Falling - Julee Cruise
A week ago today, Angelo Badalamenti died.
While he composed music for numerous films, my generation will always remember Badalamenti as the composer of distinctive and uniquely atmospheric music for the David Lynch / Mark Frost tv series "Twin Peaks".
It is difficult for people nowadays to understand the impact that "Twin Peaks" had on the western world, particularly the UK when it first appeared on our screens. In 1990 Britain had only four tv channels and on 9pm Tuesday October 23rd of that year on BBC2, the first episode of Twin Peaks was aired. With no Internet, news of its arrival was confined to the few programme trailers permitted on the Beeb in those days, the entertainment sections of the daily newspapers and word of mouth from movie buffs like myself who'd heard of Lynch. With only three channels to compete with (and one of them was the BBC News) admittedly there wasn't much competition. But the next day, the whole country was talking about it, and it seemed that the very landscape of tv drama, even after just that one episode, had irrevocably changed.
It's hard to explain now how the series was a gamechanger on so many levels: it had high productions values; it used arthouse cinema techniques on what was effectively a soap opera; it imploded myth after myth whether dismantling the concept of small-town America, high school romance or murder mystery; it was creative in the way it was shot, in the way it was edited, in the way it was scripted; it introduced interesting and well-rounded younger characters (something we had seldom seen in the UK) and the plot machinations and storyline could, convincingly, go anywhere including dreams, supernatural intervention and sexual perversion.
And then there was the music. Badalamenti's Twin Peaks theme, (the tune for "Falling") a resigned paean to the inescapability of life, with synthesised emotional ebbs and flows, crests and troughs, like the ever and never changing river and waterfall of the town Twin Peaks in the opening credits. Each episode finished with the Laura Palmer theme, a tune that starts dark and threatening and note by note raises itself from despair to hope, from hope to a kind of ecstasy as though out of the tragedy of youthful innocence not so much lost as destroyed and betrayed, the all-conquering beauty and good of that same innocence prevails. Somehow the music says this, and keeps on saying this, imbuing the whole story, a narrative of darkness hiding beneath the surface of the tidy lawns and cherry pie cosiness of American small-town society, with hope and a sense of resurrection, of the triumph of good over evil.
In "Twin Peaks" iconic scene often followed iconic scene, always with the power to surprise you with the unexpected, to make you marvel.
Singer Julee Cruise often worked with Badalamenti and Lynch, and appeared in Twin Peaks as vocalist with the resident band in the local roadhouse bar. In one of those extraordinary scenes, the series' main character, Agent Cooper, is in the crowded venue, when the band who are playing laid-back jazz rock, suddenly fade into shadow, and Cruise is mistily haloed in smoky light, singing high and husky, an unforgettable musical apparition.
Sadly Julee Cruise also died in 2022 aged only 65. I'm not sure if this is the tune she sang in the roadhouse, but it could be, it shares the atmospheric mood. It's definitely the tune of the "Twin Peaks" theme song that plays over each episodes opening credits. The haunting airiness of Cruise's voice, nearly out of our hearing, is as ethereal as Badalamenti's music itself, beautiful but speaking of a heartrending sadness that is just beyond our reach.
"Don't let yourself be hurt this time, don't let yourself be hurt this time......
....falling, falling, are we falling in love?"