David Lynch has always had an ear for an arresting tune—indeed, they feature in just about all of his most appreciated works—think of “In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)” in Eraserhead, “Blue Velvet” and “In Dreams” in Blue Velvet, the Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” in Mulholland Drive, and so on.
Angelo Badalamenti has been Lynch’s music collaborator ever since Blue Velvet. His brilliant, moody theme music for Twin Peaks catapulted him into public recognition, although it was actually Lynch himself who composed one of the most controversial musical pieces in the director’s oeuvre, ironically the one bit of music that may have made some fans curse Badalamenti—I refer to the creepy, doomy music heard in the lengthy “Pink Room” scene in Fire Walk With Me (which was unfortunately rendered well-nigh incomprehensible because the music drowned out the dialogue).
Those who stuck with the TV series through its second season were rewarded with one of the show’s most indelible and controversial moments in the second episode (titled “Coma”) when James Hurley (James Marshall) and two young women he’s involved with, Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) and Maddy Ferguson (Sheryl Lee, who also played the iconic Laura Palmer), convene in the Haywards’ living room to “work on” a new song. The song is purest 1957, right down to the downright peculiar falsetto work by James, and sparks fly when during the song, Donna notices the intensity of the interactions between Maddy and James and leaves the room. (Have you learned nothing, Donna? Never yield the field of battle to your opponent!)
This scene has probably resulted in more derision than any other scene in Twin Peaks—although a lot of Twin Peaks fans really dig it. It’s so artificial and over-the-top that it’s impossible to take at face value. But give Lynch credit—only he could come up with a scene as magnificently static and “off” and yet so wonderfully resonant. The sickly saccharine quality of the song matched to the all-too-real drama the characters are experiencing…. it’s so Lynchian it hurts.
How did the scene come about? Remarkably, it was the product of a hasty songwriting session on the set that took place quite shortly before shooting the scene. As James Marshall explained at the Twin Peaks Festival in 2013, “I play guitar a lot and I used to bring my guitar to the set. ... David Lynch heard about it and said, ‘Would you be comfortable doing a song on the show?’”
So Marshall and Badalamenti and Lynch met on the set of the Hayward home, where the scene would eventually be shot, to compose a Fifties pastiche on the fly, presumably while a million other things are going on around them. Here’s a loose transcription of Marshall’s account (some verbal filler removed, tightened in places):
The day rolls around and I go up to the set like he asked me to, Angelo’s standing there—it was the Hayward house because there was an upright piano in it, so we got to use the piano to write. So he goes, “What is the vibe that you want to do?” And I said, “Well, the vibe of the whole series is timeless? But it—we don’t want to go Fifties, but almost a little Fifties sort of feel? When I think of Fifties, we could do a doowop kind of feel, but make it falsetto doowop but almost Beatles falsetto doowop, we’re not going to “sha na na” or whatever, make it something etheric [prob. “ethereal”]. They go, “What song?” and Angelo starts messing around on the keyboards. I go, “No, not fast, let’s go slow.” All three of us have this banter back and forth of how the song should go. Angelo said name a song because David was stuck. ... So I go, “When I think of Fifties I think of ‘Only You.’” ... that real romantic, over-the-top, shredding keyboards almost to distortion. Bowie’s good at that, old Bowie stuff. Right? So I go, “It can’t be that, but that vibe.” And Angelo goes, “Got it!”
You should click on the video below and hear Marshall’s account for yourself, it’s very engaging (and starts around the 4:45 mark).
One of the more unexpected aspects of Twin Peaks: The Return was the prominence of the Renault family’s Roadhouse. In the final section of most of the new episodes (of which there were 18), the action would move to the tavern venue where (in completely random fashion, honestly) a remarkable array of prominent musical performers would appear and do a song, including such stalwarts as Rebekah Del Rio, Au Revoir Simone, Sharon Van Etten, and (most surprising of all) Nine Inch Nails.
Twin Peaks (Music From the Limited Event Series)
Just as the viewers had gotten used to all manner of musical stars improbably trekking all the way to southern Washington state for a special intimate gig, episode 13 surprised the Twin Peaks faithful by getting James Hurley/Marshall and two backup singers on the stage for a special rendition of Twin Peaks’ most cloyingly controversial song: “Just You.” You can hear it below.
One of the more glittering vinyl offerings this year is the 2LP soundtrack for Twin Peaks: The Return, which contains all of the songs played at the Roadhouse during the 2017 episodes, also known as “Season 3.”
“Just You” scene in Season 2 of Twin Peaks:
James Marshall at Twin Peaks Fest 2013: