Tribute albums are interesting things. Most major bands and artists have had them… from international stadium-playing superstars like Elton John, Jimi Hendrix and Queen, to less-famous but influential bands like XTC, Bruce Cockburn and Nine Inch Nails. Iron Maiden, The Cure, Van Morrison… they’ve all had them. And that’s just Rock. Country has had its own array of tribute albums, as has hip-hop.
There are also dozens of professionally recorded songs which were inspired by short stories and novels. “1984” by David Bowie came from the Orwell novel, for example, and “Red Barchetta” by Rush came from the short story “A Nice Morning Drive” by Richard Foster.
What is decidedly different, though, is when a tribute album is given over entirely to not a musician, but an author. That was the idea behind Where’s Neil When You Need Him? a tribute anthology to Neil Gaiman by industrial, singer/songwriter and goth bands.
Gaiman is a prominent fantasist, whose comic book work on The Sandman had given him the opportunity to have his prose published. His stories have served as the inspiration for the television shows American Gods and Neverwhere as well as movies like Coraline, Mirrormask and Stardust. Still, while he had a fan base among some fantasy-reading musicians, it wasn’t enough to inspire a collection of songs about his work. His association with the British and European music scene – he’d started his career as a music reporter – certainly didn’t hurt, but wouldn’t have gotten him a tribute album. His longtime friendship with Tori Amos, who had sent the author of her favorite then-fairly-unknown comic a demo tape of her first album and whose career had blossomed alongside his, probably wouldn’t have done it either.
All three, though? That was a magical combination…. particularly for a professional fantasist.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite fantasy movie or television show?