watch