Welcome back to Now Playing, where we ask our contributors about the last thing they played, watched, listened to, consumed. Each response is a story in itself — a window in.
Ryan Clark – “I. [eye]”
I’ve been running errands driving my uncle’s car while house sitting for him and his family, listening to Disc 2 of Pavement’s Wowee Zowee (Sordid Sentinels Edition). Highlights include “Sensitive Euro Man,” the 8:11 min. version of “Fight This Generation” (with its telephone-style devolving lyrics), and “Brink of the Clouds/Candylad” (“He’s a candylad / he’s a lad made of candy”). Didn’t care for it too much after my first listen, having just recently bought it, but apparently driving in an unfamiliar town is the ideal scenario for listening to these last few Pavement B-sides. Besides, I was driving on pavement the whole time.
Meghan Phillips – “Koosh Motel”
I really love the idea of covers, especially live ones. They feel really joyful to me. A musician loves another musician’s song so much, that they just have to play it. So a lot of my listening involves strings of originals and their covers. I heard The Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing” in the car last week, so as soon as I got home, I listened to The Pretenders’ version. I love The Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” (which has been covered a bunch), and for a while I was spinning Karl Blau’s cover, but lately, I’ve been really digging Nina Simone’s version. There’s also a pretty funky cover of “Wichita Lineman” by The Meters that I listen to a lot, and Donny Hathaway’s version of “Jealous Guy” blows John Lennon out of the water. My current cover loves are Yes’s version of The Beatles “Every Little Thing” and The Regrettes tearing up Sweet’s “Fox on the Run.”
Music also plays a big role in my writing. I often hear a song that makes me want to write something that sounds like the song, if that makes sense. For example, I wrote a piece of flash fiction inspired by “Wichita Lineman” (the Glen Campbell version). I’ve been working on a few things connected to specific songs lately, though I’m not making as much progress as I’d like. I’ve got a playlist that’s just different versions of “Sweet Jane” for one project. This week, I’ve listened to “Another Girl, Another Planet” by The Only Ones at least 20 times as I try to write this story about sad space lesbians. I’m also working on a flash inspired by Dexy’s Midnight Runnner’s “Come on, Eileen,” but to be honest, I listen to that song everyday anyway.
Kristine Langley Mahler – “Good Sorts”
So here’s the thing—I work from home during my day job putting exams online, and since it can be a lot of rote copy-and-pasting, I usually keep a Youtube tab open. Youtube works those algorithms to figure out which songs you’ve clicked on most often and a couple of years ago, when I first chopped my hair off, I was watching a shit-ton of Tears For Fears videos trying to find the haircut I wanted (spoiler: it’s Roland Orzabal in “Pale Shelter.” Roland, not rat-tailed Curt). Unsurprisingly, “Head Over Heels” came up and I clicked over to watch it—and here’s the crux of it all—because when Roland walks up to the counter and can barely make eye contact with the librarian and he’s darting his eyes up and down he’s so overcome with the effort it takes to confess I wanted to be with you alone and talk about the weather—THE WEATHER, of all things, the boy can’t handle anything more personal—and the way he can’t make eye contact as he admits I’m lost in admiration, could I need you this much?, I’m obsessed with how uncool he is—staggering up, wearing an oversized trenchcoat, and how she just looks at him and he turns and leaves mechanically, thud-footed, not even rejected as much as unacknowledged, God, I’m obsessed with Roland Orzabal in this video, following the object of his desire around, incanting promises and confessions and his persistence succeeding, every behavior I’d fantasized I could induce in a teenage boy.
Erin Striff – “Lies My Babysitter Told Me”
In 1990, I snuck around my London dorm putting up homemade signs about the Twin Peaks season finale so we’d all agree on a channel in the TV lounge. The room was packed as we wondered who of those townspeople, with their jelly doughnuts and their cups of joe, could have killed Laura Palmer. That backwater town had enough sleepy evil to make your hair turn white. Special Agent Dale Cooper’s quirky optimism almost made me feel homesick. Except for all the murders, this could be my hometown.
It’s 2017 and I’m back in America. I’ve got all the episodes ready for a binge, but you can only eat so much pie at a time. Something’s wrong. The whimsy is gone and death is louder, bloodier than before. Agent Cooper is trapped in time, Laura Palmer’s arms are still bending back, the Log Lady can’t stop crying. I don’t recognize this town at all. I turn off the show and the news report says more people were mown down on the streets of London. Oh, Coop, we need your belief in us more than ever.
I know a place where there’s a smell of Ponderosa Pine and the gentle thud of a log jam at the sawmill on Black Lake. When the wind kicks up, the spray from the waterfall mists you half way across town. Meet me at the diner, Agent Cooper, and I’ll spot you some cherry pie. We’ll dance to jukebox jazz while our coffee gets cold. There’s clues to follow, but let’s leave that for later. This song’s my favorite.