The Crying of Lot 49
Sick Dick and the Volkswagens
Sick Dick and the Volkswagens (a word play on Long John and the Silver Beetles, an early name of The Beatles) was a NYC experimental band active 1978–83. Listen to one of their songs on Youtube, recorded 1979–1981, released 1991. Their guitarist Donald Miller also played with Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich who are listed below under Gravity’s Rainbow.
A band in Florida also carries this name.
There are a number of bands called The Paranoids, many of which possibly inspired by the band from Pynchon’s second novel. One of them is a new wave band that recorded three singles around 1979/1980. Another one is a Californian garage punk band formed in 2003. I also came across across the artwork of a 1986 record called 2 Fat 2 Frug – 2 Slim 2 Swim, purportedly by “a west coast underground band playing innovative guitar pop.” I’m not sure if the record actually exists, but the band members are called Miles, Dean, Serge, and Leonard and the track list includes songs titled “Miles’s Song,” “Serenade,” “Manson & Nixon” (that’s eleven years before Mason & Dixon), “Serge’s Song,” “Mistral,” and “Too Fat to Fry Too Slim to Swim.” The label is indicated as W.A.S.T.E. Records from San Narciso. The owner of the website writes that Miles “had a top ten hit in 1983 under the name of ‘Sick Dick and the Volkswagens’ with their song ‘I want to kiss your feet,’” a tune I was unable to verify.
Tim Souster: “The Transistor Radio of St Narcissus” (c. 1982/83)
Tim Souster was a prolific British avant-garde composer and music producer with the BBC. In 1971, he became Karlheinz Stockhausen’s teaching assistant in Cologne. “The Transistor Radio of St Narcissus” is a 24-minute piece for flugelhorn, live electronics, and tape” to be performed by two musicians. Read more on timsouster.com.
Greenfield Leisure: “Too Fat to Frug” from Those Far Off Summers (1982)
“Too Fat to Frug” by the British new wave band Greenfield Leisure (active 1979–83) is an adaptation of “Miles’s Song.”
The Dangtrippers: “Maxwell’s Demon Box” from Days Between Stations (1987 or 1989)
The Iowa pop/rock band has a song about Maxwell’s demon on their only album, likely inspired by The Crying of Lot 49. Links: allmusic.com | discogs.com | mp3red.cc
The Jazz Butcher: “Looking for Lot 49” from Fishcoteque (1988)
British indie rock band, active 1982–2000 and 2012. The song also appeared on the 2003 album The Jazz Butcher’s Free Lunch. Links: allmusic.com | discogs.com | Youtube
LOSP: Welcome to Yoyodyne (1988)
Los Paranos, a French band founded in the late 1970s (and already a Pynchon reference), appears to have turned into LOSP sometime in the 1980s, a solo project by Christoph Petchanatz. He issued a cassette tape with a Yoyodyne reference. Link: discogs.com
Apparently, there was a late-1980s Ontario hardcore band called Lot 49 and a NYC indie band by the same name. The latter was founded in 1995 and one of the founding members later joined San Francisco Band Yoyodyne (likely not the one mentioned below).
Richard Einhorn: “Maxwell’s Demon #1–4” from Red Angels (1990/1994) ♥
I have not been able to substantiate if the American composer’s “Maxwell’s Demon” that was turned into ballet music was in fact inspired by Pynchon (see also below), but I like the music. Links: Youtube | MP3 (of #4) on richardeinhorn.com
The best known band with allusions to The Crying of Lot 49 is likely Radiohead. García Iborra and de Jódar Bonilla point out that Radiohead “make extensive use of Pynchon’s imagery in [sic!] their records” (40). According to a Rolling Stone article, Radiohead singer Thom Yorke read, or at the very least attempted to read, V. and Gravity’s Rainbow. Radiohead’s official website’s uniform resource locator is www.wasteheadquarters.com and another website of theirs is www.waste-central.com (both spelled W.A.S.T.E. on the website). The band’s guitarist Jonny Greenwood scored Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie adaption of Inherent Vice.
