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J.G Ballard and Music

Updated on December 16, 2015
J.G. Ballard
J.G. Ballard

J.G. Ballard is well known for pioneering a unique style of dystopian science fiction, now described with the adjective “Ballardian.” However, his impact on music, particularly in the new wave genre is almost as great as his impact on literature. Below are some examples of his musical influence.

The Buggles

The Buggles are one of the most notable acts influenced by Ballard, especially because of “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the first video to air on MTV. The song's lyrics, which describe the demise of the radio age with the rise of television, were influenced by a little known story called “The Sound-Sweep.” In this story, Ballard creates a world in which “ultrasonic music” has replaced traditional music, and a once world-famous opera singer is reduced to living in the derelict remains of a recording studio.

Also, their album Adventures in Modern Recording features a track entitled “Vermillion Sands,” named for a fictional resort that features in many of Ballard's short stories.

More subtly, many of their tracks portray a future full of decay, loneliness, alienation, and nostalgia – all common traits in Ballard's vision of the future.

The Normal

The Normal, an electronic band consisting solely of Mute Records founder Daniel Miller, would later be eclipsed by Miller's work with Depeche Mode and Fad Gadget. However, the Normal would be covered by many notable artists, such as Grace Jones, Duran Duran, and Trent Reznor. The sonrg they covered is entitled “Warm Leatherette.” The lyrics were inspired by J.G. Ballard's most controversial work, Crash, a novel about a group of car crash fetishists.

Joy Division

Joy Division front man Ian Curtis was a fan of Ballard, and payed homage to the author by naming the track “Atrocity Exhibition” after Ballard's novel of the same name. Joy Division's music and lyrics reflect the work of Ballard, exploring the darker aspects of the modern urban world.

Human League

The work of the Human League is full of Ballardian undertones. The track entitled “4JG” is actually a tribute to J.G. Ballard.

John Foxx

John Foxx states that he was “reading too much J.G. Ballard” when he recorded his debut solo album Metamatic. This was a palpable influence on the mood of the album, full of detached observations about the modern world. John Foxx paints a bleak image of car crashes, decaying cities, gray urban landscapes, and the effects of technology on the humans who inhabit Foxx's world.

Gary Numan

Gary Numan's album Replicas is a concept album set in a sci-fi dystopia dominated by androids, with whom humans share an ambivalent relationship, and ghastly spectacles provide entertainment. These explorations of human relationships with technology and the media are reminiscent of themes in Ballard's work.

Manic Street Preachers

The Manic Street Preachers sampled Ballard on the track “Mausoleum.” The sample is question is Ballard explaining why he wrote Crash: “I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit, and force it to look in the mirror.”


The track “The Drowned World” is named for a J.G. Ballard novel.


Thom Yorke of Radiohead is said to be a fan of Ballard. Also, Stanley Donwood, who design many of Radiohead's album covers, also designed covers for J.G. Ballard's novels.


The album PXR5 features a track called “High Rise.” The lyrics are inspired by the novel of the same name, authored by Ballard.

The Comsat Angels

This band named themselves after a short story by J.G. Ballard.


This groups lifted the name of their album Myths of the Near Future from a short story collection by Ballard.

What is J.G Ballard' greatest novel?

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    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 23 months ago from Pennsylvania

      Christopher, I have to confess, even though I have read hundreds of SF novels, I don't recall having heard of J.G Ballard's work. Of course, I am familiar with some of the music you have mentioned, but was unaware of Ballard's influence. Informative Hub! Thanks!