OCTOBER MIX — Gigantic Talk
Electric Lit relies on contributions from our readers to help make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive. Please support our work by becoming a member today, or making a one-time donation here.
GIGANTIC TALK MIX
To celebrate the release of our latest print issue, Gigantic Talk, we thought we’d put together a mixtape of our songs exploring some idea of “talking.”
One of our first thoughts was to include a song by the Velvet Underground, one of the greatest and most original groups of “talkers” ever. We also wanted to include “Institutionalized,” by Suicidal Tendencies — a song with talking about talking — and something, really anything, by Bob Dylan. The Kinks appear twice: once, as performers, for their song “Big Sky,” and the second time as the authors of “Lola,” as brilliantly performed — transformed — by the Raincoats.
Some of the more unexpected tracks, perhaps, include Mogwai’s “Punk Rock,” featuring an interview with Iggy Pop for Canadian television; DOOM’s “Cellz,” a menacing beat built around a menacing poem by Charles Bukowski; a cover of the Motown classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by British punk rockers the Slits; and the Replacements’ ultimate answering machine complaint. These are all songs with or about talking — or, in the case of two songs by the Beach Boys and Brian Eno: not talking.
We hope you enjoy.
The Editors of Gigantic
1. “Everybody’s Talkin’” (1969) — Harry Nilsson
Dreamy, beautiful, sad. This video shows a 28-year-old Nilsson swaying and sashaying with himself in front of a large, illuminated sign that says “Beat Club.”
2. “Institutionalized” (1983) — Suicidal Tendencies
Has there ever been a better song written about wanting “a Pepsi, just one Pepsi”? The music video features a stack on a skateboard and top-button buttoning.
3. “Gotta Keep On Talkin’” (rec. 1967–70, rel. 2004) — Maurice Rodgers (Listen here; not available on Spotify)
A great song with an insistent, vaguely threatening message. I’m reminded of a sign I once saw at IKEA (I’m paraphrasing): “We will never, ever stop bringing you and your family quality furniture at low prices.” As in, even if you don’t want them to, they’re still going to keep doing it. Still, this song is great. — James
4. “The Leader of the Pack” (1964) — The Shangri-Las
A favorite girl group doing a song about girl talk and gossip, featuring lyrics — and skits! — about girl talk and gossip.
5. “Getting Over” (1982) — Kool Kyle (Listen here; not available on Spotify)
Speaking of skits, here’s another great one, this time from one of the Bronx’s finest.
6. “Dead Finks Don’t Talk” (1974) — Brian Eno
This one has it all: spoken verses, thematic engagement, the word “talk” in the title — there’s even a multitude of very different, very weird voices throughout (perhaps the “finks” alluded to in the title?).
7. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1979) — The Slits
The Marvin Gaye version is, of course, fantastic too, but there is a great oddness to the angular style of this cover version.
8. “All My Little Words” (1999) — The Magnetic Fields
I was once stood in front of Stephin Merritt at a Vic Chesnutt show in Williamsburg. Stephin Merritt’s already a fairly small guy and he was standing by himself, wearing a baseball cap, looking attentive, and vaguely lonely, as you might imagine a guy who sings “You are a splendid butterfly” to look. — James
9. “Big Sky” (1968) — The Kinks (Listen here; not available on Spotify)
Even after repeated listens over the years, the intro of this one is still so quietly, but singularly strange: “Big Sky looked down on all the people looking up at the big sky.” Where did the “the” come from?
10. “Talking World War III Blues” (1963) — Bob Dylan
This song closes with some of the best lines from Dylan: “Half the people can be part right all of the time. Some of the people can be all right part of the time. But all the people can’t be all right, all the time — I think Abraham Lincoln said that. I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours — I said that.”
11. “Calling Out of Context” (rec. 1985/early ’90s, rel. 2004) — Arthur Russell
The past few times Lincoln and I played this while DJing, somebody has come up to us, asking us to “play something more upbeat.” I suppose I can see their point, but still. To me, this song is a jam. — James
12. “Punk Rock” (1999) — Mogwai
The highlight of this has to be when Iggy compares Johnny Rotten to Freud. No, actually, it’s when Iggy explains, “See, what sounds to you like a big load of trashy old noise is, in fact, the brilliant music of a genius: myself.”
13. “Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not” (1980) — X
And here’s an actual punk rock song from a criminally underrated ’80s punk band.
14. “The Black Angel’s Death Song” (1967) — The Velvet Underground
This was easily my favorite VU song in high school. In fact, I think I think the first poem I ever published took its title from a distortion of the line “leave the colors of mouse trails.” — Lincoln
15. “Lola” (1979) — The Raincoats
The review on Allmusic.com calls this cover of the Kinks’ classic “great, skewed, and obtuse.”
16. “Try to Leave Me If You Can” (1974) — Bessie Banks (Listen here; not available on Spotify)
An oldie/goodie from the Stax-Volt vault.
17. “Hello, Hi, Goodbye” (2011) — The-Dream (Listen here: not available on Spotify)
I love The-Dream and also love that his name is The-Dream. Why don’t writers have hyphens in their names? — Lincoln
18. “Cellz” (2009) — DOOM
A menacing beat set to a menacing Bukowski poem as read by Bukowski himself.
19. “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame” (1961) — Elvis Presley
My favorite Elvis song. Someone should do an updated cover version where the narrator hears his friend tweet about his latest flame. — Lincoln
20. “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” (1966) — The Beach Boys
Just like the title says: talking here will only ruin it. The various a capella and instrumental versions of this song, found on the Pet Sounds Sessions, are also worth a listen (or many more).
21. “Answering Machine” (1984) — The Replacements
Stripped-down and raw, the last song from my favorite ’Mats album is a fitting one to end with here. “How do you say ‘I’m lonely’ to an answering machine?” Exactly. — James