In I Made You A Mixtape, we ask our favorite musicians, actors, writers, directors, or whatevers to strut their musical savvy: We pick a theme, they make us a mix.
The mixers: Matt Fraction and Mike Allred are two comic book creators who have never shied away from musical influences in their work. Fraction’s creator-owned series Casanova follows a Mick Jagger lookalike engaged in a psychedelic interdimensional conflict with a David Bowie analog, and Allred made his name writing and drawing alternative comics like Grafik Muzik and Madman, honing a pop-art style that has the energy and imagination of a ’60s album cover. Fraction and Allred are the writer-artist team behind Marvel’s monthly series FF, the companion title to Fraction’s Fantastic Four that takes inspiration from different eras of the book for an incredibly fun all-ages superhero title. The Future Foundation is throwing a pool party in FF #9, and The A.V. Club talked to Fraction and Allred about how they would score a superhuman summer shindig.
The B-52’s, “Rock Lobster” (1978)
Mike Allred: With all my choices, I just wrote down the first things I thought of in terms of a summer pool party vibe and I just left it. If I second-guessed any of my choices, I would have changed them all over again. But “Rock Lobster” was right there; it just sounds like a mutant celebration right there and it was perfect.
Matt Fraction: I think it should be the national anthem, and I think we should have to remain on our feet for the entirety. You always hear, “When I’m the president, blah, blah, blah.” Well, that would be mine: “Rock Lobster,” everybody, for the full seven minutes.
The A.V. Club: It’s a silly song, but it takes a level of artistry to convey that mood clearly. That’s something FF also does very well. It’s goofy and fun, but there’s a strong craft underneath it all.
MA: The best guitar licks are always the simplest and the ones that you know you could pick up and work out in a minute. In fact, I heard that the guitarist [Ricky Wilson] was missing some strings on his guitar and didn’t care because those were the only strings he needed. He’s since passed away, but that’s saying that the best rock is the simplest.
MF: So much rock music is so deadly serious; I was at the gym and there was some kind of bullshit metal playing about how much this dude hates his mom and stuff. [Laughs.] I think rock could use a few more Fred Schneiders and a few less Fred Dursts. That’s another Matt Fraction presidential promise.
MA: You have my endorsement.
Daft Punk, “Get Lucky” (2013)
MF: It’s such a declaration of summer jam-ness that it’s not even funny. It’s like they tried. It’s like, “Listen, let’s make a song that everybody listens to all summer long.”
AVC: Have you listened to the new Daft Punk album?
MF: Have you heard it, Mike?
MA: I haven’t, but every time I think of Daft Punk, I think of the LCD [Soundsystem] song “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,” and just thinking of that song makes me start jumping around.
MF: My son heard “Around The World” and he loved it, and he would start doing his little robot walk and start singing “around the Earth.” But then I told him, “Listen, there’s a song called ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’ and it’s all about Daft Punk at a party at a guy’s house,” and he was very excited and I played the song and he said, “That sounds like my kind of house.” [Laughs.] But it’s funny, I didn’t like [Random Access Memories] so much on first listen. There’s this track, which is just stone-cold science, and I was listening to the rest of it and thought, “Oh, this is okay.” The last track really impressed me right off: The more I’ve listened to it, the more I can’t stop listening to it. There are four great tracks and three really strong ones, and the entire record is growing on me the more I listen to it. Who knew I’m becoming a Chic fan in my old age? But the craftsmanship really grows and the strength of the songwriting, to my surprise.
AVC: The way Daft Punk takes musical themes from various eras of music and combines them with a futuristic element creates this sound that’s both retro and progressive. It’s similar to your FF. There are the core four teachers from different periods of Fantastic Four history, and then all the kids from Jonathan Hickman’s recently concluded run. Did you initially set out to turn FF into the Fantastic Four book for superfans of the team and the family?
MF: I wish people could see this as [FF and Fantastic Four] continue. The latticework between them becomes more and more clear the further the books go. In fact, the pool that the pool party takes place at is Caesar’s pool. When we met Julius Caesar in Fantastic Four in the modern age, it’s his house that they’re at. So the adults are meeting Julius Caesar while the kids are having this pool war. So part of it is loving the source material, part of it is loving Mike and wanting to give Mike this playground. We’ve done this thing where every issue mimics a Fantastic Four issue that’s come before it. Whether it’s one, two, or three, there’s some sort of nod to the original Fantastic Four run that predated us. Sometimes it’s incredibly explicit, sometimes it’s really subtle.
So we wanted to create a book that looks forward and was weird in that we’d never seen this assembly before, while at the same time was totally steeped in history. My cousin was the first person, at least that I know, that picked up what we were doing. He was like, “Am I crazy?” Later he sent me a link to a Reddit post, and someone had gone through it with a fine-tooth comb and picked out this and that and all that cool stuff. I wanted it to be very much about the history of Fantastic Four but also about the future of Fantastic Four. And if I had just said that up top, I would have saved us all this half hour. [Laughs.]
