My dream is to go
to that place.
(You know the one.)
Where it all began
on a starry night…
Anyone who knows me at all, even slightly, knows how much I have worshiped at the altar of Twin Peaks lo these last 25+ years. There are the multiple Twin Peaks themed/linked tattoos. There is the framed picture of Audrey Horne which has graced multiple workplace desks (and is now surrounded by a veritable shrine of Twin Peaks paraphernalia). For those who only know me in the weakest sense of the term there are the various Twin Peaks inspired images that dot my Facebook and Instagram pages. To say I’m obsessed is probably not far off the mark.
One of the things I’ve always loved about Twin Peaks is the music. Angelo Badalamenti’s score for both the original series and its prequel film, Fire Walk With Me, have been on semi-constant rotation for my entire adult life. While some of Badalamenti’s “greatest hits” dotted the landscape of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s reboot, Twin Peaks: The Return, what the new series possessed that the original did not was live performances. Featuring a host of performers with varying levels of fame taking the stage at Twin Peaks’ most popular watering hole, The Roadhouse, The Return offered up a new musical dimension that few, if any, dramatic television series could replicate.
What the new series also offered that the original did not was a smattering of songs from the popular lexicon utilized in varying degrees of surrealism. While this article will focus solely on the live performances that usually ended each episode, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least call out one song in particular used to stunning effect in two gasp-worthy episodes. The 1956 version of the song “My Prayer” recorded by the legendary Platters was haunting in its never-ending beauty to begin with. Superimposed across two extremely important and disturbing sequences in Episodes 8 and 18 the song takes on an otherworldly aura that simply can not be shaken from one’s psyche.
Once it was all said and done (and there is so much to say about it) the music of Twin Peaks: The Return, coalesced to form an amazing soundtrack and can be appreciated by anyone, not just Peaks fanatics. So with that said, I present five performances you should immediately invest your time in.
Honorable Mention: Julee Cruise – The World Spins (Episode 17)
This one gets an honorable mention only because you don’t get the full song in this penultimate episode. The track, which appears on Cruise’s exceptional 1989 album, Floating Into The Night, originally appeared in the original run of Twin Peaks. Cruise was on The Roadhouse stage that time too, appearing right after one of the most stunning and brutal death scenes in American network television history. This time around she’s again giving us a taste of this track’s ethereal beauty while we are asking ourselves the same question – ‘what’s next?’
James Hurley – Just You (Episode 13)
As the second season of the original run started to unravel, before Lynch and Frost were able to reel it back in, several characters were given story arcs that not only jumped the shark, but drowned in the process. For 25 years now James Hurley (played by James Marshall) was the poster boy for fan frustrations as his character became mired in what can only be called a poor man’s soap opera. From the first episode of this new run though it was as if Lynch and Frost were determined to undo over two decade’s worth of fan vitriol when it was declared that, “James is still cool. He’s always been cool.” Before it went completely off the rails for the James Hurley character there was an offbeat, yet endearing moment in Donna Hayward’s living room where James sang the pseudo-50s ballad, “Just You”, complete with Donna and Maddy Ferguson on backup vocals. Well, go ahead and crown David Lynch the king of all trolls as he once again rolled out James Hurley singing this sappy, yet beautiful tune, complete with Donna and Maddy look-a-likes, the same bizarre falsetto vocals, and the same invisible backing band. 25 years later, James has his comeuppance.
The Cactus Blossoms – Mississippi (Episode 3)
Not every song performed on this new run was a rehash of something from the original series, I promise. Appearing in the early going was Minnesota’s The Cactus Blossoms, playing a track off their exceptional 2016 album, You’re Dreaming. Was this act chosen because they are led by brothers and hail from the Twin Cities? I kid, although knowing Lynch I wouldn’t be shocked. Mixing classic, folksy Americana with a penchant for Everly Brothers styled harmonies, The Cactus Blossoms were a welcome respite from the completely surreal and confounding start to the series.
Eddie Vedder – Out Of Sand (Episode 16)
Let me preface what I’m about to write with this: I do not like Pearl Jam. In fact, my dislike for them runs as deep as any river in the world, so when Pearl Jam front man, Eddie Vedder, was introduced (by his birth name Edward Louis Severson) the eye roll in my living room was palpable. I’m the first to admit though when I’m wrong about something and in this case I was wrong in ever doubting Lynch and Frost for bringing Vedder on board to perform is solo track, “Out of Sand”. It’s a pretty powerful ballad with poignant lyrics that play along with several of the overarching themes of the series. The fact that Vedder’s performance coincided with a major plot development (or so we thought) took nothing away from the song itself. That alone should testify to just how well written this song is, and how well it was delivered.
Sharon Van Etten – Tarifa (Episode 6)
Originally released on her stellar 2014 album, Are We There, Sharon Van Etten’s “Tarifa” was already a song I knew and thoroughly enjoyed. In my mind it was already the best song on an album filled with memorable moments. Set against a Twin Peaks backdrop though, and coming on the heels of one of the series’ most heartbreaking deaths, Van Etten’s performance is easily one of the most memorable of the series. I’ve watched the below video 50 times if I’ve watched it once and every…single…time I find myself sitting awestruck with chills running all over my body. I’m not afraid to admit that at certain points its even brought me to tears. Poignant lyrics, an amazing hook, and Van Etten’s earthy voice all come crashing together to (re)create a song that I would now include among my all-time personal favorites. Yes, Sharon, I wish it was 7:00 all night as well…
Rebekah Del Rio – No Stars (Episode 10)
There may have been no singular musical performance that captured the essence of this new run of Twin Peaks the way this one did. Rebekah Del Rio and her amazing voice are no stranger to the surreal world of David Lynch, having performed the track “Llorando” in the enigmatic Club Silencio scene of Lynch’s masterpiece Mulholland Drive. In 2011, Del Rio released her album, Love Hurts Love Heals, an ode to her son who had sadly lost his battle with cancer a few years prior. The track “No Stars”, co-written by Lynch, originally appeared on that album and it’s roughly midway through the series that Lynch asks Del Rio to reprise it at The Roadhouse. Everything about this performance was sheer perfection. From Del Rio’s Black Lodge inspired dress, to the mystical and ethereal lyrics, to the way she lingers on notes in the same way Lynch will linger within a given scene, this performance captured the true spirit of Twin Peaks unlike anything since Badalamenti’s original score. The day after this aired the internet was all abuzz with the fact that the bald guy playing guitar behind her happened to be none other than Moby. Make no mistake though, the real star on this night, shining through the darkness, was Del Rio.