Today’s deeply sad news was that singer Julee Cruise has committed suicide, following several years of suffering from lupus as well as depression. She first came to my attention like most others, in the soundtrack to David Lynch’s arresting “Blue Velvet.” The film’s composer Angelo Badalamenti had worked with Ms. Cruise in New York theater productions in the 80s and turned to her to be the voice on that film’s soundtrack. In a turn of events that couldn’t be expected, the original song that Lynch had wanted to figure as the love theme of his supremely dark film, “Song To The Siren” by This Mortal Coil, was priced out the the budget for synchronization rights. Lynch and Badalamenti needed to find a second way forward, leading them to write a song that had a similar vibe but was their own. But who to sing it? Badalamanti recalled Ms. Cruise and the rest was history.
When I saw the film, I was smitten by the delicacy of her song in the film. Her breathy vocal style seemed to me for all the world exactly the vocal footprint of Laurie Mayer; a favorite singer from the band Torch Song. At that time, I only had the one Torch Song album, and this seemed to be the next best thing. And it had the benefit of being on a CD, so I got the soundtrack and could hear this intriguing song. That seemed to be all for Julee Cruise.
Then in the fall of 1989, I was surprised to see that she had released a whole album, with all of the songs written by the team of Badalamenti and Lynch! I immediately bought “Floating Into the Night” as a special promo CD that was a picture disc at a time when 4 color silkscreening on the disc surface was a rare thing. I loved that album. I listened to it constantly, and it was probably my most played album of the 1990 year. It’s hard to believe now, but no one knew that five months later, by the spring of 1990, much of this music would be part of the ethereal soundtrack for the game changing “Twin Peaks” TV series that Lynch had been making. Below is a live version of the song “Up In Flames” with her poised Torch Song persona on VH-1’s New Visions from 1990.
Julee Cruise became something of a cause celebre at that time, appearing in the series as a singer at the series’ shady “Roadhouse.” “Twin Peaks” became a phenomenon. Striking American television with a white hot intensity that was absolutely the first water cooler television I can remember seeing. It was an immediate hit, but where can you go from there? As the series continued, and it became clear that Lynch was not interested in telling a linear story with conventional beats and payoffs, the audience trickled away. The weird tonal shifts that Lynch also liked with campy humor cheek-by-jowl with black terror, were also not a surefire way to win audience in America.
Within a year, the show was limping to a cancellation after its second season, and people moved on. As for me, it was the second to the last TV series I ever watched. By the mid-80s I severely limited my TV watching to one show a week. The last three shows I watched from the mid 80s to 1993 when I pulled the plug, were “The Days + Nights of Molly Dodd.” Then “Twin Peaks” then “Ren + Stimpy.” Then Any TV I watched after that was the [very] occasional DVD boxed set.
Speaking of home video, during the peak frenzy of the “Twin Peaks” craze, Lynch, Cruise, and Badalalamanti issued a wild home video of a musical/performance art hybrid called “Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream Of the Broken-Hearted.” It featured songs given an interpretation on stage [lip-synched] with Ms. Cruise reprising many of her songs from “Floating Into the Night” and the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack. It even had Nicholas Cage and Laura Dern, in their “Wild At Heart” personae performing int he introduction. Michael Anderson, who was The Man From Another Place in “Twin Peaks,” also appeared in the strange tableaux. Fortunately, this was available on laserdisc, so I bought one. Here’s how Lynch interpreted “I Float Alone” from that film.
1991 brought Julee Cruise singing a cover version of “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears” with the sturdy Badalamanti producing on the excellent soundtrack album to Wim Winders “Bis Ans Ende Der Welt” film, which I’ve never seen! But I sure have loved the soundtrack! It was packed with favorites [and R.E.M.] giving fantastic song performances that appeared only there. I could even stand the R.E.M. track, with Kate Pierson guesting.
Speaking of Kate Pierson, in 1992, Julee Cruise did something that no one expected. When Cindy Wilson took a leave of absence from The B-52’s to raise her family for a few years, the Athens legends got Julee Cruise to sub for Ms. Wilson on their tour for the “Good Stuff” album, which was made without Cindy participating. I could have gone to see Julee Cruise sing on that tour, which would have been my only chance to see her sing, but truth be told, I really dislike d all I had heard from “Good Stuff,” and besides; Cindy Wilson was my favorite member of The B-52’s!
That year also brought the last “Twin Peaks” experience I would have, the “Fire Walk With Me” prequel film. The night after the premiere, I woke up and immediately went to the nearest record store to buy the soundtrack. Whast I needed to hear, even before breakfast, was the most evil blues theme I’d ever heard in “The Pink Room,” but the album also hosted the last Julee Cruise song I would hear, “Questions In A World Of Blue.” This would be the last Julee Cruise song I would hear.
1993 brought the second Julee Cruise album for Warner Brothers. It was called “The Voice of Love” and I’ve not heard it. 1993 was a weird year for me, where I moved and bought a top of the line Macintosh at a price that curls my hair now, so I stayed away from record stores for a year or so. Missing a lot that happened in 1993. By that point I was no longer on the Julee Cruise bus, for reasons having nothing to do with the caliber of her art. It was a time when I stopped buying lots of artists I had favored.