Air, “Surfing On A Rocket” (2004)
MA: First of all, with surfing you think Silver Surfer and beach parties and pool parties, and I think of this song. It’s right there.
MF: Those guys, too. I’m not the biggest EDM fan in the world. Air is often music that sounds like you should be buying a shirt while listening to it [Laughs.], but they have those incredibly light, fun, symphonic, super pop moments, and then you forget about everything. I never think I’m an Air fan, and then I realize I have five records; that’s not a casual listener. That’s a dedicated listener.
MA: And another thing with this song is that it has those simple, instantly catchy riffs. It’s just very simple, and it makes you want to tap your toes and shake your hips.
The Beach Boys, “Good Vibrations” (1966)
MA: “Good Vibrations” is a genius choice. I just watched the documentary on Brian Wilson and the creation of Smile, the album that he finally finished like 30 years later. “Good Vibrations” is just, I don’t care when it was made or how it was made, but it’s magic. It is that eternal summer; just love that song.
MF: There was a year where Sunkist orange soda licensed the song, and I have this perfect memory of being 9 and at the lake all day from the minute I got out of bed until night. And you’re covered in lake water and sunscreen and sand, and you’re happy and exhausted and there are fireflies everywhere and somebody gives me an orange soda. [Laughs.] It is the perfect drink at the perfect time and, inevitably, I will buy Sunkist every summer and say that I’m going to re-create that. It’s never what it was, but “Good Vibrations” just immediately puts me in the middle of July and everything is perfect.
MA: There are a lot of songs that will immediately remind me of the first time I heard it or will represent a certain time period in my life. With “Good Vibrations,” it keeps regenerating. I don’t have a memory of the first time I heard it, but I have a memory of all the different times and all the different eras of my life, and it just keeps reapplying itself. It really is timeless.
MF: Well, it’s pocket symphonies for the kids, right? It’s so rich and it’s so good that I even forgive Mike Love for a few seconds.
MA: [Laughs.] For a few seconds.
MF: It’s Wilson’s apotheosis. There’s a reason why it was the anchor point around which Smile would have revolved. It was what comes after Pet Sounds, it was his high point, and everything after is just an adventure in diminishing returns with increasing doses of irony, depending on where you fall on the scale. I was one of those Smile-ologists who went deep, deep, crazy into Smile research. I have bootleg after bootleg after bootleg. I’m about to write a Hawkeye story about somebody stealing the Smile vinyl and the taped masters from his house. Obviously, they’ll all have to be analogs, but when the big, fat bearded guy in the bathrobe and the fireman hat shows up, you’ll know who I’m talking about. Just the myth of that moment makes it the perfect song for so many reasons. But grab yourself a Sunkist and try to hold on to your fleeting youth images, because it goes away far too soon.
MA: And it’s so ironic because the listener doesn’t know. It just makes you happy and light, but the deeper you get into it and the more history you learn about it, the more you recognize how fragile genius is. And if he had just had the enthusiastic support group or just a little faith from the people surrounding him, who knows what could have happened.
MF: Exactly. It’s a tragic story. There’s nothing about Brian Wilson that isn’t tragic—from the death of his brothers to the abuse to Mike Love and everything else. But for one minute, he found a way to make it all work; for three minutes, 27 seconds or whatever it was, he was perfect. Have you seen the Smile tour?
MA: I’ve seen a lot of footage of it.
MF: He’s kind of a zombie.
MA: His voice is very expressive, and you’re looking for the person that’s saying and making these sounds, but the man is sitting perfectly still.
MF: Yeah, there’s an array of amazing musicians helping him. The Wondermints are a tremendous band; they are a force to be reckoned with, and they are clearly Brian Wilson fans and it’s clearly a celebration. The problem is that he’s front and center onstage right close to the front, and he’s kind of bouncing his hands in one chord on the keyboard. I don’t know if he was mic’d. He was there but not there. It was wonderful but bittersweet to see him finally perform.
MA: Even though it was completed, you know it wasn’t completed the way it could have been.
MF: It all goes away so fucking fast.
MA: I was told that there’s a Beach Boys version with what they did.
MF: Yeah, sort of. [Laughs.] I’ll make you a copy. There are a lot. There are bootleg copies. Fans have made a lot; there are superfans that have made their own mixes. Mike, I will hook you up and send you down this rabbit hole, my friend. There’s a treasure trove of amazing material. There’s hours of studio banter of Mike Love being abusive to Brian Wilson.
MA: [Laughs.] You can spare me that!
MF: Have you heard his dad’s record? Have you ever heard Murry Wilson’s album?
MF: Murry Wilson was a frustrated musician, which was kind of cheesy and predictable. He was a hack and he was never successful, but there are these tapes of him yelling at Brian, saying, “You know, you aren’t the only genius in this room, Brian.” It’s heartbreaking, and he made one of the blandest, most boring, and unremarkable albums of all time—just terrible stuff.
