by Steve Bivans
Ok, that was a bit long and self-indulgent for a title, I’ll admit, but it’s all about the search engines these days. So, if you’re a big Tolkien geek, like me, then you love having some mood music while you’re reading through The Lord of the Rings for the 8th or 9th time, or The Hobbit, or The Silmarillian, or The Children of Hurin—which kicks ass by the way. If so, then you should definitely check out my Spotify Tolkien Playlist, “Tolkien Inspired Tunes.” Just search for that and you’ll see it under my name. It’s perfect to set the mood for a day of reading, or if you’re throwing a Hobbit eleventieth Birthday Bash, or South Farthing BBQ party.
I remember the first time I ever read LOTR. I was about 26—yeah I got started late—and I would sit in my crappy apartment on Front Street in New Bern, NC, with a fan blowing on me since we had no A/C, and New Bern is basically a swamp, with some streets. I was instantly sucked in to Middle Earth. I’ve never actually come back. A part of me has always been somewhere in the Old Forest, or riding across the Pelennor with Theoden and the Rohirrim.
Anyway, so back in those days, there was no Spotify. There was no INTERNET! Most people didn’t even own a computer! Why would you? As it turned out, my brother and room-mate at the time, Tim, did own an old Atari computer I think, but there was no ‘windows’ on it. It was next to useless. I think it’s entire hard drive capacity was like 70K, yes, I said K, as in thousand bites, not Giga, not even Mega, Kila, not to be confused with Kili, who is a Dwarf in The Hobbit. So, instead of listening to free music on Spotify or Pandora back in those days, you had to have this thing called a CD player that played these little plastic discs called CDs. Of course these were an upgrade from the recently abandoned Cassette Tape format, which was several steps above its predecessor, the 8 Track tape, which was many steps DOWN from a thing called a RECORD, or Album, which was also a spinning disc thing, played on a turntable. But Tim and I, being hip bachelors in the 90s,—this was about 1991 I think—owned a small, crappy CD player, and a growing collection of the new plastic discs.
One of those discs was an album by a 70s band named Uriah Heep, entitled, Wizards and Demons. It was this album that I played over and over and over and over while I read LOTR the first time. As a result, I never hear Uriah Heep without thinking about LOTR, so that’s why they are included in my list, plus they have songs about wizards. Here are some others, some obvious picks, like the soundtracks from the Peter Jackson movies, and others not so obvious, but still kicking ass like Dwarves with axes on a Sunday afternoon in Moria. I’ve been waiting to write this post for sometime, because there was one obvious band missing from the list, Led Zeppelin, who thankfully have joined the ranks of Spotify, so the list can be completed. However, if you have suggestions of tunes to add, please send them to me, via my email at Call Me Khan, or on Spotify! I won’t promise I’ll put it on the list, but if I like it, I will.
• Galadhrim: This band does a pretty good job of capturing the mood I think. I found them like most people probably do: by searching for Tolkien on Spotify.
• Jaime Christopherson, Battle for Middle Earth: These tunes are from the video game soundtrack. I confess, I have not played this game, but the tunes are epic enough for my list.
• Jethro Tull: While none of these tunes from the classic rock-folk pied piper, Ian Anderson, is specifically about Middle Earth, they do have themes that are compatible with the mood. My favorites are ‘Broadsword’ and ‘Cold Wind to Valhalla’, the latter of which seems to be very ‘Gimli’ to me. Tolkien’s dwarves are very Viking-esqe, which is why I love them so much. The other tunes from Tull have the right kind of ‘I’m in the woods’ sound and mood, fitting of a walk through the Old Forest.
• Marc Gunn: Gunn has an entire album dedicated to hobbits, ‘Don’t Go Drinking with Hobbits,’ with some fun tunes in it. I have chosen a few. My favorite is ‘Prancing Pony.’ It has the feel of an Irish Pub, which is the feel one needs if you’re going to break the rule, and go drinking with hobbits, something I highly recommend.
• Rush, ‘Rivendell’: This old tune by the Canadian power trio, is very laid back and cool, a departure from their usual driving rock style.
• Styx, ‘Lords of the Ring’: This is one of the first songs I remember having a connection to LOTR. It’s from their 1978 album, ‘Pieces of Eight,’ which was always one of my favorite rock albums.
• The Tolkien Ensemble: This is a collection of orchestral music, along with recitations and singing from various performers, including Christopher Lee, who reads the poem of the Nine Rings. He gets it right, as only Dracula can.
• Led Zeppelin: What can anyone say about the Gods of Rock that hasn’t already been said. Tunes like ‘Battle of Evermore,’ ‘Ramble On,’ ‘Misty Mountain Hop,’ capture the essence of Tolkien for me, even if they only barely mention or suggest a passing link to Tolkien’s stories. They give you just enough to let you know where their minds were when they wrote them: somewhere, wandering in Middle Earth, and who doesn’t want to join them?
I hope you enjoy these tunes while pipe smoke kisses the ceiling beams, and while dragons soar above your village. Well, maybe more of the former, and less of the latter? It’s also the perfect mix to listen to as you read my upcoming book, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth! Make sure to subscribe to my blog so you’ll get all the special offers, and the news when I go live with the book on Kickstarter soon!