I quote band member Rick Valentin, quoted on themodernword.com: “We’ve had a few Pynchon references in our history. The artwork on our first cassette Toreador Squat (1988) had a thank you to The Paranoids, a muted post horn, and the line “More W.A.S.T.E. Music from Trash Can” (the label was called Trash Can Records). Our second touring van (1990) boasted the vanity plate: LOT 49 (there’s no extra charge for vanity plates in Illinois if you have a number following letters!). Our song “Junior Citizen” (1996) contains the line: “Tune to station KCUF.” And in regards to your question, throughout our DVD, Zero Stars (2001), Howie is reading Gravity’s Rainbow.” Links: allmusic.com | discogs.com | Youtube
Vader: “Silent Empire” from De Profundis (1995)
Excerpt from the lyrics of the song by the prolific Polish death metal band: “We await the silent empire / The timeless domain of disinherited ones. / […] / The horn, there you can see / The message, this should come soon Trystero, the name we behold / […] You’d better never antagonize the horn.” The song also appears on the album XXV (2008). Links: allmusic.com | discogs.com | Youtube
Maas: “San Narciso” (1995)
Electronic dance musician Maas is named for The Crying of Lot 49’s protagonist, and the track on the debut EP is another reference to the novel. Links: themodernword.com | discogs.com | beatport.com
Barry Koron: Unsung Pynchon
According to themodernword.com, San Francisco musician Barry Koron recorded a good number of Pynchon’s songs, mainly from Gravity’s Rainbow and V. with the help of other musicians. Unfortunately, I have not been able to date the recording and it is nowhere to be found. What I did find out, however, is that he was the musical director of The Phantom of the Opera and rehearsal pianist for at least three other Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, which I find funny given the “Andrew Lloyd Webber Chamber of —” sanction in Vineland.
Yo La Tengo: “The Crying of Lot G.” from And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out (2000)
Experimental indie band from Hoboken, N.J., founded in 1984. Except for the line “Maybe I’m out of my mind / Maybe I’m blocking out the truth,” this tender song does not appear to have much to do with the novel. Links: discogs.com | allmusic.com | Youtube | last.fm
Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf ♥
The German experimental musician and composer released several Pynchon-related works: The Tristero System (2002/2007) for ensemble; Hommage à Thomas Pynchon (2003–05) for ensemble, solo cello, and live electronics; and Pynchon Cycle (2013) which contains the four compositions “The Tristero,” “The Courier’s Tragedy” (for cello, 2001/03), “W.A.S.T.E.” (for oboe and live electronics, 2001–02/2004), and “D.E.A.T.H” (for eight loudspeakers, 2001–02/2004). Another composition of his is “W.A.S.T.E. 2” (for 8-track tape, 2001–02/2003). The artist’s statement about the music can be read on the website of the sheet music publisher Sikorski (scroll down for English). See also: allmusic.com | Listen to it on Youtube (with score): “W.A.S.T.E.” | “The Courier’s Tragedy”
A band called Trystero releaed a limited-edition album entitled A Scrapyard of Fallen Empires (2007) and another one (or an artist) with the same name appears on the sampler Electro-Organic Vol. 1 (2001).
The Librarians: “Too Fat To Frug” from The Pathetic Aesthetic (2002)
The lyrics don’t seem to be lifted from The Crying of Lot 49 but the Pynchon link is likely there as Damon Larson, one of the members of this Californian punk-pop combo, went on to form a garage punk band called The Paranoids in 2003. Links: allmusic.com | discogs.com | mp3va.com
A band named Trystero System appears on the 2003 electronic/jazz album Radio Daze by Mike Cooper.
From 2004–2016, there was a British tech-funk label called Lot49.
Chef Menteur: “W.A.S.T.E.” from We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire (2005) ♥
Experimental postrock/electronic/noise band from Louisiana, co-founded in 1998 by Alec Vance, formerly of Shinola (which, in the context, could be a reference to Gravity’s Rainbow Shit’n’Shinola episode). Links: Bandcamp | allmusic.com | discogs.com | mp3va.com
Anathallo/Javelins: “Entropy” (2005)
In 2005, the Michigan-based bands Anathallo and Javelins joined up for a split vinyl album on which each of them has a recording of “Entropy,” according to band members a reference not to the short story but to The Crying of Lot 49. Links: discogs.com | Wikipedia | Youtube
Tristero: “Song for Oedipa Maas” from A Miracle is Another World’s Intrusion into this One (2006)
The Texas-based band borrowed its name and the title of several songs and their EP from The Crying of Lot 49: “Song for Oedipa Maas 1 (W.A.S.T.E.),” “Song for Oedipa Maas 2,” and “Song for Oedipa Maas 4 (A Dry, Disconsolate Tune).” According to unsigned.com, “The six songs on the record are loosely based on Thomas Pynchon’s short novel The Crying of Lot 49.” The first song on the EP is named for Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. Links: myspace.com | unsigned.com | sonichits.com
Toktok: Yoyodyne (2006)
The German electronic band project Toktok recorded an EP called Yoyodyne. Their EP Babylon sports a valved horn, not muted but strongly reminiscent of the musted post horn. Links: discogs.com | Myspace | Youtube
Projekt A-KO: Yoyodyne (2009)
Yoyodyne appears to be the only album released by the Glaswagian indie rock band. One of the songs is entitled “Yoyodyne (Scintilla III).” Links: allmusic.com | discogs.com
Weatherbox: “Mind Things to W.A.S.T.E.” from The Cosmic Drama (2009).
According to allmusic.com, Weatherbox credited the likes of Karl Marx, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, and many others as “quotation authors.” The cover art is inspired by the Delta Fiction series of Vonnegut’s books, replacing the V (for Vonnegut) with a W (for Weatherbox). Links: allmusic.com | discogs.com | Youtube
New Rome Quartet: “San Narciso” from New Rome Quartet (2010)
Although the artwork looks like 1960s, New Rome Quartet only recorded their album in 2010. A trippy instrumental San Narciso reference with some funky riffs. Links: allmusic.com | Myspace | Bandcamp
Eugene S. Robinson & Philippe Petit: The Crying of Lot 69 (2011)
This dark, part spoken-word “six-part tale of inhumanity and death” (Richard Fontenoy) is supposed to be the first in a trilogy. Links: Bandcamp | discogs.com | Vimeo
Thank you, John K., for pointing this one out!
Faded Paper Figures: “San Narciso” from The Matter (2012)
The Los Angeles indie pop band, founded in 2007, refers to San Narciso, circuits, entropy, demons, among other themes and phrases of Pynchon’s. Links: allmusic.com | discogs.com | Youtube
Jaan Landheer: Tristero (2012)
Jaan Landheer is a California-based rock musician. Link: Bandcamp
Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack: Wrack …Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire (2014) ♥
The Californian oboist’s experimental album – “a musical phantasmagoria inspired by the novels of Thomas Pynchon” – contains the tracks “Overture,” “Part One [V.],” Part Two [The Crying of Lot 49],” and “Part Three [Gravity’s Rainbow].” Its cover sports a muted post horn. Links: Bandcamp | kylebruckmann.com | discogs.com | Youtube
Ziguri: “Yoyodyne,” from Kölsch-Schickert-Erdenreich (2014)
The song by Berlin trance/Kraut band Ziguri combines the lyrics of “Hymn” (65) and “Glee” (66), although not the the tunes of “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters” (i.e. Cornell’s alma mater) and “Aura Lee” as the novel indicates. Links: allmusic.com | discogs.com | Youtube
Adam Hendey: “The Victoria Fountain / The Mark of the Tristero / The Rolling Waves” from Forward (2016)
Forward was Californian multi-instrumentalist Adam Hendey’s debut album. Link: cdbaby.com
“Maxwell’s Demon” can be found on the internet as the name of a band, the name of different tunes (by artists such as Taran, Adultnapper, Jeff Toyne, John B., Antler, Six Finger Hand, Potsy, Forma, The Kendricks, Percy Jones, The E.Normus Trio, Dan Ashwood, Harald Svensson, DJs of Drum & Bass United, Ensemble Phoenix Basel, The Dangtrippers, Richard Einhorn, Tunnels, or Ingebrigt Håker Flaten) or the name of an album. I have not been able to ascertain which ones were inspired by the theoretical Maxwell’s Demon and which ones made a detour through The Crying of Lot 49. For an overview, see here.
2 “Entropy” and V.
3 The Crying of Lot 49 (this page)
4 Gravity’s Rainbow
5 Vineland, Mason & Dixon, Against the Day, and miscellaneous homages
6 Bibliography and Biography