David Lynch loves music and he refers to specific musicians and songs throughout this book. I thought of making a playlist that simply name-checked the music that’s mentioned in the book, but such a playlist would’ve been all over the place in terms of mood. So, I decided instead to go for a sustained mood, and the mood I chose is dreamy. The book is called Room to Dream
, after all, and David gravitates towards music that casts a spell. That’s what this playlist is about.
"Moonglow/Theme From Picnic" by Morris Stoloff
I picked this to be the first song because I know that David loves it and because, for me, it embodies the subtle sexiness of the 1950s. The song, by Morris Stoloff, is featured in Joshua Logan’s film of 1956, Picnic
, in a scene where the characters played by William Holden and Kim Novak dance outdoors on a hot summer night. It’s an electrifying scene.
"I Only Have Eyes for You" by The Flamingos
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This is a recording of such shimmering loveliness that it stands apart from any other recording ever made. It is truly mesmerizing. David was 14 years old when the Flamingos released their version of this song, originally written in 1934 by Harry Warren and Al Dubin; I can picture him with the transistor radio pressed to his ear.
"Ruler of my Heart" by Irma Thomas
The thing I love about this record is its intimacy. It’s such a quiet song, like whispered vows between lovers.
"Win" by David Bowie
This song has a kind of evanescent grace that’s incredibly powerful, and I included it because David loves Bowie. He appeared, of course, in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
, and his tune, "I’m Deranged," serves as the opening track for Lost Highway
. "Win" is a little-known cut from Bowie’s 1975 album, Young Americans
, and is one of many magnificent songs he wrote and recorded that never made the charts. What an abundance of riches Bowie gave us.
"The Mountain's High" by Dick and Dee Dee
There’s something so haunting and remote about this song, and it has such a strange feeling — it’s as if it was recorded over the mountains and far away. Maybe it’s the heavy echo on the vocal, maybe it’s the yearning lyrics, maybe it’s the nutty snare drum riff that holds the song together — whatever it is, it works. Trailblazing musician Brian Eno once cited this long-forgotten pop tune as a favorite, and when you listen to it you can see why; there’s something magical about this record.
"Destiny" by Zero 7
From Zero 7’s debut album of 2001, Simple Things
, this song is like a dark, velvety nighttime sky twinkling with stars.
"Sally, Go 'Round the Roses" by the Jaynetts
A sort of musical rumor of heartbreak soon to come, this 1963 pop hit has an eerie magnetism that’s unique. The Jaynetts: Who were they, and what became of them? All I know is that the American pop charts were awesome during the 1960s.
"Some Kinda Love" by The Velvet Underground
From the Velvet’s third album, released in 1969, this vaguely disturbing song feels like watching an orgy when you’re really high. Evocative of the strange, dangerous love one often finds in David’s films, the lyrics go: "Let us do what you fear most / that from which you recoil / but which still makes your eyes moist." This is a song for Dorothy Vallens.
"Mystic Eyes" by Them
This is a peculiar tune that I find riveting. Written in 1965 by Van Morrison for his group, Them, "Mystic Eyes" has lyrics that extend for just six bars, but boy do they set a mood: "One Sunday mornin' / A-we went walkin’ / down by the old graveyard / the mornin’ fog / I looked into / A-yeah those mystic eyes." That’s it! Not much, yet the song has tremendous drive, and there’s a sense of urgency to Van’s harmonica solo that pulls you into the song and doesn't let go. Tom Petty does a fabulous cover of this song; it takes nerve to follow in Van’s shoes, but Tom pulls it off.
"Brazil" by Antônio Carlos Jobim
This song has a breezy beauty that always stops me in my tracks. It flows like water, coasting along on a classic bossa nova beat, and the song’s refrain, “I will return,” transforms it into a bittersweet poem about memory and longing.
"Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" by Joni Mitchell
This journey “down the dark ladder” is included on Joni’s fifth album, For the Roses
, released in 1972. Written in the wake of her break-up with James Taylor, the song is reputedly a portrait of a heroin addict, and it’s definitely a sinister song. It’s languid and sexy too, though, and it moves like smoke from a cigarette drifting slowly toward the ceiling.
"Albatross" by Fleetwood Mac
This song has a vast sense of space that’s extraordinary; you can see clouds parting and waves crashing on a shore as the notes drift through space. Written and performed by the brilliant Peter Green, founder of the original Fleetwood Mac and the genius behind their seminal 1969 album, Then Play On
, "Albatross" just sort of hovers in the air. It’s like beautiful weather.
'Water From a Vine Leaf' by William Orbit with Beth Orton
This extended piece of electronica is like musical Ecstasy, and is William Orbit at his very best.
"It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World" by James Brown
I included this song because it says it all in such a tough, sweet way.
"Love Theme From Chinatown" by Jerry Goldsmith
David has expressed his admiration for this fantastic film score, which was composed and produced by Goldsmith in 10 days. Ten days! That is incredible. The film opens with this mournful theme built around a gorgeous trumpet solo, and it establishes the mood of beauty and regret that runs through the entire film. For anyone who’s seen and loved Chinatown
— and how could anyone not
? — this song becomes the very essence of old Los Angeles. Hear the tune, close your eyes, and smell the orange blossom.
÷ ÷ ÷
is a widely published critic and journalist who wrote for the Los Angeles Times
from 1979 through 1998, and has been a close friend and interviewer of David Lynch since the Eraserhead
days of 1977. Her profiles and criticism have appeared in Artforum, The New York Times, ARTnews, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post
, and Rolling Stone
. Her books include The Ferus Gallery: A Place to Begin
, two collections of interviews, and most recently, Room to Dream