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8 Moments When Music and Middle-Earth Collided

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Peter Jackson's latest J.R.R. Tolkein-based film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, hits theaters today. But Tolkein's books haven't just inspired films. Here's a look back at a few Hobbit- and Lord of the Rings-inspired musical moments.

1. The Hippies Fall Hard For Hobbits

Previously available only as expensive hardcovers, the first paperback editions of The Lord of the Rings in the mid-1960s led to an explosion in popularity for the series. It was particularly embraced by the countercultural crowd; the motto “Frodo Lives!” eventually appeared on buttons, bumper stickers, and t-shirts of the era.

It didn’t take long for the series’ influence to permeate psychedelic music, as Tolkien-themed songs and bands popped up throughout the next decade. Journeyman singer/songwriter Jimmy Curtiss formed a sunshine pop group called The Hobbits, who released their debut album, Down to Middle Earth, in 1967; the psychedelic group Gandalf formed in New York City the same year.

Fuzz-propelled rockers Armageddon dramatized Gandalf and Bilbo’s first meeting in the lyrics to “Bilbo Baggins,” from their 1969 self-titled debut. San Francisco’s bafflingly-named Neighb’rhood Childr’n closed their lone album with a song called “Hobbit’s Dream.” Tom Rapp, the writer behind psych-folksters Pearls Before Swine, was so inspired by Tolkien’s work that he gave him a songwriting credit on the band’s 1968 track, “Ring Thing,” which sets much of Tolkien’s “The One Ring” poem over a far-out psychedelic backing.  

In 1972, folk singer Chris Wilson released a record under the name Gandalf the Grey, titled The Grey Wizard Am I. The album’s lyrics were full of Tolkien references—the title track vaguely summarizes The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings—but its grandest homage is the (absolutely amazing) cover photo, featuring Wilson in full wizard garb.

2. The Beatles’ Movie Adaptation Which Never Was

John Lennon was reputed to be a big fan of The Lord of the Rings. So much so, in fact, that he once tried to buy the film rights to the series, but Tolkien balked at the idea of a big screen adaptation starring The Beatles.

Although it’s hard to imagine how their version might have turned out, you have to admit the casting choices were pretty spectacular: Paul was to star as Frodo, George was to play Gandalf, Ringo would be Samwise, and John? Gollum.

3. Leonard Nimoy Hams Up The Hobbit For An ABC Variety Show

During the original Star Trek series’ three season run in the late 1960s, actor Leonard Nimoy released two novelty albums for Dot Records. (The records featured songs where the TV star performed in-character as his wildly popular Mister Spock.) The second of these albums, Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy, featured a song titled “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins,” composed by writer Charles Grean and inspired by Tolkien’s classic. He performed the song with a gaggle of groovy, pointy-eared dancers on a 1967 episode of Malibu U, and the video is still one of the greatest things you’ll find on YouTube.

4. Led Zeppelin Takes Tolkien to the Top of the Charts

Led Zeppelin is the band most famously known to be fans of Tolkien’s work, and they’re easily the biggest-selling. Several of their chart-topping albums contained allusions to Middle-earth. For example, the song “Ramble On” name-drops Mordor and Gollum, “Misty Mountain Hop” was titled after the location of the same name from The Hobbit, and “The Battle of Evermore” referenced a dark lord, ring wraiths, and magic runes written in gold.  

Led Zeppelin’s love for all things Lord of the Rings wasn’t limited to their music: Robert Plant’s dog, which he sang about in the song “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp,” was named Strider, after Aragorn’s nickname.

5. One Savvy Swede Goes Conceptual

In 1970, Swedish keyboardist Bo Hansson had hit a lull in his career. He’d toured in support of The Rolling Stones and even jammed with Jimi Hendrix—the famous guitarist recorded a version of “Tax Free,” which Hansson had written—but his latest band had broken up, leaving him in search of a new direction to take his career.

Inspired by his girlfriend’s copy of The Lord of the Rings, Hansson retreated to a summer house on an island off the coast of Stockholm and, with the help of a few friends, recorded a full instrumental concept album based on Tolkien’s trilogy. Released in Hansson’s native country in 1970 as Sagan om ringen—the title of the series’ Swedish translation—and abroad in 1972 as Music Inspired By Lord of the Rings, it was a major hit for the keyboardist, even earning gold record status in the U.K. and Australia. Hansson tried to repeat the literary formula in 1977 with Music Inspired by Watership Down, but that album was a commercial flop.