Ms. Cruise spent the rest of the 90s occasionally subbing for Cindy Wilson when when was busy with her children. It was only after the advent of Discogs that I knew about her other two albums. 2002 brought “The Art Of Being A Girl,” and her final album was issued as a DL only called “My Secret Life” as a collaboration with DJ Dimitri [ex-Dee-Lite]. That’s an interesting pairing. A very different vibe to the Badalamenti material, and that video looks like “Severance” a decade early. I think I should try to source copies of those three albums I missed. Ms. Cruise was niche singer who all but owned her niche. I could play a Torch Song track with Laurie Mayer now to anyone under 50 and if they had a point of reference, it would be Julee Cruise. Our condolences to her family and friends.
She shows up again in Twin Peaks The Return. I highly recommend the whole show. Sadly, NPR is reporting it was a suicide: https://www.npr.org/2022/06/10/1104158276/julee-cruise-obituary-twin-peaks-david-lynch-b52s The article did find a clip of her performing Private Idaho with the B52s back in ’92.
newmusicmachineblog – That’s troubling news. I sure hope that all of the ills her husband outlined weren’t happening all at once.
I was kinda underwhelmed with solo album #2 I think it was and then the dreaded YT algorhythm hit me with some stuff from I think it’s #3 and wow that one’s a keeper. Also did some stuff with Moby and other odds and ends, there’s some good strays out that which are worth hearing.
She wasn’t too fond of her treatment with Twin Peaks, the Return. Music was very prominent in each episode in a bar band sense and she felt slighted by the time others received over her.
I’ve read some David Lynch bios where she’s interviewed and I think the inital collaboration was a happy thing for both of them and over time she grew disenchanted, if I remember right he wanted to keep beating the slow ethereal drum and she wanted to explore other things.
Very nice write up, I didn’t expect to see it but it was better than most of what I read in the MSM.
She’s jamming with Bowie and Prince now. Fletch is….I dunno…
Tim – Fletch is managing the door. I’ve had no experience of “Twin Peaks Season 3.” Preferring to leave well enough alone. Since the early 90s I’ve stuck to a “no sequels” policy. I’ve also stuck to a No David Lynch policy following “Lost Highway.” It sounds like she should have given TP3 a pass.
Your invocation of Prince makes me wonder how the Camille stuff would have wounded with Julee singing instead! I am pretty down on artists mechanically changing the pitch of their voices. It’s a blind spot in my Prince fandom.
I can’t see why this would have triggered the spam filter in Askismet. But all is well now. I look every day and lately I am getting hammered by spambots with 1000+ links per posting which takes a lot of time to scroll through to find nuggets like yours! On mobile devices, the more limited RAM will cause the app to hang! @#$% Spambots!!!
I try to not talk about work on social media but I will say we are seeing a significant uptick of spamminess in our internet stuff in the last few months.
TP3 is the bomb. It is good on a scale not seen by other reboots/sequels/franchises. I didn’t really know what to expect going into it but holy h*** you’re doing yourself a dis-service by not seeing it.
Also “The Straight Story” quite possibly one of Lynch’s finest efforts…based on a true story to boot.
Tim – Well, I DID see “The Straight Story” since I knew it would not be a parade of degeneracy! If I can figure out how to see TP3 well…we might do it. I still have every episode from bcast on S-VHS. I haven’t fired up that beast in ages.
Very sad and shocking news, but this has been the most wonderful tribute to Julee that I’ve read. Thanks for sharing, Post Punk Monk.
Khayem – Julee’s background in theater served her well in inhabiting a very different character from her usual singing voice. “Mysteries Of Love” changed everything for her. Thanks for the kind words.
Fantastic, fun soundtrack Until The End Of The World cassette had heavy rotation in my tape players, it had the longest and most tracks of the various release formats. I managed to see the film in it’s entirety on Youtubs about a decade ago. It’s interesting but the low budget style and extreme length leave something to be desired. Not one of Wenders better accomplishments. I think T-Bone Burnett had a lot to do with assemblage, but I might be misremembering.
I’m not sure what my first taste of Julee Cruise was, but most likely it was “Twin Peaks” first series, as I was riveted to that. I loved her first album, liked the second one, and did not know about the other two until this event, which was indeed a suicide brought on by the constant pain of lupus and other medical issues.
The one with Dimitri sounds like a nice attempt at a different sound. I did go to that B-52s show in Orlando where she subbed for Cindy, and while Cindy is also my fave member for a variety of reasons I thought Julee did a great job filling in and got to use her more “belter” voice, which was impressive. Also, you’re half-wrong about the Good Stuff album, in my opinion: half of it is really good, but the rest showed essentially that they were running out of ideas, and of course it was “too political” for the unwashed masses.
I’m sorry her relationship with Lynch went awry; he and Badalamenti made a great team with her, and such a delightfully weird take on slow 50s-style ballads. I really wish she and Laurie Anderson could have worked together, as I always thought that would be equally weird/off-kilter but in a completely different (yet delightful) way. RIP Julee.
chasinvictoria – That was a good call with Julee working with Laurie Anderson. I think that sounds inspired. Since I penned that post, the clarity of her suicide has come to light and I will revise the posting to reflect this.
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