Category Archives: David Lynch Week

The Day David Lynch Didn’t Have to Use His AK

In honor of David Lynch’s release on vinyl of his single “Good Day Today” (and our love of all things Lynch), Noise Narcs is posting on the music of, for, and about David Lynch this week. See our intro post (and claim of Lynch as a Philadelphian) here, and see the rest of the DLW posts here.

Order Good Day Today / I Know (plus remixes) at http://GoodDayToday.info

During David Lynch Week, we’ve discussed how Mr. Lynch has impeccable taste in musical collaborators and popular songs, inspires freestyles, and is even a formidable songwriter in his own right. So it should have come as no surprise that when Lynch released music, first on the Sparklehorse/Danger Mouse Dark Night disc and now under his own name, that it’d great. But even so, I was taken aback.

The two singles Lynch released on vinyl and CD this week, “Good Day Today” and “I Know” are far, far too good for the work of a director. Woody Allen is certainly a very good clarinetist, but he’s far from the vanguard*: he’s just good for a director. Lynch’s music, however, is just plain good. “I Know” pulls a neat trick: a solid impression of a late-Dylan blues barnstormer played drafting through the Black Lodge.

David Lynch, “I Know” [Buy]

But “Good Day Today” is the killer track. Fully on-point electro-pop, pulsing and vocoded. Amid menace, a plea for solace. Transcendental meditation meets the machine. And the floating repetition of the synth drives you through it all.

David Lynch , “Good Day Today”

But, wait? What the fuck were those gunshots at the two minute mark? A song. Involving guns. About having a good day. That can mean only one thing. A brilliant director. A great songwriter. An accomplished electropophead. And to beat it all, the man’s an Ice Cube fan?

Ice Cube, “Today Was a Good Day” [Buy]

Mr. Lynch, your surprises never stop: you’re welcome to come back to Philly any time. We’ll promise you a good day: no break-ins, no murders. And to the rest of you, thanks for enduring our Lynch obsession this week. Take a Lynchian hint, and have a good weekend this weekend. And for the heck of it, the one Joanna Newsom song that I can stand also happens to be about a good day. No guns, though.

Joanna Newsom, “On a Good Day” [Buy]

* But he was at the Village Vanguard, where he performed some of his early stand-up.

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That Asian Chick, What Was Her Name

In honor of David Lynch’s release on vinyl of his single “Good Day Today” (and our love of all things Lynch), Noise Narcs is posting on the music of, for, and about David Lynch this week. See our intro post (and claim of Lynch as a Philadelphian) here, and see the rest of the DLW posts here.

Given the luminously high quality of the David Lynch posts so far*, I figured it was about time for me to come in and lower Lynch Week’s overall average by at least 2.0 standard deviations.

I wanted to write something on Lynch’s use of popular music, but gave it up when I realized I’ve only seen Twin Peaks and about two and half Lynch films, and I didn’t feel like going on and on about obvious moments of genius like “In Dreams” and “Sixteen Reasons” alone. Even if they are, perhaps, two of the all-time greatest uses of early ’60s pop in entertainment history (“Mad Men,” eat your heart out).

No. Instead, I decided to post my friend Pete “Sugglife” Sugg’s 90-second “Twin Peaks” freestyle.  This was delivered at an after-the-wedding party on a back porch in Hood River, OR, and Sugglife, I promise you, had absolutely zero advance notice of his freestyle topic.  It doesn’t have MC Chris’s sweet Badalamenti sample, but it’s still a pretty awesome party trick. Enjoy:

Sugglife: Twin Peaks Freestyle from Matt Karp on Vimeo.

* Is there anything more insufferable than a group blog filled with posts praising the other group bloggers’ entries?  Dave, don’t feel bad, your latest concert review was also luminous.

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“Sing Hallelujah, Come On Get Happy!”: Performing Pop in the Worlds of David Lynch

In honor of David Lynch’s release on vinyl of his single “Good Day Today” (and our love of all things Lynch), Noise Narcs is posting on the music of, for, and about David Lynch this week. See our intro post (and claim of Lynch as a Philadelphian) here, and see the rest of the DLW posts here.

When thinking about the music in David Lynch’s works, the first element that comes to mind is, of course, Angelo Badalamenti’s composition. A close second is the director’s fondness for foregrounding his characters’ performances of classic, 1940s-1960s, pop.

“Twin Peaks”

Leland Palmer is the most conspicuous pop performer in the series. Actor Ray Wise’s manic performances of familiar and well-loved pop music brilliantly heightens the comedy and tragedy of Leland’s breakdown. An early and important example is his heart-wrenching dance with Laura’s photograph to the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s 1940 hit “Pennsylvania 6-5000.”

But for a more exuberant performance, we fast-forward to the first episode of the second season, when Leland’s hair turns white. He sings the 1943 novelty song “Mairzy Doats,” made famous by the Merry Macs.