6. Prog Rockers Pick Up The Tolkien Torch

Sweden wasn’t the only country where progressive rockers recorded Tolkien tributes. By the early 1970s, The Lord of the Rings had found a new wave of musically-inclined fans among several of the genre’s most famous groups in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

Rush wrote the surprisingly gentle “Rivendell” for their 1975 album, Fly By Night. Styx included “Lords of the Ring” on their 1978 classic, Pieces of Eight, while a pre-Phil Collins Genesis wrote a song about Gollum (“Stagnation”) for 1970’s Trespass. Camel’s second record included a nine-minute composition called “Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider,” and Argent wrote an almost eight-minute track called “Lothlorien” for 1971’s Ring of Hands.

7. Heavy Metal Bands Make Mordor Their Muse

As the ‘70s gave way to the ‘80s, heavy metal acts were the next musical movement to embrace Tolkien’s world of elves and orcs en masse. California’s Cirith Ungol took their name from the spider Shelob’s lair, while Germany’s Attacker titled their first album Battle At Helm’s Deep. In more recent decades, bands such as Summoning (Austria) and Battlelore (Finland) have formed and filled their discographies with Tolkien-themed songs and records.

The Lord of the Rings’ influence was particularly strong among Scandinavian metal acts. Sweden’s Amon Amarth took their name from an Elvish title for Mount Doom, while Norway’s Gorgoroth are named after an area of Mordor. The lead singer of Norwegian black metal unit Dimmu Borgir takes his stage name, Shagrath, from an orc army commander, while Burzum—a notorious recording project from Norwegian black metal’s early years—is a word meaning “darkness” in The Black Speech, the language spoken by Sauron’s servants.

Metal’s most intensive tribute to Tolkien comes from Germany’s Blind Guardian. Their full 1998 concept album, Nightfall in Middle-Earth, is a power-metal take on Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.

8. New Zealand Produces The Definitive Film Adaptation (And The Best Musical Parody)

It was a New Zealand director who finally produced a complete and generally faithful filmic adaptation of The Lord of the Rings; it was a duo from the same small island nation who would create its definitive musical parody.

Jermaine Clement and Bret Mckenzie—the pair behind the Grammy Award-winning musical comedy group Flight of the Conchords—introduced their tune, “Frodo,” during live performance as a rejected theme song for Peter Jackson’s film trilogy. The parody acknowledged Tolkien’s influence on both psychedelic folk and metal by borrowing from each musical style, and even tossed in some hip-hop for good measure. The song was later included in an episode of their HBO series.

The song wasn’t Flight of the Conchords’ first venture into Middle-earth; McKenzie played an elf in the first and third installments of Jackson’s trilogy.

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11 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald
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F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a lot of famous lines, from musings on failure in Tender is the Night to “so we beat on, boats against the current” from The Great Gatsby. Yet even with a seemingly never-ending well of words and beautiful quotations, many popular idioms and phrases are wrongly attributed to the famous Jazz Age author, who was born on this day in 1896. Here are 11 popular phrases that are often misattributed to Fitzgerald. (You may need to update your Pinterest boards.)

1. “WRITE DRUNK, EDIT SOBER.”

This quote is often attributed to either Fitzgerald or his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, who died in 1961. There is no evidence in the collected works of either writer to support that attribution; the idea was first associated with Fitzgerald in a 1996 Associated Press story, and later in Stephen Fry’s memoir More Fool Me. In actuality, humorist Peter De Vries coined an early version of the phrase in a 1964 novel titled Reuben, Reuben.

2. “FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE OR, IN MY CASE, TOO EARLY TO BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE.”

It’s easy to see where the mistake could be made regarding this quote: Fitzgerald wrote the short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 1922 for Collier's Magazine, and it was adapted into a movie of the same name, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in 2008. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay, in which that quotation appears.

3. “OUR LIVES ARE DEFINED BY OPPORTUNITIES, EVEN THE ONES WE MISS.”

This is a similar case to the previous quotation; this quote is attributed to Benjamin Button’s character in the film adaptation. It’s found in the script, but not in the original short story.

4. “YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHY STORMS ARE NAMED AFTER PEOPLE.”

