It's amazing how many musical references there are in the Dark Tower series, so I thought I'd share what I think of as "The Ultimate DT Playlist." This entry covers Books I-IV (since I'd rather not jump too far ahead of my own quest's narrative). Part II (covering books V-VII) will be posted in a future entry.
There are a lot of songs on this list, and I'm sure I've missed a few, so if there's anything missing, or if any of the links turn out to be broken, please feel free to mention it. This list wouldn't be nearly as complete as it is if not for several playlists that had been posted on the now defunct web community, www.TheDarkTower.net, so I'd like to take moment to say thanks to those good folks for sharing and helping to enrich so many readers' listening experience.
I've included links to Youtube (or other sources, on those rare occasions when Youtube came up dry) and page numbers to the trade paperback editions for easy reference. In many cases, I've included some commentary notes (for example, where a band or singer is mentioned, I've tried to include the song that best suits the situation, or vice versa). Some song references have been mentioned repeatedly, so for simplicity's sake, I've only included the first page where a song is made reference to.
Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger
- Woodstock - Crosby, Stills Nash & Young (pg. xi of the expanded and revised edition)
- Bobby Ann Mason - Rick Trevino (pg. xii of the expanded and revised edition)
- TNT - AC/DC (pg. xii of the expanded and revised edition)
- Like A Rock - Bob Seger (pg. xii of the expanded and revised edition)
- Time Is On My Side - The Rolling Stones (pg. xv of the expanded and revised edition)
- Hey Jude - The Beatles (pg. 22 - pg. 17 of the expanded and revised edition)
- Onward Christian Soldiers – Traditional (pg. 34 - pg. 31 of the expanded and revised edition)
- Shall We Gather at the River – Traditional (pg. 48 - pg. 49 of the expanded and revised edition)
- Calling Dr. Love - KISS (pg. 83 - pg. 88 of the expanded and revised edition)
- Careless Love – Traditional (pg. 86 - pg. 91 of the expanded and revised edition) - I like various versions of this song, depending on the situation. Bessie Smith, Fats Domino and Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash’s versions are all favorites.
- Ease on Down the Road - Michael Jackson and Diana Ross (pg. 120 - 126 of the expanded and revised edition) – The first reference to the Wizard of Oz, and a mighty strange and unlikely one at that.
- A Hundred Leagues to Banberry Cross (pg. 120 - Replaced with Careless Love in the revised and expanded edition) – This probably refers to How Many Miles to Banbury Cross which is an alternate title for How Many Miles to Babylon a traditional English nursery rhyme.
- Instant Karma (We All Shine On) – John Lennon (pg. 191 - Omitted from the revised and expanded edition)
Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three
- Lookin’ Out My Back Door - Creedence Clearwater Revival (pg. 77) - Eddie has a door following three feet behind him and he occasionally looks back through it. Also, repeated viewings of The Big Lebowski (a character with some similarities to Eddie) has caused me to consider the song in another light, or rather, a place where the sun doesn’t shine. The Dude listens to this track immediately after his (thorough) physical examination. Eddie endures a similar experience with Jack Andolini’s brother, Claudio . . . back door indeed.
- Just A Gigolo - David Lee Roth (pg. 93) - “I ain’t got no body . . .”
- Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas and the Sinus Blues - Huey “Piano” Smith and His Clowns (pg. 123) - This is the song with the lyric “Doctor tole me son you got to quit it fast / Because one more rocket gonna be your last” which was incorrectly credited to Billie Holiday.
- You Go To My Head – Billie Holiday (pg. 123) - Even though Billie is incorrectly credited with singing “Tub-Ber-Cu-Lucas,” I still felt she needed to be represented. After all, nothing is mentioned in the Dark Tower without purpose. Granted, the mention of Ms. Holiday here is really only to emphasize her involvement with heroin, I think this song might sum up exactly what Henry Dean could be thinking as he’s given his last shot. Plus the fact that, soon after, Eddie breaks cover to run for Henry adds a slightly morbid literal twist to the song.
- Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash (pg. 124)
- A Boy Named Sue - Johnny Cash (pg. 124)
- People - Barbara Streisand (pg. 170)
- Pink Shoe Laces – Dodie Stevens (pg. 196) - Heard briefly by Detta Walker while scratching the face of a drunk frat-boy in the back of a ’46 Dodge DeSoto in a roadhouse parking lot.
- We Shall Not Be Moved - Mavis Staples (pg. 198)
- John Henry – Traditional (pg. 199)
- Barbry Allen – Traditional (pg. 199)
- Take The ‘A’ Train – Duke Ellington (pg. 215) - That fabled ‘A’ train that stops nowhere near Christopher St. Station.
- Oxford Town – Bob Dylan (pg. 233) - “Two men dead by the light of the moon / Somebody’d better investigate soon.”
- Twilight Time - The Platters (pg. 295) - "Heavenly shades of night are falling . . ."
Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands
- Among The Living – Anthrax (pg. 55) - Captain Trips and The Walkin’ Dude. Wonderful little bit of musical foreshadowing.
- Peace Sells – Megadeth (pg. 55) - The title track for the album, the cover of which features Vic Rattlehead leaning on a “For Sale” sign in front of a bombed-out, dilapidated UN building. The vacant lot is in a similar predicament only one block over.
- Down on the Corner - Creedence Clearwater Revival (pg. 72) - Seems like the logical CCR song to be playing on Eddie's headphones as he imagines himself standing on the corner of Broadway and 42nd St.