Then later in the episode, at dinner with the Haywards, he makes a request — the Harold Arlen classic, composed in 1929, “Get Happy.” [Sinatra’s version of the tune, from his 1954 album Swing Easy!, is below.]

Blue Velvet

One of the most haunting and indelible performances in Blue Velvet takes place at the end of the scene where Frank (Dennis Hopper) and his entourage pick up beer (“Pabst Blue Ribbon!”) and stop by Ben’s house. This revealing scene, as sexually- and violently-charged as any in the film, culminates in a performance from Ben (Dean Stockwell) who lip-syncs the wonderful, and complex, 1963 Roy Orbison hit “In Dreams.” It’s utterly transfixing, for us and for Frank. Here’s the NSFW (unless you use headphones) scene. If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, watch the entire scene. Notice how Lynch foregrounds the sound effects of Frank popping in the cassette and Ben clicking on the light. “In Dreams” starts at 5:20.

This is another example, like Leland Palmer playing his “Pennsylvania 6-5000” record, where a character selects and plays their own recorded music. But in this case it’s Frank who starts and stops the recording, giving us another glimpse at the dynamic of his relationship with Ben.

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The Voice From Another Place: Jimmy Scott and the Black Lodge

In honor of David Lynch’s release on vinyl of his single “Good Day Today” (and our love of all things Lynch), Noise Narcs is posting on the music of, for, and about David Lynch this week. See our intro post (and claim of Lynch as a Philadelphian) here, and see the rest of the DLW posts here.

Cooper enters the LodgeWhen Special Agent Dale Cooper enters the Waiting Room of the Black Lodge in the final episode of “Twin Peaks,” he is greeted by two mysterious figures. One we, and Cooper, have met before, in Cooper’s dreams. He is the Man from Another Place, the backward-talking, shuffling, dancing dwarf who acts as a sort of demented guide to the mythological realm of the Lodges. The other is a face new to Cooper, and probably to most viewers as well. It belongs to Little Jimmy Scott, “perhaps the most unjustly ignored American singer of the 20th century,” according to a New York Times Magazine profile from 2000.

If someone knows anything about Scott, it’s that he has an impossibly high voice due to a rare genetic condition, Kallmann’s syndrome, that prevented him from reaching puberty. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find a talent regarded as a singer’s singer, someone who has worked with luminaries like Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, and Ray Charles, to name a few.

Jimmy Scott, “They Say It’s Wonderful” [Buy Falling in Love is Wonderful]

In episode 2 of “Twin Peaks,” the Man from Another Place tells Cooper, “Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air.” From what we can tell, that air, like most of the air in Twin Peaks — the town and the show — is filled with the sounds of Angelo Badalamenti. And sometimes, Jimmy Scott.

In the final episode of the series, Cooper, with the help of Sheriff Harry S. Truman and Pete “fish in the percolator” Martell, figures out how to enter the Black Lodge — via Glastonbury Grove, a circle of 12 sycamore trees in Ghostwood Forest. (Note the circle of 12 candles in Cooper’s dream.)

Cooper enters the grove, parts the red curtains and enters the Lodge. We immediately hear Jimmy Scott’s voice accompanied by synthesizer and bass. Cooper walks down the hall and into the next room. What follows is the most amazing two minutes of scripted television ever.

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Noise Variations: “Blue Velvet” through the Years

In honor of David Lynch’s release on vinyl of his single “Good Day Today” (and our love of all things Lynch), Noise Narcs is posting on the music of, for, and about David Lynch this week. See our intro post (and claim of Lynch as a Philadelphian) here, and see the rest of the DLW posts here.

Few directors capture so well the menacing strangeness of America’s small towns and suburbs as David Lynch.  Twin Peaks gave this theme its full, soap-opera-length treatment, but Lynch had already begun to probe the heartland of darkness in earnest five years earlier with the masterful Blue Velvet (1986).

In the picket-fence town of Lumberton, U.S.A., young Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) is drawn like a reverse moth into an Oedipal nightmare of violence and sexual desire.  The film’s central image, its titular fetish, is a blue velvet stuff gag.

She wore blue velvet
Bluer than velvet was the night
Softer than satin was the light
From the stars
She wore blue velvet
Bluer than velvet were her eyes
Warmer than May her tender sighs
Love was ours
Ours a love I held tightly
Feeling the rapture grow
Like a flame burning brightly
But when she left, gone was the glow of
Blue velvet
But in my heart there’ll always be
Precious and warm, a memory
Through the years
And I still can see blue velvet
Through my tears

Tony Bennett was the first to have an early hit with the Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris penned pop song in 1951, a million years ago.  Soaring strings complement his crooning style.

Tony Bennett, “Blue Velvet”

In 1955, a D.C. doo-wop outfit, The Clovers, recorded their version of the song.  The Clovers would eventually be best known for their 1959 hit, “Love Potion #9.”