There is no evidence that Fitzgerald penned this line in any of his known works. In this Pinterest pin, it is attributed to his novel The Beautiful and Damned. However, nothing like that appears in the book; additionally, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Association, although there were a few storms named after saints, and an Australian meteorologist was giving storms names in the 19th century, the practice didn’t become widespread until after 1941. Fitzgerald died in 1940.

5. “A SENTIMENTAL PERSON THINKS THINGS WILL LAST. A ROMANTIC PERSON HAS A DESPERATE CONFIDENCE THAT THEY WON’T.”

This exact quote does not appear in Fitzgerald’s work—though a version of it does, in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise:

“No, I’m romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t. Sentiment is emotional.” The incorrect version is widely circulated and requoted.

6. “IT’S A FUNNY THING ABOUT COMING HOME. NOTHING CHANGES. EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME, FEELS THE SAME, EVEN SMELLS THE SAME. YOU REALIZE WHAT’S CHANGED IS YOU.”

This quote also appears in the 2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button script, but not in the original short story.

7. “GREAT BOOKS WRITE THEMSELVES; ONLY BAD BOOKS HAVE TO BE WRITTEN.”

There is no evidence of this quote in any of Fitzgerald’s writings; it mostly seems to circulate on websites like qotd.org, quotefancy.com and azquotes.com with no clarification as to where it originated.

8. “SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, BUT NOT LIKE THOSE GIRLS IN THE MAGAZINES. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE WAY SHE THOUGHT. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE SPARKLE IN HER EYES WHEN SHE TALKED ABOUT SOMETHING SHE LOVED. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR HER ABILITY TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE SMILE, EVEN IF SHE WAS SAD. NO, SHE WASN’T BEAUTIFUL FOR SOMETHING AS TEMPORARY AS HER LOOKS. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, DEEP DOWN TO HER SOUL.”

This quote may have originated in a memoir/advice book published in 2011 by Natalie Newman titled Butterflies and Bullshit, where it appears in its entirety. It was attributed to Fitzgerald in a January 2015 Thought Catalog article, and was quoted as written by an unknown source in Hello, Beauty Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Elisa Morgan, published in September 2015. However, there’s no evidence that Fitzgerald said or wrote anything like it.

9. “AND IN THE END, WE WERE ALL JUST HUMANS, DRUNK ON THE IDEA THAT LOVE, ONLY LOVE, COULD HEAL OUR BROKENNESS.”

Christopher Poindexter, the successful Instagram poet, wrote this as part of a cycle of poems called “the blooming of madness” in 2013. After a Twitter account called @SirJayGatsby tweeted the phrase with no attribution, it went viral as being attributed to Fitzgerald. Poindexter has addressed its origin on several occasions.

10. “YOU NEED CHAOS IN YOUR SOUL TO GIVE BIRTH TO A DANCING STAR.”

This poetic phrase is actually derived from the work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, just four years after Fitzgerald was born in 1896. In his book Thus Spake ZarathustraNietzsche wrote the phrase, “One must have chaos within to enable one to give birth to a dancing star.” Over time, it’s been truncated and modernized into the currently popular version, which was included in the 2009 book You Majored in What?: Designing Your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks.

11. “FOR THE GIRLS WITH MESSY HAIR AND THIRSTY HEARTS.”

This quote is the dedication in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s book Tiger Lily, a reimagining of the classic story of Peter Pan. While it is often attributed to Anderson, many Tumblr pages and online posts cite Fitzgerald as its author.

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13 Smart Facts About The Big Bang Theory
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The Big Bang Theory, which has held the title of television's most popular comedy for several years now, and will return for its 11th season on Monday, September 25th. In the meantime, geek out with these facts about the long-running cerebral comedy on the 10th anniversary of its premiere.

1. THE SHOW WASN’T PITCHED IN A TRADITIONAL WAY.

Instead of writing up a premise—which includes outlines of the characters and the long-term vision for the show—and pitching it to CBS, co-creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady revealed at PaleyFest in 2009 that for their pitch, they wrote a complete script, hired actors, and, as Lorre explained, “put on a show” for CBS president Les Moonves. Lorre found the experience to be “crazy,” but it obviously worked.

