|From the Magnetic Fields album Distant Plastic Trees:
The title "Railroad Boy" was possibly borrowed from the traditional song of the same name, which has been performed by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, among others.
Here is an excerpt from the original folk song:
"Oh mother, oh mother, I cannot tell
"Whale embryos filled your enormous room"
The Enormous Room is an autographical book by e. e. cummings, which recalls his experiences about being detained in France before the first World War. The "enormous room" is the prison in which he was kept, with other unlucky captives who, like cummings, were falsely accused of treason.
|Living in an Abandoned Firehouse with You
"I saw you today at the Café Blase"
Stephin is referring to the Café Blase located in Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the tip of Cape Cod. Take note of the references to the sea in the song:
. Nameless seaside ghost town...that's where I go when I see the moon.
Here is a description and address of Café Blase, taken from the
Provincetown web site (http://www.provincetown.com):
|From the Magnetic Fields album The Wayward Bus:
|The Wayward Bus is the title of a John Steinbeck novel, containing character studies of people riding in a bus on the backroads of California. It was made into a movie in 1957 starring Joan Collins and Jayne Mansfield, which probably should be avoided.
|When You Were My Baby
Musically, several songs on The Wayward Bus pay respect to the work of
Phil Spector, but lyrically, there are also similarities. In particular,
the liberal use of the word . baby. is notable. Quite a
few songs produced by Phil Spector have the word . baby. in their titles,
and Stephin was most likely following suit:
|Old Orchard Beach
There is an Old Orchard Beach in the New York City area, and it is also a city in Maine.
"Random driving around with you in my dilapidated car
|From the Magnetic Fields EP The House of Tomorrow:
|Technical (You. re So)
This song, in part, is a tip of the hat to Laurie Anderson, the spiky-haired
androgynous musician/artist/goddess who has recorded such electronics-laden
songs as "O Superman" and "Sharkey's Day."
"You're so technical, baby. Are you a boy or a girl?"
John Bigboote suggested that this line is a nod to David Bowie. s "Rebel
Rebel," which has the following line:
"You look like Herbert von Karajan"
Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) was a notable conductor, with over 800 albums to his name. Perhaps his most famous recording is of Richard Strauss. s Also Sprach Zarathustra for the soundtrack of the film 2001: a Space Odyssey.
|From the Magnetic Fields album Holiday:
|Torn Green Velvet Eyes
I've read that the title was taken from a poem, but I have no specifics. Help!
"You couldn't grok my racecar, but you dug the roadside blur"
Sci-fi aficionados will recognize "grok" as a Martian word coined by
Robert Heinlein in his book Stranger in a Strange Land. Basically,
it means "to profoundly understand," but here is what a character in the
book says about it:
|From the Magnetic Fields album The Charm of the Highway Strip:
|In the nearly unreadable liner notes, the quote is provided from which
the album title was taken:
"Let us hope that the merits and charm of the highway strip are not so obscure but that they will be accepted by the wider public" - J. B. Jackson, 1956
Here is an excerpt of a review of Jackson's book Landscape in Sight
: Looking at America from Amazon:
For years, Stephin studied with John R. Stilgoe, who was a pupil of Jackson.
|I Have the Moon
You may have figured out that "Crowd of Drifters" is about vampires, but you may be surprised to find out that "I Have the Moon" also has a vampire theme. It is sung from the point of view of a vampire who has bitten his lover once. To avoid getting a second bite, which would cause him to also become a vampire, the lover flies around the world in a plane to evade the nighttime.
|Two Characters in Search of a Country Song
This title is a reference to the play Six Characters in Search of
an Author, written by Luigi Pirandello. Here is a synopsis from
|From the Magnetic Fields single "I Don't Believe You":
|I Don't Believe You
"You may sing me 'They Were You,' and I start crying halfway through"
"They Were You" is a song from the musical The Fantasticks.
(thanks to Brian Antonak for this info)
|From the 6ths album Wasps' Nests:
|San Diego Zoo
"Highway 405 will take you from the Boom Boom Room
The Boom Boom Room is a gay club in Laguna, California. Here is
the listing found on the Sidewalk
San Diego web site:
|Looking for Love (in the Hall of Mirrors)
In this song, the Hall of Mirrors is a fictitious gay club, and its
name is possibly a nod to Kraftwerk's "The Hall of Mirrors" on their Trans-Europe
"There's a dark place down by the tracks where the wrinkles don't show
They've got a room in the back where the lonely hearts go
You can get in on the act or just take in the show"
These lines refer to a theory that Stephin and Claudia have, that gay bars are always located near railroad tracks.
|Yet Another Girl (from the Wasps'
Nests 6 6/6" boxed set)
"Mademoiselle Chelsea Hotel, prettiest in all the world"
This line refers to the Chelsea Hotel located in New York City.
The following description was taken from a Berenice
See the entry below for "Amnesia" for more info.
|From the Future Bible Heroes album Memories of Love:
"Blond Adonis on the endless Autobahn"
These lines are probably references to the pioneering electronic music outfit Kraftwerk, of which Stephin is a fan. Autobahn is the title of their 1974 album, and Kraftwerk has tracks titled "Europe Endless" and "Endless Endless" on their Trans-Europe Express album. The "computer-generated face" could be referring to the cover of Computer World or Electric Café.
|From the Future Bible Heroes EP Lonely Days:
|How to Get Laid in Japanese
Apparently, Stephin has been studying a Japanese phrasebook. Here is an English translation:
"tabako wa ikaga desu ka"
"dare ka ga o machi desu ka"
"yoru ga sugiyootoshiteimasu"
"hoteru ni o mukae ni kimasu"
"dono ban ni ikimashoo ka"
"o taku made okuri shimashoo ka"
"o hitori desu ka"
"asu o shinji ni ikimasen ka"
(thanks to Sarah Collins and her friends)
"You mustn't put the sun in your mouth
Knowing Stephin's admiration for Andy Warhol and Nico, this might be a reference to Warhol's film Chelsea Girls (which features the Chelsea hotel prominently) and/or Nico's album Chelsea Girl.
See the entry above for "Yet Another Girl" for more info.
Robey Pointer provides this explanation:
|As You Turn to Go
"I know you've had more love than Mata Hari"
This mini-history was found on (of all places) a site for software
called "Mata Hari":
Her spying began through a series of wealthy lovers. It is undisputed that she spied for the Germans beginning in 1916 under the codename H-21, using such exotic spycraft as invisible ink and other techniques. Many claim that she also spied for the French as a double agent.
According to a permanent exhibit devoted to her at the Fries Museum in the Netherlands, it was while on a mission for the French to Brussels that British custom officials first questioned her about her activities. This inquiry - and later denials by the French that she was working for them - led to her arrest in Paris in February 1917. After a highly-publicized trial, she was executed by a French firing squad in October of that year.
Mata Hari literally means 'eye of the day' in Malaysian, but is symbolic of the sun."
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