Literary Mixtape | The Stand

Do you ever want a modern soundtrack to literary fiction? Yes? Me too. That’s the point of this feature. Whereas some people imagine cinematic montages in their head, I create a soundtrack.

Okay, so I actually do both, but I prefer to share my soundtrack. If you curious to see my cast list for Stephen King’s The Stand, go here.

The Stand

The Stand is arguably my favorite Stephen King novel. I only say arguably because The Stand must contend with Bag of Bones and IT – not an easy task. At a remote army base, the military is experimenting with biological weapons. One day, the clock turns red. Instead of following protocol, Charles Campion escapes and changes the world. Bringing a vicious strain of superflu from California to Texas, he infects 99% of the people he comes in contact with, who in turn infect 99% of people they come in contact with. It’s the 1% that inherit the world and its greed, jealousy, love, good, evil, and indifference. Pitting good against evil, the survivors must decide the fate of humanity. It’s epic in scope and near perfect in execution. If you feel like you’ve been looking for 1,200 page book, this is the one for you.

01. Blue Oyster Cult / Don’t Fear the Reaper

Included solely for its prominence in the fabulously awful The Stand miniseries.

02. Timber Timbre / Too Old To Die Young

The marriage had been the best time, and it had only lasted eighteen months. The womb of his young wife had borne a single dark and malignant child. That had been four years ago. Since, he thought of leaving Arnette, searching for something better, but small-town inertia held him – the low siren song of familiar places and familiar faces. He was well-liked in Arnette, and Vic Palfrey had once paid him the ultimate compliment of calling him “Old Time Tough”. (5)

03. Avenged Sevenfold / Shepherd of Fire

He moved on, not pausing, not slowing, but alive to the night. His eyes seemed almost frantic with the night’s possibilities. There was a Boy Scout knapsack on his back, old and battered. There was a dark hilarity in his face, and perhaps in his heart, too, you would think – and you would be right. It was a face of a hatefully happy man, a face that radiated a horribly handsome warmth, a face to make waterglasses shatter in the hands of tired truck-stop waitresses, to make small children crash their trikes into board fences and then run wailing to their mommies with stake shaped splinters sticking out of their knees. It was a face guaranteed to make barroom arguments over batting averages turn bloody. (181)

04. Emmylou Harris / Didn’t Leave Nothing but the Baby

Then she slept again, this time dreamlessly, and when she woke up the next morning she didn’t remember the dream at all. But when she thought of the baby in her belly, a feeling of fierce protectiveness swept her all at once, a feeling that perplexed her and frightened her a little with its depth and strength. (256)

05. The Rolling Stones / Sympathy for the Devil

“Don’t think unkindly of me,” the dark man said softly, looking down at him. “It’s just that we having to hurry now. The Carnival is opening early. They’re opening all the rides, and the Pitch-til-U-Win, and the Wheel of Furtune. And it’s my lucky night. I feel that. I feel that very strongly. So we have to hurry.” (272)

06. Bob Dylan / Absolutely Sweet Marie

For a moment he couldn’t go on; he felt impaled by hindreds of angry dead eyes, staring out at him from all these cars. A snatch of Dylan occurred to him: “I waited for you inside the frozen traffic…when you knew I had some other place to be…but where are you tonight, sweet Marie?”. (312)

07. Jimi Hendrix / All Along the Watchtower

He jogged at first, but it became necessary to run faster and faster to keep the thought behind him. He jogged and then trotted and then he ran and finally he sprinted… At quarter past eleven he suffered a massive coronoary thrombosis and fell down dead on the corner of Oak and Pine, near a fire plug. The expression on his face was very like gratitude. (354)

08. Johnny Cash / Folsom Prison Blues

He supposed he deserved to take a fall, do a little time. It wasn’t something you volunteered for, but when they had you cold they gave you the bullet and you ate it. (361)

09. The Clash / Should I Stay or Should I Go

But he didn’t want to see. No, he most definitely didn’t want to see. Yet he sat forward, head cocked, listening to the sound of dusty bootheel clocking away from him down the sidewalk of Main Street, Brattleboro, Vermont, moving west, fading until they were lost in the open hum of things.

Larry felt a sudden mad urge to stand up, letting the sleeping bag slither down around his ankles, to shout: Come back, whoever you are! I don’t care! Come back! But did he really want to issue such a blank check to Whoever? The bandshell would amplify his shout – his plea. And what if those bootheels actually did return, growing louder in a stillness where not even the crickets sang? (385)

10. Bowerbirds / Sweet Moment

They ate in an abandoned lunchroom and Stu found his gaze was drawn again and again to Fran’s face – her lively eyes, the small but determined set of her chin, the way that line formed between her eyes indexing her emotions. He liked the way she looked and talked; he even liked the way her dark hair was drawn back from her temples. And that was the beginning of his knowledge that he did want her, after all. (394)

11. Arctic Monkeys / Do I Wanna Know?

He put an arm around her. She started a little and felt her stiffen. Her hand and shoulders were warm. “I wish you wouldn’t,” she said uncomfortably.

