Discworld Wiki

Soul Music is the sixteenth Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, first published in 1994. Like many of Pratchett's novels it introduces an element of modern society into the magical and vaguely late medieval, early modern world of the Discworld, in this case Rock and Roll music and stardom, with nearly disastrous consequences. It also introduces Susan Sto Helit, daughter of Mort and Ysabell and granddaughter of Death.

Plot summary[]

The story follows "The Band with Rocks In" through their short-lived but glamorous musical career. The band consists of the following members:

  • Imp Y Celyn, a young lad from Llamedos who sings and plays the guitar. His name is Welsh and means "Bud of the holly". Later on he uses the name "Buddy".
  • Lias Bluestone, a Troll who does percussion, which in typical troll fashion consists of banging rocks together. He later takes the name "Cliff", despite his colleagues' warning that no-one would last long in the music business with a name like that.
  • Glod Glodsson, a Dwarfs who plays horn, and is not ashamed to admit he is in it for the money.
  • The band members stage names reflect well known rock stars of the 50s, 60s and 70s (Buddy Holly, Cliff Richards and Glod is likely a deliberate corruption of God, the nickname for Eric Clapton)
  • The Librarian joins the Band for a little while to play the piano, but leaves the band before they become famous.

The band is "discovered" by C.M.O.T. Dibbler, who becomes the Disc's first music manager. He tries to cash in by any means possible whilst keeping the band ignorant. He also hires the troll Asphalt as a roadie to accompany the band on its tour.

Meanwhile, Death is in one of his philosophical moods, and takes a holiday in search of a way to forget his more troubling memories, such as the recent demise of his adopted daughter Ysabell and her husband Mort.

In the meantime, his granddaughter Susan discovers the truth about her heritage when she is forced to stand in for her missing grandfather. Complications ensue when she falls in love with Buddy, and tries to save him from his "live fast, die young" destiny as the Discworld's first rock star.

Buddy wants to do a free concert, and after Dibbler figures out how much money he can make by selling T-shirts, sausages-in-a-bun etc. to the audience, he agrees. A large number of bands, all of whom have formed in response to the original "Band with Rocks In", participate in the largest concert of all time.

Afterwards the band flees from their crazed fans. They are pursued by the angry Musicians Guild, C.M.O.T. Dibbler, Susan and Death.

Popular References and Annotations[]

There are many allusions to popular songs, bands and movies associated with rock 'n roll culture between the 1950s and 1990s.


