Soundtrack

A ‘Lynchian’ Party Soundtrack, Courtesy Wayne Coyne

The Flaming Lips frontman honors David Lynch with a heartfelt and freaky party playlist.

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Photo credit: George Salisbury

Wayne Coyne has fronted the band The Flaming Lips since its inception in 1983. Known for psych-rock hits like “She Don’t Use Jelly” and “Do You Realize??” and for their mindblowing stage shows, the group has earned three Grammys and a massive cult following. This week, they joined up with Karen O, Donovan, and other rock stars for a concert celebrating the music of filmmaker David Lynch to benefit the David Lynch Foundation‘s meditation-outreach projects. Coyne built us this playlist for the next time you have David over for dinner.

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Wayne Coyne: Hello, everybody. This is Wayne Coyne, I’m in the band The Flaming Lips, and I’m here to do this David Lynch-style soundtrack: what could maybe be the music that played at a David Lynch dinner party.

Jimmy Dean – “Big Bad John”

The first song… who all would be there? I don’t know. But David would be there, and I would be there, and this music would begin. It’s by a once very famous country singer by the name of Jimmy Dean. A song called “Big Bad John.”

It’s literally about this giant mine worker who comes to the rescue of these other miners, when the mine’s collapsing. But there’s a verse in the song that implies if he got slightly drunk, or someone picked a fight with him, he could kill a guy with one punch. You know, there’s this undercurrent of violence.

And there’s definitely an area of David Lynch that is this vibe! This type of leftover, man’s-world, ’50s Americana. You know, he seems like he’s completely skipped anything that had to do with hippies and, you know, long hair and stuff like that. I don’t know him, but knowing what I know about him, it’s like you could say, “David, what do you think of The Beatles?” And he’d say, “I think they’re great little insects! You know, I stuck them on a painting the other day!”

Gavin Bryars – “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”

My second song… I’m not sure if it’s actually considered a song, but it’s a piece of music that I’ve loved for a really long time. It’s by an experimental composer by the name of Gavin Bryars. It’s called “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.”

I think it was like, 1975. It has a kind of distorted loop of a guy on the street –Scottish or Irish or something –and he’s singing that little refrain, “Jesus’ blood never failed me yet…” the hymnal. [ed. note – the voice is of a homeless man who sadly died before he could be played the completed piece] And I think the distortion on the recording and stuff helps it seem like it’s being beamed in from… heaven out there.

Bryars builds this orchestration and chord structures and melodies around this loop. But it really just repeats this loop over and over and over, and I think it’s for about 35, 40 minutes, you know? And it’s pretty compelling. There’s stories of Bryars — while he was building the loop, it was playing in a section of the art school that he was working in, and people that were painting next door came to him sobbing, and said, “You’ve got to turn that off! It’s affecting us too much.”

And why I thought it being with David: it’s like some of the imagery in “The Elephant Man.” It implies this world that feels like it’s black-and-white. And it’s… you know, when rooms aren’t lit well — there’s mystery in the corners. You don’t really know what was going on and… you know, it’s building this movie kind of in your mind.

Suicide – “Frankie Teardrop”

The third song that I’ve picked is by a group called Suicide. The track is called “Frankie Teardrop.”

The story is David Lynch-ian. They’re singing about a guy, Frankie, working in a factory environment. And the music itself is kind of a punishing factory machine sound.

He’s got, like, a brand new baby. Frankie Teardrop, he has a brand new baby — this already sounds bad — and he can’t pay the bills, and he’s having some psychological breakdown. And he shoots the baby.

I mean, it’s just a frightening, just unbelievable that someone’s really doing a song like that. And I think that’s why it reminds me so much of the things that David Lynch would do. It just — you can’t believe someone is really doing that.

It’s beyond horror movie. You know, horror movies, for the most part, aren’t very horrible, because they’re kind of just so goofy. But there’s something about this type of madness, this human madness, that is really, really what’s horrible.

Samuel Barber – “Adagio for Strings”

So, this last segment of music you’re going to hear is the music that we played at the tribute to the music of David Lynch. It is the music that plays at the very end of “The Elephant Man” movie.

It’s a really emotional, powerful piece of music. At the end of the movie here, John Merrick — we get a sense that he’s going to pass away in his sleep, and as he lays there he sees these great, David Lynch-ian dream sequences, you know, of his mother talking to him. Speaking about: “Love never dies,” you know, “You never die.”

I mean, that’s why I love David Lynch so much. He always has heart. It’s never a joke to be a joke. There’s never violence to get attention. It’s all from the heart. No one — you couldn’t do that and not mean it, you know?

  • ShadyKay

    I just listened to the Gavin Bryars piece a couple of nights ago. I put in the CD ever month or so to listen to as I fall asleep. The bad part of that is that I don’t get to hear the last movement very often. I love all of the movements, but the Tom Waits is my favorite. I think I’ll go listen to it. I’ve had the CD for at least 15 years – it may be longer than that, and I never tire of it.

    • Rico Gagliano

      I can imagine it being great sleepytime music. BTW, the version above is the original, pre-Waits release on Brian Eno’s label. It was a “mere” 25 minutes ’cause that’s what could fit on a vinyl record. Later a longer CD version was released with Tom Waits appearing in the final movement, which is apparently what you’ve got and which is amazing too!

      • not ted danson

        Yeah, anytime a new music technology would come along with more capacity, Bryars would re-work the music for the longer time frame. But the cd version with Tom Waits is the best. Such haunting, transcendent music.

    • not ted danson

      I find his Sinking of the Titanic even more beautiful and sad. But they’re both great, great pieces, and Gavin Bryars doesn’t get nearly the recognition that he deserves.

      • ShadyKay

        I don’t know why I’ve never sought out any of his other music. Thanks for the tip on Sinking of the Titanic. I’ll look for it.

    • Jefferson Moss

      This is the first time I’ve ever heard it and man, that’s lovely. Reminds me a lot of Paddy Macaloon’s I Trawl the Megahertz, off the album of the same name. The rest of the album is all great, Rhapsody in Blue/Moondog-type Mid-Century skyscraper jazz, but the title track is a 20-minute ethereal spoken-word dream. Lovely lovely.

      • Rico Gagliano

        “Skyscraper Jazz” may be the best genre descriptive I’ve ever heard. Thank you, sir.

        • Jefferson Moss

          Thanks! Came up with that one myself. I love that music. I call my playlist of it Music for the American Century. Makes me think of The Hudsucker Proxy, the Empire State Building and this Manhattan moment when the future was bright and exciting, America was unstoppable and anything was possible.