A Musical Overview of Bret Easton Ellis’ Oeuvre


Though cross-pollination between books and music is an age-old trend, cult novelist Bret Easton Ellis fills his books with more music references than anyone else we can think of, and his works are inextricably woven into the pop culture they portray — partially because it seems like every time Ellis makes a music reference in a novel, a band is making an Ellis reference in a song. Today is Ellis’ birthday, and to celebrate, we’ve put together a master list of music mentioned throughout his entire oeuvre, complete with streaming playlists so you can fill your day with a BEE soundtrack. We had some help from the official source, but finding that insufficient, went through ourselves and picked out some more of our favorite musical moments and shout-outs throughout the novels. Of course we haven’t managed to scrape together every last reference, but you need a hump day project, right? Click through to listen to the music from Bret Easton Ellis’ entire oeuvre, and have yourself a very ’80s Wednesday.

Less Than Zero (1985)

The bible of disaffected youth, this novel (like so many of Ellis’ works) is full of laconic ’80s song references — it’s even named after an Elvis Costello song. Bret Easton Ellis never gets sick of Elvis Costello. And why would he?

“New Kid In Town” — The Eagles “Crimson & Clover” — Joan Jett & The Blackhearts “In The Sun” — Blondie “I Love L.A.” — Randy Newman “Hungry Like A Wolf” — Duran Duran “Somebody Got Murdered” — The Clash “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” — Culture Club “Straight Into Darkness” — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “LA Woman” — The Doors “Los Angeles” — X “Earthquake Song” — The Little Girls “Sex and Dying in High Society” — X “Stairway to Heaven” — Led Zeppelin

B-side: “Less Than Zero” –- Elvis Costello “Song For Clay” — Bloc Party

Stream the playlist here.

The Rules of Attraction (1987)

A little sexier and less abjectly forlorn than Less Than Zero, the characters in The Rules of Attraction are just as spoiled and just as embroiled in love triangles, but a little older and more complex. Thus: David Bowie!

“Burning Down The House” — Talking Heads “Walk Away Renée” — The Left Banke “Revolution” — Thompson Twins “Every Breath You Take” — The Police “Town Called Malice” — The Jam “The Message” — Grandmaster Flash “Funeral for a Friend” — Elton John “Dancing With Myself” — Billy Idol “Your Silent Face” — New Order “The Boys Of Summer” — Don Henley “The Unforgettable Fire” — U2 “Venus in Furs” — The Velvet Underground “The Weakness in Me” — Joan Armatrading “William, It Was Really Nothing” — The Smiths “Love Of The Common People” — Paul Young “Unsatisfied” — The Replacements “Ashes To Ashes” — David Bowie “And She Was” — Talking Heads “Born In The USA” — Bruce Springsteen “Love Will Tear Us Apart” — Joy Division

Stream the playlist here.

American Psycho (1991)

The music in this book is all about Genesis, Whitney Houston, and of course, Huey Lewis & the News. And since Bateman’s so obsessive, they all come up over and over and over again. Every song is the best song! I have to return some videotapes.

“Hip to be Square” — Huey Lewis & The News “New Sensation” — INXS “Faith” — George Michael “The Confrontation” — Les Misérables (Original London Cast) “Love is a Contact Sport” — Whitney Houston “Anything She Does” — Genesis “Jacob’s Ladder” — Huey Lewis & The News “Party All the Time” — Eddie Murphy “I Feel Free” — Belinda Carlisle “Brilliant Disguise” — Bruce Springsteen “Devil Inside” — INXS “Greatest Love Of All” — Whitney Houston “The Heart Of Rock & Roll” — Huey Lewis & The News “Sussudio” — Phil Collins “In Too Deep” — Genesis “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” — Whitney Houston “Like A Prayer” — Madonna “I Want A New Drug” — Huey Lewis & The News “Follow You Follow Me” — Genesis “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” — Belinda Carlisle

B-side: “Patrick Bateman” — Manic Street Preachers

Stream the playlist here.

The Informers (1994)

Really a collection of linked short stories, The Informers is probably the least acclaimed Ellis work, and in our eyes, the music is accordingly tepid. It lacks the aching focus of the early soundtracks, and ends up all over the place.