  • The original cover illustration is similar to that of the Meat Loaf album Bat out of Hell.
  • "Don't Tread on My New Blue Boots" ("(Don't Step on My) Blue Suede Shoes")
  • "Good Gracious Miss Polly" ("Good Golly, Miss Molly")
  • "Sto Helit Lace" and Buddy saying 'Hello, baby' ("Chantilly Lace")
  • "Pathway to Paradise" ("Stairway to Heaven")
  • ”Sex and drugs and Music With Rocks In” is a reference to “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll“ by Ian Dury
  • The book alludes to at least one person's thoughts on 'the day the music died,' referring both to the plane crash which claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper and to the song "American Pie" commemorating the incident
  • When Death takes the leather coat and the Librarian's motorcycle the sentence "with the coat he borrowed from the Dean" comes up which is a parody of the lyrics from the song "American Pie," which itself references the movie Rebel Without A Cause.
  • The "music with rocks in" makes you "want to paint your bedroom wall black" which makes association with The Rolling Stones' song "Paint It, Black"
  • Buddy's song "Sioni Bod Da": Bod Da is Welsh for Be Good, therefore Sioni Bod Da is Johnny B. Goode. There are other references to this song in the book. Buddy's harp was described as singing "like a bell". And Buddy mentions that he used to live in "a shack made of earth and wood". The opening verse of Johnny B Goode mentions "a log cabin made of earth and wood" and a boy who "could play the guitar like ringing a bell".
  • Susan's friend swears the new boy at the fish shop is "elvish" ("There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" by Kirsty MacColl)
  • When discussing "Sex, drugs, and Music With Rocks In", Crash insists (because he has done neither sex nor drugs) that "One out of three ain't bad." ("Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad" by Meat Loaf).
  • "Anarchy in Ankh-Morpork" ("Anarchy in the U.K." by The Sex Pistols)
  • Blue Suede Shoes written by Carl Perkins and made popular by Elvis Presley - Buddy says, "Sometimes you do it for the money, sometimes you do it for the show." a reference to "One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, etc"
  • Glod follows this with "Hah, that'll be the day". A reference to Buddy Holly's song of the same name.
  • At Quirm they played with heart and especially with soul - a reference to Hoagy Carmichael's song called Heart and Soul.
  • One of the songs they play is Cavern Deep and Mountain HIgh - a reference to River Deep and Mountain High by Ike and Tina Turner.
  • Crash says when forced to wear a glove after being mauled by the leopard, "A glove, whoever heard of serious musician with a glove?" a reference to Michael Jackson and his single glove.
  • After waking up in a haystack Glod says, "I don't think I can stand life in the fast leyline," a reference to the Eagles song - Life in the Fast Lane.
  • Shortly afterwards they find Buddy in among some holly bushes - an obvious reference to Buddy Holly.
  • Once they are back on the road again they are discussing romance and Glod says, "Eyes crossed in a crowded room" a reference to many songs from Some Enchanted Evening to, if you subscribe to Death's mantra about memory working in both directions (into the past and into the future) the song Hurt by Lady Antebellum and the line "if you catch my eye across a crowded room" since the book was written before her song.
  • At the end Susan yells to Buddy, "Don't fade away." a reference to the Buddy Holly song "Not Fade Away".
  • Shortly afterwards Susan says "You'll all die in the wreckage (if Buddy doesn't play)". Given the other connections to James Dean this is likely a reference to James Dean's death in a car crash but also has parallels to Graham Parker's song Crawling from the Wreckage.
  • The line, "There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" is a reference to Kirsty MacColl's first hit single which charted in the UK at #14 in 1981, and remained in the charts for nine weeks. It reached #9 in the Irish charts.
  • After Death's motorbike crashed into the gorge, the description is "smashed open like an eggshell. Although it would be hard to say what had flown." This is a reference to "This bird has flown" in "Norwegian Wood" by The Beatles.
  • References to various bands include:
    • Trollz (Troggs)
    • We're Certainly Dwarfs (They Might Be Giants)
    • &U (U2)
    • The Whom (The Who)
    • Lead Balloon (Led Zeppelin)
    • Insanity (Madness)
    • The Surreptitious Fabric (The Velvet Underground)
    • The Band with Rocks in is often shortened to just the Band a reference to Bob Dylan and the Band which was shortened to the Band when they went out on their own. There is also the obvious reference of Rocks and Stones as in Rolling Stones.
    • Crash's band is also given the name "Socks Pastels" an obvious play on Sex Pistols.
  • One character buys a deaf leopard (Def Leppard) instead of leopard skin pants.
  • When Death is experimenting life as a homeless beggar, he is handed a coin. The next passage is "thank you, replied the grateful Death", a reference to the Grateful Dead.
  • While arguing about the name of their band, one band member states that "a rolling stone gathers no moss, my father says", which could be a reference to either The Rolling Stones or a lyric from Highway Chile by The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
  • When Glod mentions a monk in dwarvish lore who forged stolen altar gold into a horn, the character - was referred to as a felonious monk (Thelonious Monk)
  • There's a mention of a guitar-lesson book by Blert Wheedown. Bert Weedon was the first British guitarist to have a hit record in the UK Singles Chart, in 1959, and his best-selling tutorial guides, Play in a Day, were a major influence on many leading British musicians, such as Eric Clapton, Brian May, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, Dave Davies, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page.
  • The original cover art is highly similar to the heavy metal band Judas Priest's Painkiller album cover.
  • Mr. Clete has an assistant called Satchelmouth, which is the non-abbreviated version of Louis Armstrong's nickname "Satchmo"


