A Guide to Recognizing Your Belle and Sebastian Lyrical References

Posted by Jason Diamond

As we ready ourselves for the newest addition to the Belle and Sebastian catalog, Write About Love, it’s time to ask ourselves: does anyone in the history of pop music name check quite like Stuart Murdoch?  Hell, even the name of the band itself is a nod to something.

Even though songwriting credits are never put on B&S albums, Murdoch’s signature usually includes a sexually confused character, Morrissey-esque dark humor, and a ton of little references to books, films, and records that Murdoch loves.

Here’s an album by album breakdown of my favorites.  Some of the references are a bit more veiled than others.  If you have some that I’ve missed, please let me know*.

*I know I missed Mike Piazza, that was on purpose.


The Song: “Expectations”

The Lyric: “Making life-size models of the Velvet Underground in clay”.

The Song: “I Don’t Love Anyone”

The Lyric: “He said, “The world is as soft as lace.”

Referring to: 80s dreampop band Felt

The Song: “Electronic Renaissance”

The Lyric: “You go disco and I’ll go Funkadelic, man”

The Song: “I could Be Dreaming”:

The Lyric: spoken interlude at the end of the song.

Referring to: This is taken from the Washington Irving story, Rip Van Winkle.

The Song: “Mary Jo”

The Lyric: “You’re reading a book, “The State I Am In”

Referring to: A clever nod to the (fictional) book from the first song.

If You’re Feeling Sinister

The Song: “Me and the Major”

The Lyric: “And he remembers Roxy Music in ‘72”

The Song: “Like Dylan in the Movies”

The Lyric: “Don’t look back, like Dylan in the movies”

Referring to: The D.A. Pennebaker documentary on Bob Dylan, Don’t Look Back.

The Song: “The Fox in the Snow”.

Referring to: German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1975 film “Fox and His Friends”

The Boy With the Arab Strap

The Song: “Chickfactor”

Referring to: Popular 90s indie zine of the same title.

The Song: “The Boy With the Arab Strap”

Referring to: A sex device/Scottish gloompop duo Arab Strap

The Song: “Seymour Stein”

The Lyric: “I heard dinner went well, You liked Chris’s jacket, He reminded you of Johnny, Before he went Electronic.”

Referring to: Johnny Marr of The Smiths.  Electronic was his post-Smiths band with New Order’s Bernard Sumner.

Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant

The Song: “Nice Day for a Sulk”

The Lyric: “Nice day for a jam, The Fall, Manfred Mann”

Dear Catastrophe Waitress

The Song: “I’m a Cuckoo”

The Lyric: “I’d rather be in Tokyo, I’d rather listen to Thin Lizzy-oh”

Push Barman to Open Old Wounds

The Song: ““Le Pastie De La Bourgeoise”

The Lyrics: “reading Judy Blume, But you came too soon,”

“Give yourself up to the allure of Catcher In The Rye,”

“Kerouac’s beckoning with open arms, And open roads of eucalyptus”

The Song: “This is Just a Modern Rock Song”

The Lyric: “not as sad as Dostoevsky, I’m not as clever as Mark Twain.”

The Song: “Slow Graffiti”

The Lyric: “Interpret history in every line and scar that’s painted
There in front of me.”

Referring to: The song was written for the film adaptation of the Irvine Welsh novel, The Acid House.  It refers to characters from the story and also makes nods to A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

The Song: “I Know Where the Summer Goes”

The Lyric: “Where the boy who made records out of postcard messages”

Referring to: Seminal Scottish indie label, Postcard Records.

The Song: “I Love My Car”

The Lyric: “I love my Carl
I love my Brian my Dennis and my Al
I could even find it in my heart to love Mike Love”

Referring to: The Beach Boys

The Song: “Marx and Engels”

Referring to: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

The Life Pursuit

The Song: “Act of the Apostle Part 1”

The Lyric: “Later on she plays Morning Has Broken”

Referring to: A song by Cat Stevens

The Song: “Another Sunny Day”

Referring to: Another Sunny Day was an English twee band from the mid-80s

The Song: “The Blues are Still Blue”

The Lyric: “Like the Switchblade and the Cross”

Referring to: The 1963 best selling book, The Cross and the Switchblade.
The Song: “The Blues are Still Blue”

The Lyric: “for a kid with the will to funk, he dances in secret; he’s a part time punk”

Referring to: “Part Time Punks” is a song by the band Television Personalities.


  1. Almost a direct quote on Tigermilk-A family is like a loaded gun: point it in the wrong direction, and someone is bound to get hurt. — from the film Trust Hal Hartley

  2. The line “you’ll settle for an epitaph like ‘Walk away Renee'” from ‘ Piazza, New York Catcher’ refers to the song ‘Walk away Renee’ by the Left Banke.