MAPS AND LEGENDS - Final
Here it is, wrapping up the influence map I'd set up for QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS.
If there's a single band that sounds like LA to me, it's X. Granted, this is an artifact of me being as old as I am, but really it's about the soul of the band. Combining punk speed and rockabilly flourishes, gritty lowlife lyrics and soaring vocals to deliver these tales of rejection and woe and attempts to pull one's self out of the gutter, or of at least watching the fire of the old world burn out and picking something out of the ashes. Their first four albums are untouchable and sound like the city breathing. And if you count the Flesheaters (who went on to form half of X), they're probably the band I've seen most, counting all the way back from 1985. Hell, I saw 'em open for Oingo Boingo at the California State Fair in either 87 or 88 (Wall of Voodoo minus Stan Ridgway was supposed to open if you wanna know how crazy things were then.)
David Lynch's works are very much the Weird put to film. The dread, the compelling beauty, the strangeness that is right there in the small towns or even the dirty space in the vacant lot behind the Bob's Big Boy. I only picked MULLHOLLAND DRIVE given the setting (though I could have chosen LOST HIGHWAY). And Lynch's Los Angeles doesn't look like any other. Sure, it's the same on the surface, but you don't have to dig down very far to find murky strangeness, unnamable and unknowable beings and forces in whose hands we can hope to at best unnoticed, at worst a plaything for. The everyday turned into something Other, but recognizable.
Los Angeles Theatre/Broadway
The sun setting behind the Los Angeles Theatre on Broadway, buildings reduced to sharp silhouettes, disembodied language glowing brighter than the dusk. Yeah, that's the stuff. My photo, taken back in 2015.
THE BLUE DAHLIA title card
It's just beautiful is all. It's alien and strange, cut down to a multiplicative minimum, recursion and the graceful curves of the type. The movie itself is an interesting curiosity, and a great collection of signifiers for American noir film, written by Raymond Chandler. Though I'll note that the studio censors demanded a big change to things that is completely jarring when it comes to the end. Something about the portrayal of US servicemen in anything but a glowing light. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake work well together, and the rainy city is mean and stark as demanded, but that's contrasted with the easy life of the wealthy in postwar America.
Tom Waits – RAIN DOGS
Waits is certainly one of my writing inspirations, though I don't know how much of it comes across in the final piece. His off-kilter language and fragile, broken scenes of broken people living in a world we can only recognize as a smoky reflection of our own, these are the things that I love about his work. And RAIN DOGS saw him at the peak of his powers (having a superlative backing band didn't hurt either.) Though ostensibly the middle of a trilogy (part 1 being SWORDFISHTROMBONES, which marked his departure from sentimental beat poet and part 3 being FRANK'S WILD YEARS, a postmodern evocation of a lost America through the eyes of a failed Vaudeville singer), RAIN DOGS stands on its own as a singular work. I supposed if it came out today, it's be called "Americana" or somesuch, but there was no conception of that sort of thing in 1985, other than 'roots music' which certainly doesn't apply here. The songs are drunken fairytales or harrowing escapes or dreamlike wanderings through half-recognized townships and cityscapes. A perfect record.
Stick around next week for the secret reveal, the piece of work that I didn't put anywhere on the map but had a huge impact on the workings of the book. It's probably not what you think, which is fine. It's good to have some surprises.