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Music Through the Looking Glass

written by: on August 19, 2014

Three days before the inaugural Jabberwocky Festival was to take place in London last weekend, it was unceremoniously cancelled without notice to ticketholders and performers. Put together by promoter All Tomorrow’s Parties in collaboration with Pitchfork and Primavera Sound, the festival lineup included a number of the indie rock “who’s who,” including Neutral Milk Hotel, James Blake, Caribou, Sun Kil Moon, Panda Bear, Perfect Pussy, and many others.

While many ticket buyers were wondering how to get their money back, we at Pop ’stache, in our perpetual search for meaning, wondered if everyone knew what a Jabberwocky was. After all, not everyone majored in English Literature.

“Jabberwocky” was a “nonsense poem” included in Lewis Carroll’s sequel to Alice In Wonderland, Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass. But even if you knew that, we’re betting you didn’t realize how pervasively influential Carroll’s “nonsense” has become. Consider these eight reflections, if you will, of how rockers have gone through Carroll’s “looking glass.”

1. The Beatles

None other than The Beatles featured Lewis Carroll’s cut-out on the cover of their Sgt. Pepper’s album, and Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and The Carpenter” inspired John Lennon to write “I Am the Walrus.”

2. Tom Petty

Tom Petty played the part of the Mad Hatter (and producer Dave Stewart played the Caterpillar) in his video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” while Fun. and Panic! at the Disco’s collaboration “C’mon” featured the former’s lead singer, Nate Ruess, as the Mad Hatter and the latter’s lead singer, Brandon Urie, as Alice.

3. Jefferson Airplane

“White Rabbit” from The Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow mentions not only the title character, but Alice, the Dormouse, the White Knight, the Red Queen and the hookah-smoking Caterpillar, and uses the story as a metaphor for the hallucinatory effects of psychedelic drugs.

4. Aerosmith

Aerosmith’s “Sunshine,” from their 2001 album Just Push Play, includes allusions to Carroll’s characters, and the video features lead singer Steven Tyler trying to protect Alice as she journeys through the woods of Wonderland.

5. Ambrosia

Some artists have excerpted or put the whole of “Jabberwocky” the poem to music, including Ambrosia on “Mama Frog” (starting at 2:35), Donovan on H.M.S. Donovan, and, naturally, The Muppets.

6. The Sisters of Mercy

As if “White Rabbit” weren’t dark and sinister enough, there have been many “Gothic” interpretations, too—The Sisters Of Mercy had a hit single with “Alice”; Siouxsie and the Banshees named their label Wonderland Records, then titled one of their albums Through The Looking Glass; and Screaming Trees featured a disturbing dystopian view of the Alice In Wonderland story on the cover of Uncle Anesthesia, which featured a song called “Alice Said.”

7. Malice In Wonderland

Malice In Wonderland is the name of a Norwegian hard rock band, and also the name of albums by artists as disparate as Nazareth, Snoop Dogg, Paice Ashton Lord, and Goldie.

8. Pink Floyd

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that psychedelic ’60s songsmiths and noise-rock auteurs Pink Floyd drew inspiration from the works of Lewis Carroll. “Country Song” references the Red Queen, White King, and a smiling cat, and some fans rumor that The Wall album was written to synchronize with the Disney adaptation of Alice In Wonderland.