Monday, January 14, 2008

The Siren, Part 1: Swim to Me

And so it began. With a band name taken from Hamlet- the Shakespeare Company's most portentious drama- and a song written by a doomed, modern day Celtic bard in honor of the great destroyer of men, the Eternal Drama found a new, real-world expression in the voice of Elizabeth Fraser, the not-quite-human Scottish thrush who would enchant not only David Lynch, but also the son of the song's composer. The album title was simply the icing on the cake- It Will End In Tears.

Which it most certainly did.

This performance by "Siren" composer Tim Buckley was taken from the March 25, 1968 episode of The Monkees TV show, whose plotline is like something out of James Shelby Downard:

"Mijacogeo" (1968)

Micky, Mike and Peter find that Peter and all their neighbors have been hypnotized by their Television sets. The Evil Wizard Glick is using an alien Frodis to control people's minds through his machines (such as the Freeble Energizer) and plans to take over the world. Worst of all, The Monkees are prohibited by law to change into their Monkeemen alter ego's and even the chant Micky learned from a cereal box-top backfires on them - Internet Movie Database

The same year that Fraser recorded "Song to the Siren" with This Mortal Coil, she also sang a song called "Lorelei" on the Cocteau Twins' album, Treasure. It's unknown as to whether Fraser realized the name Lorelei referred to a German version of the Siren, who lived in the Rhine River and would lure fisherman to their death with the sound of her singing.

Fraser's magic would enter the meme-stream through the side door. Hearing her version of "Siren," David Lynch was hellbent on using it in Blue Velvet:
"I heard the song in the 80's and I'm not sure whether it was '85, but I really pretty desperately wanted to use it in Blue Velvet and it was tied up in some sort of legal thing, or it was either that or something involving a lot of money and we couldn't get it. And it broke my heart, but on the other hand not having This Mortal Coil "Song to the Siren" led me to Angelo Badalamenti and Angelo, you know, I've worked with ever since. Angelo really brought me into the world of music, right into the middle of it."

"...the alternative was "Mysteries Of Love", that Angelo wrote and I fell in love with. I didn't think I would, I thought, there's a million songs, how can Angelo write something that is going to take the place of this, and it was strange. It took the place of it, and continued this great, great, relationship I have with Angelo."

Undaunted, Lynch later used Fraser's rendition in Lost Highway.

To Be Continued


  1. Lorelei was Marilyn Monroe's character in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, where she is referred to as a "man trap" and performs "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend".

  2. Yes, Michael- these symbols are *sentient*. They have their own velocity.

    Thanks for the tip.

  3. the nature of jeff buckley's death (unexplained dissapearance, drowning)is definitely fitting right in with this.

  4. The devil is in the details, my brother...

    Stay tuned.