Thursday, 13 July 2017

A nightingale

I'm not quite sure where to begin with this one. But basically it revolves around David Lynch. I've been watching his new, third season of Twin Peaks, and just caught up with episode 9. It was a return to normal, in a way, after the astonishing piece of avant garde art that was episode 8 - one of the strangest and most disturbing hours of television you are ever likely to see. But at the end it played out with one of Lynch's ethereal, synth and female voice kind of bands. They turned out to be Au Revoir Simone, with something called A Violent Yet Flammable World, which was nice, but it set me wondering about Julee Cruise, who was their floaty angelic precursor throughout the whole Twin Peaks season 1 and 2 era. And I discovered something which I found interesting enough to drive me to write this.

Back in 1986, Lynch was writing and directing Blue Velvet, which was, let's face it, the spiritual predecessor of Twin Peaks. It had mobsters and kinky sex behind the facade of a really 'nice' northwestern small town - and Kyle MacLachlan as well. Twin Peaks bears the same relationship to Blue Velvet that Fargo the TV series does to Fargo the movie. Anyway, Lynch had decided that for incidental music he wanted to use Song to the Siren by This Mortal Coil. Or rather, originally by Tim Buckley, but covered in the 80s by This Mortal Coil. I discovered This Mortal Coil in 1984, when I lived next door to a Scots music student at York University. In addition to the Gregorian chant and fucking awful accordion music he subjected me to through the wall between our rooms, he played their first album, It'll End In Tears over and over and over again, and my God, listening to Elizabeth Fraser's haunting voice still sends shivers down my spine, just like it did back then. For the uninitiated, This Mortal Coil were a kind of Scots Indie supergroup, made up of people I'd only ever heard of in passing when occasionally listening to John Peel - Xmal Deutschland, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Metal Box, and of course most famously The Cocteau Twins. I'd vaguely noticed The Cocteau Twins, but never been convinced, but Fraser's songs on It'll End In Tears - especially Another Day and Song To The Siren, were like something from another planet, and I was instantly hooked.

Well, clearly David Lynch thought so too, as he wanted to use Song To The Siren on Blue Velvet. Unfortunately, the publishers were asking more than he was prepared to pay, so he got Angelo Badalamenti to write something similar, and Badalamenti roped in a singer from New York he thought could achieve the same purity of note and ethereal quality that Fraser had managed. Enter Julee Cruise, and this ersatz This Mortal Coil song became Mysteries of Love. It's interesting to listen to it now and compare and contrast. The rest is history, as they say. Lynch and Badalamenti wrote Cruise's first album, Floating Into The Night, all of it comprised of songs which had been used as incidental music in Twin Peaks, including the title track, Falling. Julee herself even appeared as a singer at the Bang Bang bar in Season 2 prior to a spooky appearance by The Giant. Apparently she's scheduled to make a reappearance in Season 3, and I'm certainly looking forward to that. In the meantime, she'll always be the nightingale. But it's interesting to me that the whole tenor of the music of Twin Peaks is basically a conscious attempt to reproduce the sound of a band I loved even before I discovered Lynch World.

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