In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: Music is the through-line in David Lynch’s career. While his films can vary wildly in tone, pop songs and each film’s score have roundly been front and center, or lurk around every other frame. With the upcoming release of his second solo studio album, The Big Dream, Lynch burrows deeper into music and seemingly further away from film. A huge proponent of transcendental meditation (or TM), the cerebral Lynch has a very personal relationship with music, so much so that The A.V. Club was requested to refrain from actually saying the title “It’s A Small World” throughout the entire interview. A code word for the song, “Flappy,” was predetermined before the interview.
The hated: The Sherman Brothers’ “It’s A Small World” (1964)
The A.V. Club: Can you remember when “Flappy” first invaded your consciousness? Was there a traumatic theme park experience involved?
David Lynch: Yes. I went to Disneyland. I think I took my daughter there. This was a long time ago, and when I heard it, it was a very traumatic experience.
AVC: Was it a combination of the crowds and the people?
DL: No, it was just the actual tune.
AVC: The writers have argued that “Flappy” is most performed and translated piece of music on Earth. I assumed the song was more ubiquitous for you growing up.
DL: I’ve only heard it in that connection.
AVC: So as a child you were never exposed to the song?
DL: No, no, no, thank goodness.
AVC: The song seems to have an obviously negative, psychological effect on you. Are you the kind of person who gets a song stuck in his head for days, and that’s where the hatred comes from?
DL: Yeah, it got stuck in my head, and it was like having a disease.
AVC: Is it the repetitiveness, the lack of any kind of invention, in the song?
DL: Yeah, it’s actually a masterpiece in some ways, because it’s so simple, yet even kind of more than catchy. Like I said, it’s like the swine flu or something. Through music, you get the swine flu.
AVC: It’s like the perfect jingle from hell. It was written by these guys, The Sherman Brothers, and when they first played it for Walt Disney they did a slow, ballad version of it. Once they sped up the tempo, Disney immediately loved it.
DL: It’s a strange thing. Walt tuned into something that’s sort of like McDonald’s. It travels to the people, and the song is perfect for that. It’s a real torment to me. It’s been since I heard it.
AVC: It’s like a greasy cheeseburger. It goes down easy, but doesn’t fill you up in any way.
DL: It doesn’t even go down that easy. It makes you sick while it’s sitting there in your stomach, or in this case, your brain.
AVC: In general, what kind of music offends you? You obviously have an appreciation for a multitude of genres.
DL: I love music, of course, and many, many, many genres. There are hardly any songs I would say that I hate. There’s a couple, and I don’t even know exactly why I don’t like them. I haven’t liked those songs throughout the years, whenever I hear them. A lot of music doesn’t do one thing or another. It just doesn’t do anything. Then there are those pieces of music that thrill your soul. It’s such a wide range, and it’s really interesting that we all love different things. That’s always interesting to think about.
AVC: Music is a very physical thing. Good music can give us goosebumps. In regards to things we hate, do you think it’s a subconscious, primal thing? Certain rhythms just don’t connect?
DL: It’s probably a combo of things. In a song it’s voice, it’s lyrics, it’s music, and it’s certain instrumentation. It’s a combination of things that add up to a minus, a zero, or a plus. We want to have our library filled with those pluses.
AVC: “Flappy” is obviously strongly connected to consumerism. Are songs ruined for you when they are co-opted by “evils,” such as commercials? Do you cast them out of your life?
DL: Sometimes, and sometimes not. It depends on how they’re used. I think that commercials can really ruin a song. You know that the person sold the song for a good deal of money, and that was the tradeoff. But, music and picture can marry in a beautiful way, and the reverse also.
AVC: Are the songs you put in your movies your favorites? I’m thinking of “In Dreams” from Blue Velvet, or is it what best fits the picture for you?
DL: They fit the picture. There’s a lot of songs that I love, but they don’t marry to the picture. “In Dreams” is an incredible song. It’s incredibly beautiful, but it married to the picture.
AVC: Do you remember when music first affected you in such a positive way?
DL: I was really little when it affected me in a positive way. Music marries to that time, so if you hear it again, you go right back. You can feel the feeling, and I go back in time.
AVC: Were your parents into music? Did they expose you to certain things?
DL: They were into classical music mostly.
AVC: Is that where your love of classical orchestration comes from?
DL: Not really. Working with Angelo [Badalamenti] and John Morris on The Elephant Man, John Morris did some beautiful things. Angelo is just the greatest. He can write anything.
AVC: What’s your process when making music? Do the melodies come to you through TM?
DL: Meditation is to dive all the way within, beyond thought, to the source of thought and pure consciousness. It enlarges the container, every time you transcend. When you come out, you come out refreshed, filled with energy and enthusiasm for life. In the process, ideas are easier to catch. They’re easier to catch, but there’s still no real thing we can do to guarantee catching an idea. Expanded awareness is a huge help. Another thing that helps is that we all live under so much stress and negativity, and transcending every day lifts that negativity. It allows those tubes that the ideas flow through to expand and not be squeezed by negative things. You can catch ideas all day long from different places, but you don’t want negativity squeezing that tube so little ideas can’t get through.
AVC: If you think of “Flappy,” you don’t want that screwing up your day.
DL: No, no, no. That’s why I really questioned doing this interview. Just the thought of it can start it going, and it’s a torment.
AVC: Are music and TM your personal and creative refuges?
DL: I love many, many different mediums. One of them is music, for sure. Transcendental meditation fuels all the mediums. They say transcending is a holistic experience, so all avenues of life start improving. It’s very, very beautiful.
AVC: Do you think musical hatred can be unlearned? That maybe someday you could appreciate “Flappy” on an ironic, or guilty-pleasure level?
DL: Absolutely. Appreciation for life, all of it, can grow. There could come a day, in supreme enlightenment, when “Flappy” would be absolutely fine. It could be so beautiful.