2. IT TOOK TWO PILOTS FOR THE SHOW TO GET PICKED UP TO SERIES.

The show filmed two different pilots, because CBS didn't like the first one but felt the show had potential. The first pilot began with a different theme song and featured Sheldon, Leonard, and two female characters, including a different actress playing what would become the Penny role. Chuck Lorre thought the initial pilot “sucked” but is open to having the unaired pilot included as part of a DVD.

3. JIM PARSONS THOUGHT HE WAS AUDITIONING FOR A GAME SHOW.

Amy and Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory.
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When Jim Parsons’s agent called and said Chuck Lorre wanted him to audition for a pilot, Parsons misunderstood. “I did not know Chuck Lorre at the time,” Parsons told David Letterman in 2014. “I thought he was talking about Chuck Woolery. I thought, why are they so excited about it? We should see what the man has to offer before we’re like, ‘It’s a new Chuck Woolery pilot!'"

4. ED ROBERTSON OF THE BARENAKED LADIES HESITATED TO WRITE THE THEME SONG.

As the story goes, Lorre and Prady went to a Barenaked Ladies concert and were impressed that lead singer Ed Robertson sang a song on cosmological theory, so they tapped him to write the series' theme song, called “The History of Everything." In 2013, Robertson told CBS News that he’d previously written some songs for TV and films only to have his work rejected, so he was initially reluctant to take on the project.

“I was like, look, how many other people have you asked to write this? I’m at my cottage, I got a couple of weeks off right now and if you’ve asked Counting Crows and Jack Johnson and all these other people to write it, then I kinda don’t want to waste my time on it,” Robertson told them. Lorre and Prady told Robertson he was their only choice, so Robertson agreed to come on board. The first version was 32 seconds long but Robertson had to trim it down to 15 seconds. The original version was also acoustic, which Lorre loved, but Robertson insisted that his bandmates be on the track, and Lorre loved that one even more.

5. SHELDON PROBABLY DOESN’T HAVE ASPERGER’S.

Because of Sheldon’s anti-social nature, viewers have often assumed that Sheldon has Asperger's syndrome. But Prady has stated that, "We write the character as the character. A lot of people see various things in him and make the connections. Our feeling is that Sheldon's mother never got a diagnosis, so we don't have one.”

Parsons himself isn’t totally sure, though. “Asperger’s came up as a question within the first few episodes. I got asked about it by a reporter, and I had heard of it, but I didn’t know what it was, specifically,” he told Adweek in 2014. “So I asked the writers—I said, ‘They’re asking me if Sheldon has Asperger’s’ and they were like, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘OK.’ And I went back and I said, ‘No.’ And then I read some about it and I went, OK, well, if the writers say he doesn’t, then he doesn’t, but he certainly shares some qualities with those who do. I like the way it’s handled ... This is who this person is; he’s just another human.”

6. KUNAL NAYYAR GOT HIRED BECAUSE HE WAS “CHARMING."

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In reminiscing about the early days, Prady explained to Buzzy Mag how Raj came to be: “When we were casting for that part, we were casting for an international member of the ensemble, [because] if you go into the science department at a university, it’s not [just] Americans,” Prady said. “It’s one of the most international kinds of communities. So we saw foreign-born people. And so we saw people who were Korean and Korean-American and Latino. And then Kunal came in and it was like Jim [Parsons]—it was just Person Number Eight on a day of Twenty-Seven people, and he was charming.”

7. AMY FARRAH FOWLER WAS MADE A NEUROSCIENTIST ON PURPOSE.

Mayim Bialik, who in real life has a PhD in neuroscience, told Variety how Amy Farrah Fowler’s profession came to be. “They didn’t have a profession for my character when I came on in the finale of season three,” she says. “In season four, Bill Prady said they’d make her what I am so I could fix things (in the script) if they were wrong. It’s neat to know what things mean. But most of the time, I don’t have to use it.”

8. ASTROPARTICLE PHYSICIST/SCIENCE CONSULTANT DAVID SALTZBERG ONCE GOT A JOKE ON THE AIR.

The Big Bang Theory has had David Saltzberg on retainer since the beginning of the series. Every week he attends the tapings and offers up corrections and ensures the white boards used in the scenes are accurate. During episode nine of the first season, Saltzberg wrote a joke for Sheldon, who has a fight with another scientist. Penny asks Sheldon about the misunderstanding and Sheldon replies, “A little misunderstanding? Galileo and the Pope had a little misunderstanding!”