“You don’t want me to?”

“No, I don’t.”

He drew his arm back, baffled. She did want him to, that was the thing; he could feel her wanting coming off her in mild but clearly receivable waves. (474)

12. Velvet Underground / I’m Waiting for the Man

She set off at eight o’clock in the morning, hoping to reach the Richardson farm by noon and sleep through the hottest part of the day… She wouldn’t arrive until after dark, and that made her think of her dream of the night before, but that man was still far away. Her company was much closer. (494)

13. The Cardigans / Lovefool

What about you, Frannie? What do you want?
If she had to exist in a world like this, she thought, with a biological clock inside her set to go off in six months, she wanted someone like Stu Redman to be her man – no, not someone like. She wanted him. There is was, stated with complete baldness. (527)

14. Radiohead / Wolf at the Door

Neither of them saw Harold, as shadowy and as silent as the dark man himself, standing in the bushes and looking at them. Neither of them knew that his eyes squinted down into small, deadly triangles… (570)

15. Metallica / King Nothing

His name is Legion. He is the king of nowhere.

I thought a classic King mixtape called for classic rock – not in its entirety, of course. At any rate, you have to admit there’s something special about a playlist that flows seamlessly from A7X to Emmylou Harris to Jimi Hendrix to The Cardigan to Metallica.

(…and it is seamless, right? Right.)

Would you add any songs to The Stand? Have you seen the so bad, it’s (almost) good miniseries? If you haven’t, it has Molly Ringwald to tempt you. Naturally, I own it on DVD – I’m not even embarrassed about that.

This post was done in honor of King’s March – get amongst it.

20 thoughts on “Literary Mixtape | The Stand

    1. Thank you!

      Everything you need to know about the book can be summed up by the playlist (kidding…sort of), so if that doesn’t convince you to give it a try sometime I don’t know what will. Because seriously, Don’t Fear the Reaper represents the book well.


  1. Since I really don’t know any of the songs here (but I love the quotes you paired with them) I went to your casting post and most of them are pretty spot on. (I know Matthew Lewis could do Harold Lauder, but I don’t know if I would like seeing him play him, haha)

    JGL as Nick, for the win. Please, someone make that happen.

    Jeremy Renner as Trashcan Man…hm. I’m assuming he’d have to be a lot less clean cut. I think he probably could do the part, too.


    1. I think Renner can do crazy well (as least based on The Town and Dahmer), which is why I picked him. No matter who plays Trash, it will involve a downfall of hygeine.

      I’d really love to see Olyphant be Stu Redman. Only in an ideal world I suppose (the same goes for Ben Affleck directing)…


    1. There are some horrific scenes in this one, but it’s more because of the plot than King being intentionally gory (i.e. if the flu wipes out 99% of the world there are going to be some decaying bodies around). That being said, I love this one. It’s extra fun for me because the book starts out in a town next to where I grew up and heads out to Boulder, CO (where I went to college) – all of the geographic connections were a bonus for me. This is one I’d recommend, it can be a bit scary, but I wouldn’t classify it as horror.


  2. Everything about this playlist is fantastic. I’m not cool enough to pay attention to new music, but you picked some killer classics. Love, love, love! (And I second Charleen. The only cure to Captain Tripps? More cowbell.)


    1. You are totally cool enough, if only because I know you are cooler than me (you have a theme song and a spirit animal). Besides, you don’t need to be cool to listen to music – that’s the best thing about it. Otherwise I’d clearly have never been let by a radio/iTunes/turntable (even the portable kind)/etc.

      As for the songs, The Stand just seems like it requires classics.


    1. It’s one of his best. I can never decide which I enjoy more (of his epic length novels): The Stand or IT. Both are amazing. I actually own both copies of The Stand, the pared down version originally released and the uncut version later released. It’s one case where I think the editing really did the novel a disservice.


  3. This is a fantastic post. Really, really clever and interesting. Of course I’m making my own mental list now.

    BTW, I agree with you on the top three Kings. I’d go with
    1) It
    2) The Stand
    3) Bag of Bones


    1. Thanks! I didn’t want to just review it, there are already so many opinions out there. I decided a playlist might be a nice twist, even if it ended up being only for my own enjoyment.

      I’m so glad to find another Bag of Bones fan, it’s sorely underrated by most King fans.


  4. I just finished The Stand and I LOVED it. I am looking to read another King novel- I have only read The Shining and Doctor Sleep. Any recommendations?


    1. The Stand is one of my favorites too! I really loved Bag of Bones and The Green Mile. If you might be interested in short stories/novellas, Different Seasons is excellent (and well known – it spawned the movies Stand By Me, Apt Pupil, Shawshank Redemption…).


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