  • A Hard Day's Night - many of the band's getaway scenes, and their general lives while in the band.
  • Wayne's World - Blert Wheedown banning the playing of "Pathway to Paradise" in his guitar store.
  • The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause - the Dean's increasingly rebellious attitude, as well as his manner of dress (live fast die young) and hairstyle (a 'duck's arse') mirror the youth culture movies of the 1950s, as well as the association of death and motorcycles with music with rocks in. At one stage a mumbling and rebellious Dean is called the 'rebel without a pause'. Near the end of the book, an inner voice asks Death: "So, you're a rebel, little Death? Against what?" and Death cannot think of a snappy answer.
  • The Blues Brothers - early in the novel there is a parody of the diner scene where the characters order four fried rats and some coke (four fried chickens and a Coke); later, when stealing a piano, Cliff remarks they are "on a mission from Glod" (the Blues Brothers justified their actions by saying they were "on a mission from God.") There's also a scene where the band is talking to the woman who sold Buddy his guitar. She asks them, "Are you the Watch?" They reply, "No, ma'am. We're musicians", ("Are you the police?" "No, ma'am, we're musicians".
  • A Night at the Opera - later in the diner scene, the ordering of food by several characters at the same time reaches a rather frantic and confusing pace, with Buddy occasionally adding "and two hard boiled eggs." This is reminiscent of a similar scene in the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera.
  • Buddy starting to fade away while playing onstage is reminiscent of Marty in Back to the Future.  However, this is not a movie reference; it actually refers to the Buddy Holly song "Not Fade Away".
  • Buddy playing his song "Sioni Bod Da" ("Johnny B. Goode") at the climactic concert, instead of what the audience expected, is another reference to Back to the Future.
  • Twice Binky leaves fiery hoof-prints, much like the DeLorean in Back to the Future.
  • Buddy always begins concerts saying "Hello, Ankh-Morpork!", a reference to "Hello, Cleveland!" as seen in This Is Spinal Tap.
  • The Terminator - When Death, after commandeering the Librarian's bike asks for the Dean's coat.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Death reassembles itself after going to pieces in a motorbike crash.
  • Boyz n the Hood - The band that plays before The Band appears at the climatic concert is entitled Boyz from the Wood.
  • Alfie - the theme song was "What's it all about, Alfie?"


  • The apprentice to one of Ankh-Morpork's premier guitar makers is a dwarf named Gibsson (Gibson produced the first pickup driven electric guitar in the 1930s)
  • Glod often redecorates the band's hotel rooms, referring to the common practice, starting with the Who, of destroying hotel rooms (also parodied in This is Spinal Tap)
  • The University staff become 1950s teeny-boppers with beehive hairstyles.
  • At one point, Glod mentions that the band should be named Gold or Silver to which Buddy replies that "I don't think that we should name ourselves after any kind of heavy metal".
  • The Dean is seen making himself new trousers, which are dark blue and riveted together. After a dispute with Ridcully about them, the Dean yells after him: "If history comes to name these, they certainly won't call them 'Arch-chancellors'." The Dean is clearly hoping they'll name them 'Deans', which is not too far away from 'Jeans'. (However, it could also be said that the Senior Wrangler was the real winner of this exchange.)
  • The Dean's new rebellious attitude is a reference to the James Dean rebel image
  • When the Dean makes a new leather robe he writes "Born to Rune" in studs on the back of it. This is again a reference to the 50's rockers and also to Bruce Springsteen's album "Born to Run".
  • The band play at the troll Chrysoprase's bar, The Cavern, a parody of the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where the Beatles among others performed early in their careers.
  • The band plays the free concert at Hide Park, a parody of Hyde Park in London where many free outdoor concerts have been staged.
  • While in Quirm, famous for its cheeses, Buddy says that the band is "More popular than cheeses," to the outrage of the mayor. This mimics the public backlash to John Lennon saying that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
  • The given name of Miss Butts (the school headmistress where Susan attends school) is Eulalie which she has kept secret and which Susan reveals. This is probably a PG Wodehouse reference to his neo-nazi character Roderick Spode who owns a ladies lingerie store named Eulalie ownership of which he has kept secret.

Appearance in other media[]

An animated adaptation was produced by Cosgrove Hall Films for Channel 4 in 1996. It takes the association of the "Band with Rocks In" with the Beatles even further than the book does, evolving their style from 1950s rock and early 1960s beat music (and mixing-bowl haircuts) in Ankh-Morpork, to acid rock in Scrote, to spiritual hippie rock in Quirm. In Sto Lat, they sound like the Jimi Hendrix Experience or Bad Company, but are dressed in clothes similar to the Beatles on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

Also in Quirm, Buddy says that the band is 'more popular than cheeses,' referring to John Lennon's famous quote proclaiming the Beatles to be more popular than Jesus. In Pseudopolis, their outfits and style resemble the Blues Brothers. The Dean, in addition to his jacket and hair, also plays guitar, specifically the guitar line from All Apologies by Nirvana. The soundtrack was also released on CD but is now out of production.


  • Rollende Steine (Rolling Stones - German)
  • Levande musik (Swedish)
  • Роковая музыка (Russian)
  • Těžké melodično (Czech)
  • Музика на душата (Bulgarian)
  • Muzyka duszy (Polish)

External links[]