- Paint It Black - Rolling Stones (pg. 77) - "I see a red door and I want to paint it black . . ."
- Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do) – Creedence Clearwater Revival (Wilson Pickett cover) (pg. 85) - Eddie (a confessed fan of CCR) thinks a very similar line while contemplating the carving of the wooden key.
- Love to Love You Baby (Radio Edit) - Donna Summer (pg. 104)
- Samson and Delilah – The Grateful Dead (pg. 117) - “Samson and the lion got into an attack / And Samson climbed up on the the lion’s back.” From The Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station.” Turtles and Train Stations . . . ye gods.
- Choo Choo Mama – Ten Years After (pg. 119) - “Chew Chew”
- Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones (pg. 172) - On the trail to the speaking ring Eddie lets out a gusty “Hey Ho, Let’s go!”
- Kashmir – Led Zeppelin (pg. 182) - Jake hears a LedZep tune on the gum-chewing cutie's transistor radio, I figured the song that mentions a "wasted land" was the perfect choice.
- Legs – ZZ Top (pg. 196) - “She got legs and she knows how to use them” Eddie quotes this line once more in Wolves of the Calla.
- Double Shot of My Baby’s Love - Dick Holler and the Holidays (pg. 196)
- Hippy Hippy Shake - Chan Romero (pg. 196)
- Foggy Mountain Breakdown – Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs (pg. 227) - The closest I could find to “Clinch Mountain Breakdown.” And yes, it sounds about as inappropriate a thing as you could play on a banjo during a funeral.
- Buffalo Gals - Trad. (pg. 228) - Versions of the original arrangement by Woody Guthrie or even Bruce Springsteen are far more appropriate than Malcolm McLaren's old school hip-hop track, which, while influential in it’s own right, has nothing to do with the Dark Tower (of course, there is a Sex Pistols reference in Wizard and Glass so who knows?).
- Darlin’ Katie – Michael Holliday (pg. 228) - Misspelled 'Katy' in DT:III.
- Red Roses for a Blue Lady - Wayne Newton (pg. 228) - Eddie mentions him in relation to Jimtown (for those curious, Newton was born in Norfolk, Virginia) and I didn’t want to simply fall back on the old “Danke Schoen” cliché. When I dug this track up it seemed to fit perfectly, what with the rose in the vacant lot and Susannah's Aunt Blue.
- Sharp Dressed Man - Z.Z. Top (pg.254)
- Velcro Fly - Z.Z. Top (pg. 254)
- Knock Three Times - Tony Orlando and Dawn (pg. 317)
- My Gal’s a Corker - Trad. (pg. 336)
- See You Later Alligator – Bill Haley and His Comets (pg. 385)- One of Blaine’s favorite sayings, I figured this song deserved inclusion, since Blaine drops quite a few musical references to the tet.
- Stardust - Hoagy Carmichael (pg. 399)
- Tube Snake Boogie - Z.Z. Top (pg. 409)
Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass
- As Time Goes By - Frank Sinatra (pg. 39)
- Blue Sky - Allman Brothers Band (pg. 56) - Music references from Blaine. this song is from the album Eat a Peach and could easily be used to describe Blaine's late companion, Patricia.
- To Be a Lover - Billy Idol (pg. 56) - From Idol's album Whiplash Smile. Billy keeps yelling "Have mercy!" throughout the song, I like to think that's what Blaine was driving at (in his usual obtuse and riddling way . . . I'm still puzzling over "OLIVE OIL BUT NOT CASTORIA" twelve years later).
- On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe - Judy Garland (pg. 68) - Roland notices a sign featuring this railway. The movie ‘The Harvey Girls’ stars Judy Garland (Oz), as Susan (!) and features this song early on.
- Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival (pg. 90) - All that talk of demons and moons makes this a pretty obvious choice.
- Flying High (In the Friendly Sky) - Marvin Gaye (pg. 90) - Sounds like the sort of song Eddie would dig while doing some turnpikin’.
- Hard Headed Woman - Elvis Presley (pg. 90) - This song references Samson and Delilah and the phrase "hard headed woman" is mentioned later on in Song of Susannah.
- Pretty Vacant - Sex Pistols (pg. 100) - A Sex Pistols poster shows up on the fence of the vacant lot. Can’t get much more obvious than this for song choices.
- Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On – Jerry Lee Lewis (pg. 214) - One of Pettie the Trotter's favorites.
- Golden Slippers – Traditional (pg. 244) - Sheemie hums this one, probably heard Sheb playing it the night before.
- Lay Lady Lay - Bob Dylan (pg. 268) - Possibly a variation of Mid-World's Play, Ladies, Play?
- White Christmas - Frank Sinatra & Bing Crosby (pg. 406) - "We'll break bread and speak of . . . whether or not Frank Sinatra really was a better crooner than Der Bingle."
- Red Dirt Boogie, Brother – Jesse Davis (pg. 466) - Possibly a variation of Mid-World's Red Dirt Boogie?
- Beer Bottle Boogie – Marilyn Scott (pg. 563) - Possibly a variation of Mid-World's Big Bottle Boogie?
- All God’s Chillun Got Wings – Paul Robeson (pg. 627) "I got shoes, you got shoes, all god's chillun got shoes . . ."
- We’re Off to See the Wizard - Wizard of Oz Cast (pg. 633)
- Brain Damage - Pink Floyd (pg. 633) "See you on the Dark Side of the Moon . . ."
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland (pg. 636)
- Green Door – Jim Lowe (pg. 640)
- Big Iron - Marty Robbins (pg. 664)
Long days, pleasant nights!