“Church Of The Poisoned Mind” ��� Culture Club “Zig Zag Wanderer” — Captain Beefheart “Suddenly Last Summer” — The Motels “Head Over Heels” — The Go–Gos “Jessie’s Girl” — Rick Springfield “Our Lips Are Sealed” — Fun Boy Three “Peaceful Easy Feeling” — The Eagles “Oldest Story in the World” — The Plimsouls “It Had to Be You” — Tony Bennett “Material Girl” — Madonna “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” — Wang Chung “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” — Joan Jett “Destination Unknown” — Missing Persons “Beautiful World” — Devo “A Million Miles Away” — The Plimsouls “Jeopardy” — Greg Kihn “Love Her Madly” — The Doors The Petticoat Junction Theme Song

Stream the playlist here.

Glamorama (1998)

A little more, ahem, glamorous than the average Ellis playlist, and a lot more nineties — but what can you expect? Ellis is a product of his times, and the times were saying “Dave Matthews Band,” loud and clear.

“Wonderwall” — Oasis “Smells Like Teen Spirit” — Nirvana “Age of Aquarius” — The 5th Dimension “We’re The Same” — Matthew Sweet “Venus in Furs” — The Velvet Underground “Sick Of Myself” — Matthew Sweet “Imagine” — John Lennon “Even Better Than The Real Thing” — U2 “It Doesn’t Matter to Me” — Bread “S.O.S.” — ABBA “Crash Into Me” — Dave Matthews Band “Missing” — Everything But the Girl “Setting Sun” — The Chemical Brothers “1985” — Wings “One & One” — Robert Miles “Come Together” — Primal Scream “Where It’s At” — Beck “Last Day Of Our Acquaintance” — Sinéad O’Connor “On the Sunny Side of the Street” — Tony Bennett and Willie Nelson “Rocks” — Primal Scream “Champagne Supernova” — Oasis “Disarm” — The Smashing Pumpkins “Substitute” — The Who “How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us” — R.E.M. “Raspberry Beret” — Prince

Stream the playlist here.

Lunar Park (2005)

Ellis’ faux autobiography might have our favorite group of songs of all his books — after all, even if it’s pastiche, he’s still putting his own name in there. We’d pick good stuff too. A note: there’s a Halloween party, which should account for the dominance of “spooky music.”

“Everyday I Write The Book” — Elvis Costello “Witchy Woman” — The Eagles “Thriller” — Michael Jackson “Rhiannon” — Fleetwood Mac “The Monster Mash” — Boris Puckett and The Cryptkickers “Pet Sematary”– Ramones “Evil Woman” — ELO “Werewolves of London” — Warren Zevon “Creep” — Radiohead “Glory Days” — Bruce Springsteen “London Calling” — The Clash “Time of the Season” — The Zombies “Feels Like the First Time” — Foreigner “On the Sunny Side of the Street” — Tony Bennett and Willie Nelson “You’re Beautiful” — Kenny G “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” — Elton John “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” — Elton John “One of These Nights” — The Eagles “Life’s Been Good” — Joe Walsh

Stream the playlist here.

Bonus: From Largehearted Boy’s Book Notes series, Ellis writes a “list of songs and CDs that were in my head when writing the book.” There’s definitely some overlap, but also some surprises.

Imperial Bedrooms (2010)

It’s nice to see Ellis dropping names like “Bat for Lashes” along with his standard Duran Duran and Elvis Costello here. It makes us feel like we might have felt reading Less Than Zero in the eighties — that we’re one with the novel, that it’s of us, for all the debauchery and dirt that entails.

“Magic” — Bruce Springsteen “Girls on Film” — Duran Duran “Loser” — Beck “Hungry Like The Wolf” — Duran Duran “Desperados Under The Eaves” — Warren Zevon “Life Fades Away” — Roy Orbison “A Long December” — Counting Crows “How To Save A Life” — The Fray “You Little Fool” — Elvis Costello “China Girl” — David Bowie “I Love LA” — Randy Newman “Man Out Of Time” — Elvis Costello “What’s A Girl To Do?” — Bat for Lashes “Racing Like a Pro” — The National “Don’t Talk to Me About Love” — Altered Images

Stream the playlist here.