Even though Saltzberg teaches at UCLA and publishes papers, he thinks his work on The Big Bang Theory is more impactful. “This has a lot more impact than anything I will ever do,” he told NPR. “It’s hard to fathom, when you think about 20 million viewers on the first showing—and that doesn't include other countries and reruns. I’m happy if a paper I write gets read by a dozen people.”

9. WIL WHEATON GOT THE “EVIL WIL WHEATON” GIG THROUGH TWITTER.

Wil Wheaton and Jim Parsons in a scene from The Big Bang Theory.
Sonja Flemming - © 2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc

Wil Wheaton, who plays a “delightfully evil version” of himself on the show, tweeted about The Big Bang Theory. Wheaton told Larry King, “I was talking on Twitter about how much I loved the show and how I thought it was really funny.” Executive producer Steven Molaro—who will be taking on the same role in the Young Sheldon prequel, which also premieres Monday night—saw the tweet and told Wheaton to let him know if he wanted to come to a taping. A few days later Wheaton received an email from Bill Prady’s assistant about appearing on the show. “I just thought the email was a joke from one of my friends, so I just ignored it,” Wheaton said.

When Wheaton realized that the email was legit he phoned up Prady, who explained they wanted a nemesis for Sheldon. “It’s always more fun to be the villain,” Wheaton said. Even though the character has evolved into Sheldon’s ally, Wheaton said, “I still call him Evil Wil Wheaton.”

10. CHUCK LORRE THOUGHT THE SHOW AIRING AT 8 P.M. WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE END.

The show aired a handful of episodes in the fall of 2007, but a Writers Guild strike halted production until the following year. When the show returned in March, it had an earlier time slot. During a 2009 Comic-Con panel with the show’s cast and producers, the moderator asked Lorre about how CBS once again changed the time slot, this time from Mondays at 8 p.m. to Mondays at 9:30 p.m. “You guys followed us when they put us on at 8 and that is what kept us alive,” Lorre replied. "We did eight shows before the strike took us out in our first season. When the strike was over, CBS put us on at 8 p.m. and we thought that might be the end of it. You followed us and kept us alive and that was when we got the two-year pickup when we did well at 8.” The show eventually returned to the Mondays at 8 p.m. slot.

11. PARSONS ATTRIBUTES THE SHOW'S SUCCESS TO ITS LACK OF CHARACTER ARCS.

In a 2014 interview with New York Magazine, Parsons gave his theory (if you will) on why The Big Bang Theory attracts more than 20 million viewers per week—a number unheard of since the Friends-era sitcom reign. “There’s not anything to keep up with,” he said. “You don’t go, ‘I didn’t see the first three seasons, and now they’re off with prostitutes, and they no longer work in the Mafia, and I don’t understand what happened.’ People have so many choices on TV now, so no one’s asking for you to marry us. You can enjoy our show without a weekly appointment.”

12. A NEW GENUS OF JELLYFISH IS NAMED BAZINGA.

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In 2011, a photographer spotted the unnamed grape-sized rhizostome in Australia’s Brunswick River, snapped a photo of it, and sent the photo to marine biologist Lisa-ann Gershwin. In 2013, she named the jellyfish and published a paper on it for the Queensland Museum. In her findings she called it “a new genus and species of the rhizostome jellyfish, which cannot be placed in any known family or suborder.” She told The Huffington Post that it’s the first time in more than 100 years that a new sub-order of jellyfish had been discovered. For now, it’s the only member of the genus Bazinga, the family Bazingidae, and the sub-order Ptychophorae. Sheldon’s catchphrase also inspired the naming of a new bee species in 2013.

13. THE CAST MEMBERS ARE SOME OF THE WORLD’S HIGHEST PAID TV ACTORS.

In August 2017, Variety released a list of television's highest paid actors, and the main cast members of The Big Bang Theory—Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar—came out on top for comedy, earning an average of $900,000 per episode.

BONUS FACT: WE'RE ON THE COFFEE TABLE!

Image credit: Wil Wheaton

In 2010, Wil Wheaton shared this close-up of the coffee table in Sheldon and Leonard's apartment. "I saw a lot of things that could have been on my own coffee table," he wrote, "so I decided to grab a picture."

Here's one from 2014:

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