5 Weirdest Musical Trips with ‘Alice in Wonderland’
SPIN.com takes you down the rabbit hole with Tom Waits, Stevie Nicks, Grace Slick, and others.
Full of grotesque characters and sinister imagery, Lewis Carroll’s novella Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seems like a perfect match for the phantasmagorical vision of director Tim Burton, whose cinematic interpretation hits theaters March 5. But the tale of the lost little girl has long been a favorite for musicians with a taste for the eerie.
Here’s a timeline of Alice’s weirdest trips down the musical rabbit hole.
“White Rabbit,” Jefferson Airplane (1967)
The lyrics-and quivering bolero rhythm-that gird this downer psych classic draw deeply from the hookah-smoking and mushroom-gobbling so widespread in Wonderland, though Grace Slick misquotes the Dormouse, who never actually says, “Feed your head.”
Key creepy line: “One pill makes you larger / And one pill makes you small / And the ones that mother gives you / Don’t do anything at all.”
“Alice,” the Sisters of Mercy (1983)
What if Alice was an addict? These seminal Brit goth-rockers addressed that question in appropriately dour fashion on this spiky single, which features Andrew Eldritch vampirically crooning about Alice’s “tranq” jones over moaning guitars.
Key creepy line: “She needs you like she needs her pills / To tell her that the world’s okay.”
“Alice,” Stevie Nicks (1989)
Given Nicks’ well-documented fascination with enchanting feminine esoterica-not to mention mood-altering substances-it’s no shock that this misty sax-and-synth slow-burner finds the singer desperate to make a connection with the girl on the other side of the mirror.
Key creepy line: “She used to know who she was / And she prays for the world she comes from / Alice, call my name.”
“Alice,” Tom Waits (2002)
Waits’ smoky, seamy ballad goes beyond the page by taking Carroll’s, um, unconventional real-life relationship with 13-year-old Alice Liddell for inspiration. As you might expect, things end badly.
Key creepy line: “A secret kiss / Brings madness with the bliss / And I will think of this / When I’m dead in my grave.”
“Through the Looking Glass,” Peter Doherty (2009)
Maybe Alice’s parents should’ve sprung for a baby sitter. On this uncomfortably jaunty B-side, rock’s own Mad Hatter gets a little too up close and personal with the song’s subject. What would Carroll think? Actually, we’d rather not know.
Key creepy line: “Through the looking glass / And between your thighs / And it’s written no small surprise / Let’s straight down the rabbit hole.”