Yesterday, I wrote about hearing something that sounded familiar and not being able to determine why. Today, I present a more successful version of this situation. Recently, I happened across This Mortal Coil’s “Song to the Siren.” While I’d heard it before, listening to it in the car I was struck by how much it reminded me of David Lynch and Twin Peaks and, in particular, the music of Julee Cruise.
See if you hear it too.
When I got home, I read up on the song and discovered that it actually has a significant history with David Lynch’s work. Lynch wanted to use the song in Blue Velvet but couldn’t. He therefore ended up reaching out to a then-unknown composer named Angelo Badalamenti, who was on-set helping Isabella Rossellini get her vocals right for the performance of the title track. From a recent Rolling Stone piece on Lynch and Badalamenti’s work together:
“David reluctantly agreed to write a lyric, and he thought writing a new song was absolutely preposterous because ‘Song to the Siren’ was his favorite song of all time,” Badalamenti says. “But Isabella came to the recording studio, where we were recording Blue Velvet, and she handed me a little piece of yellow paper and, in David's handwriting, it said, ‘Sometimes a wind blows and you and I float in love and kiss forever in a darkness and the mysteries of love come clear....’ I’m reading this and saying, ‘Hey man, where are the rhymes? And more important, where are the hooks that a song needs?’” To make things more quizzical, the only musical directions Lynch gave Badalamenti were to “compose something with no beginning and no end” and to make it “just ethereal beauty.”Here is that song:
Dumbfounded, the composer sat at his keyboard, staring at Lynch's scratch paper, and held a “long, soft, sustained, wide-voiced B major chord” for maybe a minute or more. “I was just listening to this chord, and it set a mood for me,” he recalls. “The melody just floated out and I knew that I married David’s description to this poetic lyric. I never changed a single word.” And thus, “Mysteries of Love” was born.
Cruise eventually sang in the title track to Twin Peaks, though her vocals would be excised from the portion shown before every episode. She also appeared on the show and in the prequel move as well, and Lynch and Badalamenti, in turn, wrote and produced additional songs for her throughout the next decade — and it all happened because a certain Tim Buckley cover was too expensive.
Incidentally, Cruise has a small cameo in another famous piece of culture about murders in a small town: a remix of her track “Artificial World” is playing in Tatum’s bedroom during the “Bam! Bitch went down” scene in Scream — because mid-’90s teens loved them some Julee Cruise dance remixes. Can anyone point me toward a non-remixed, original version of “Artificial World”?