Recently, David Lynch has become as well known for his musical endeavors as he is his film work. The surrealist auteur contributed vocals to the Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse 2010 album Dark Night of the Soul, formed the campy rock outfit BlueBob and, of course, composed original music for his own films and TV cult-classic Twin Peaks. This week, Lynch adds “solo recording artist” to that mile-long résumé with the release of his album Crazy Clown Time, a weird pop endeavor that’ll certainly appeal to his longtime fans but ultimately struggle to gain a new audience. But as his work’s shown, he’s never been about mainstream success and a quick rundown of five of his best forays into music videos exemplifies this point. Time to get crazy.
1. Sparks, “I Predict”
Behold, David Lynch’s music-video debut. While the director had a recurring theme of adding music performances into his full-length films, Sparks’ new-wave jam “I Predict” was his first foray into band-commissioned directorial work. His influence is obvious too: Smoke machines and stark lights set the stage for the Sparks mastermind Ron Mael as he rather aggressively strips for a group of ogling men. It mirrors the director’s frequent observations on the emotional relationship between a performer and their audience. (Wild at Heart, Blue Velvet, Mullholland Drive, and Eraserhead feature stage-performances that reveal something larger about the plot or characters themselves.) Here close-ups of the uncomfortably wild-eyed, cross-dressing provocateur are cut with her crazed and lust-driven admirers. The singer and Ron’s brother, Russell Mael, walks through the crowd in a silver sequined blazer before vanishing into air.
For Sparks, this track was their first to hit the Billboard pop charts, peaking at 60 in ’82. The accompanying video, however, never saw the light of day. While it was scheduled to air on MTV that same year, producers pulled the plug after deciding that Ron’s mustache had too close of a resemblance to that of, um, Hitler’s. [Watch here.]
2. Rammstein, “Rammstein”
Before Mullholland Drive there was Lost Highway; it’s the darker, more hallucinogenic predecessor to Lynch’s (slight) mainstream hit. At their core, both films share the director’s exploration of parallel or false realities and blurred consciousness as a means of escapism. While the director staunchly refuses to explain his plots to the public, it’s safe to say that parts of Lost Highway are meant to unearth the inherent seediness behind the day-to-day lives of normal people.
Rammstein was the band to help bring that horror to life. While Trent Reznor soundtracked the film and collaborated on two original tracks with the director, it was Lynch’s addition of two Rammstein tracks, “Heirate Mich” and “Rammstein” that elicits the most apprehension. Lynch later directed a video for the band’s self-titled track that revolved largely around scenes from the movie and includes clips of Patricia Arquette’s (as Alice) secret porn footage, a terrifying Robert Blake (as the Mystery Man) toting a video camera and, of course, the manic Bill Pullman (as Fred) driving down a dark highway. And despite the Mystery Man’s seriously unsettling pale-faced, half-smile (and our knowing that Blake was tried and acquitted for the murder of his wife a few years later), the concert footage of Rammstein still managed to be the most abrasive part of the video. They are truly terrifying. [Watch here.]
3. Moby, “Shot in the Back of the Head”
A few years ago, Moby played a benefit show for Lynch’s trancendental meditation “Change Begins Within” benefit. This collaboration came soon after. Don’t worry, though. While the title of Moby’s spacey rock instrumental is telling of what’s to come, it’s not as visually graphic. Instead the black and white animation is what we’d imagine Lynch’s sketchpad looks like: A beautiful woman shrouded in darkness, a death or two, and a dark city covered in scribbles. [Watch here.]
4. BlueBob, “Thank You Judge”
Here we have Lynch’s homemade music video for BlueBob’s “Thank You Judge.” For those unaware, BlueBob is the director’s one-time side project with his friend and sound engineer John Neff. The inspiration behind the group was to make music that revisited the honest, low-budget, raw aesthetic of the early days of rock ’n’ roll.
In this particular video, we see a man (Neff) who seems to be recently divorced and stoically lists off his ex-wife’s (played by Lynch muse Naomi Watts) winnings from the separation. This list dominates the narrative and includes “pork the beans,” “my swimming pool,” and “all my tools.” He’s accompanied by a creature named Billy the Groper (Lynch) as he watches his ex-wife throw “all his socks” at him and flirt with her new boyfriend (Eli Roth). At the end, Watts calls the cops on Helms for trespassing and “the Groper” insists on giving Helms a thorough physical search to look for stolen goods. In other words, divorce, Lynch style. [Watch here.]
5. Chris Isaak, “Wicked Game”
The iconic video of Chris Isaak and Helena Christensen’s sultry beach frolic doesn’t seem very Lynch, does it? That’s because he didn’t make it. The “Wicked Game” video that’s earned it’s place among the Sexiest Music Videos Of All Time is actually the song’s second video. The original Lynch-directed go is much less fun for voyeurs. It’s a simple view of Isaak with his band while scenes from Wild at Heart are cut between. Surprisingly, Wild at Heart is what led the song to mainstream success. An instrumental version was used in the movie and led popular radio DJs to pick up the original, leading to a top ten placement on the Billboard charts within months. As for the video, it may be dull but Isaak is just as babely. So, you know. [Watch here.]