The Clovers, “Blue Velvet”

Taking their cue from The Clovers, a Cleveland-based doo-wop group, The Moonglows, recorded one of my favorite versions in 1957.

The Moonglows, “Blue Velvet”

Then, in 1963, the “Polish Prince,” Bobby Vinton conceived of Blue on Blue, an entire album of songs with the word “Blue” in the title.  “Blue Skies,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Blueberry Hill,” “My Blue Heaven,” etc.  This is inarguably the most famous rendition of “Blue Velvet,” hitting number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying there for three weeks.  It is also the version that opens Lynch’s film.

Bobby Vinton, “Blue Velvet”

And three other notable versions:

And of course:

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Song to Angelo: The Almost Badalamenti-less Career of David Lynch

In honor of David Lynch’s release on vinyl of his single “Good Day Today” (and our love of all things Lynch), Noise Narcs is posting on the music of, for, and about David Lynch this week. See our intro post (and claim of Lynch as a Philadelphian) here, and see the rest of the DLW posts here.

Of all the signposts of Lynch’s oeuvre, perhaps the most recognizable is the soundtrack work of composer Angelo Badalamenti. A combination of melodramatic vamp, seedy jazz, and atmospheric menace, his work on Lynch’s major films and television since Blue Velvet (absent only for the recent Inland Empire) is breathtaking, one of the all time great director/composer collaborations. But it’s also a collaboration that almost never happened.

Although Badalamenti had done some relatively obscure composition work (for Gordon’s War and Law and Disorder), his initial role on Blue Velvet was only as Isabella Rossellini’s singing coach for the movie’s rendition of “Blue Velvet.” Lynch also planned on having Rossellini sing Tim Buckley’s “Song to a Siren.” But, depending on whom you ask, Lynch either failed to secure the rights for “Siren” or couldn’t find the room in his budget. Needing a similar song of longing love, Lynch decided to write the lyrics for “Mysteries of Love” himself. And turned to Badalamenti to write the music. The rest is film history.

Tim Buckley, “Song to the Siren”
Julie Cruise, “Mysteries Of Love”

But Lynch wasn’t done with “Siren”; he used This Mortal Coil’s version for a love scene in Lost Highway. Speaking of Lost Highway, if you haven’t read David Foster Wallace’s brilliant essay on the making of the film, get on “David Lynch Keeps His Head” stat. And, this little tidbit about OJ Simpson from Lynch’s book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity [via Scanners] will melt everything you thought you knew about LH:

At the time Barry Gifford and I were writing the script for “Lost Highway,” I was sort of obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial. Barry and I never talked about it this way, but I think the film is somehow related to that.

What struck me about O.J. Simpson was that he was able to smile and laugh. He was able to go golfing with seemingly very few problems about the whole thing. I wondered how, if a person did these deeds, he could go on living. And we found this great psychology term — “psychogenic fugue” — describing an event where the mind tricks itself to escape some horror. So, in a way, “Lost Highway” is about that. And the fact that nothing can stay hidden forever.

This Mortal Coil, “Song to the Siren”

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Announcing David Lynch Week


A couple of months ago, several of the Narcs realized that we’d posted quite a few David Lynch-related posts. When we learned that David Lynch would be releasing two singles on Feb 1, it only made sense to do one thing: turn Noise Narcs into David Lynch central. Between Jan 31st and February 4th, we’ll be posting (almost) exclusively on David Lynch.

A Philadelphia-based blog devoting a week to David Lynch isn’t as random as it may first appear. In the mid-1960s, Lynch attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It was in our fair city, with the creation of two experimental animated shorts (“Six Men Getting Sick” and “The Alphabet”), that Lynch began his film career.

Lynch’s experience with the city wasn’t, shall we say, entirely positive:

The house I moved into was across the street from the morgue, next door to Pop’s Diner. The area had a great mood – factories, smoke, railroads, diners, the strangest characters, the darkest nights. The people had stories etched in their faces, and I saw vivid images-plastic curtains held together with Band-Aids, rags stuffed in broken windows, walking through the morgue en-route to a hamburger joint.

We lived cheap, but the city was full of fear. A kid was shot to death down the street, and the chalk marks around where he’d lain stayed on the sidewalk for five days. We were robbed twice, had windows shot out and a car stolen. [The City of Absurdity]

Thank God Lynch didn’t live in Philly during its current cultural revival because his crime-plagued stay in the city of brotherly love was a formative experience in the creation of his masterful debut, Eraserhood. In a move symbolic of Philadelphia’s troubled struggle with history and rebirth, the neighborhood that Lynch lived in (his apartment was at 13th and Wood) was blandly rechristened “the loft district.” But Philadelphians are both too clever and resistant to PR speak for that. A movement has started to rename the area, paying tribute to Lynch and his first film: Eraserhood. Check out the neighborhood’s Facebook page and check back next week for a truckload of David Lynch goodness.

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