MA: The documentary I saw last night had a lot of sound bites of the dad in the studio. Eventually they fired him before they started on Smile, either during or after the time of Pet Sounds. Then he went into detail about how abusive his father was. He’d talk about walking through school with his elbow up, with his arm up because he was subconsciously afraid of getting hit. And he was a very solid baseball player and athlete, and he talked about when he got to high school, he could finally lower his arm, and he had the confidence to know that nobody else was going to hit him.
MF: Somebody asked him why he didn’t mix in stereo, and he pointed to his ear and said, “Because my old man hit me.” That’s why pop’s greatest genius never recorded in stereo, because he was fucking deaf in one ear. So from such a tortured, sad life, such a sad family, came “Good Vibrations.” It’s a wonder that The Beach Boys are so bright in like every single thing. It’s this quest for sweetness and light that was clearly missing from their home lives.
MGMT, “Electric Feel” (2008)
MA: I know next to nothing about the making of that song, but I know when it plays my daughter dances around in the most free, “Wow, there you go!” way. It’s just fun and pure in that way.
MF: I love the first line, “Oooh, girl.” [Laughs.] A friend of mine, he and his buddy are super shy, nerdy, comic-y, quiet guys, and they found themselves at a Tori Amos show one time with super Tori Amos fans, and afterward they became acutely aware, “Well, we’re the only guys at this Tori Amos show,” and they were surrounded by girls they liked to talk to. But as they were going to their car, they were yelling, “Oooh, girl! What yo’ name is?” [Laughs.] There was no chance of them actually talking back to them. But every time I hear the “Oooh, girl” to start the song, I start to giggle.
David Bowie, “Rebel Rebel (U.S. Single Version)” (1974)
MF: Bow? Bowie? I don’t know who that is. [Laughs.]
MA: The first David Bowie song I ever heard was the 45 version of “Rebel Rebel,” and I had seen the cover of Cream magazine and it was a picture of him and Angie Bowie, his wife at the time, and they looked like they were in space suits, like they were aliens. I was downtown at a music store, and they sold 45s and right there was a copy of “Rebel Rebel” and “Lady Grinning Soul” on the flip side, so I had to hear what this guy sounded like. That was summer, and whenever I hear that single version of “Rebel Rebel,” it explodes with the summer of 1974. I’m pretty sure it was ’74, but yeah, it’s very specific to when I first heard it. Because that opened up a whole world, and he’s definitely my favorite musical artist, definitely tied with my favorites. There isn’t anybody I like more than David Bowie, and it started there.
MF: What did you think of the new record?
MA: I love it. There was a period there where I was buying his albums, and I didn’t care for them much, like Black Tie White Noise, but then he kicked it in again with Earthling and Heathen and Reality. I loved those albums, but then he disappears and goes away for 10 years. Then you hear there’s a new album coming out, and I knew I was going to get it, but I didn’t know if I was going to like it. But then upon first listen, it was just nice to hear that voice again with new songs. I wasn’t sure if I was reacting that way because of nostalgia.
MF: Like you were happy he was alive?
MA: Absolutely. But Laura [Allred, Mike’s wife and Eisner Award-winning colorist] insists on listening to it, so we continue to listen to it, and it’s become something I have a lot of love and affection for. It’s like a new lease on life. There’s a “yeah, he’s here and still doing it” optimism to it, and I really like it a lot.
MF: How baller is it that David Bowie looks the least like David Bowie in the new David Bowie video? There are three other Bowies in the video. Bowie decoys, Bowie replicas like Saddam Hussein. And to take his old record cover! God, everything about it is just—like Pete Townshend yelling at Sid Vicious in a bar. I love it when the old dogs show the young ones how it’s done. I think it’s great.
MA: It’s so great. He’s so famous for changing his image so many times, but at the same time, I think he has a stronger sense of self than any artist out there.
MF: There’s a lot of Bowie in my book Casanova.
MA: Yeah, I love that.
MF: It’s sort of in the Berlin period, Casanova, and there are a couple of different biographies on that. In the interim, before all the new record stuff happened, I was like, “There’s no way someone that creative is just done.” He’s like Prince; he’ll never die. Prince has some material that we’ll find. “Oh, look he’s got 800 songs he’s keeping in a shoe box somewhere.” You knew there was no way he was just sitting around. He’s enjoyed these last 10 years, but you knew there was no way that someone like that got to this point and was like, “Oh, I’m finished.”
MA: Yeah, I agree. I was imagining him sitting on a deck somewhere painting but hopefully accumulating music for us to hear someday. So it was just a very joyful occasion to get that new album.
AVC: The lyrics of “Rebel Rebel” play with traditional gender and social roles—“you’re not sure if you’re a boy or a girl”—and that’s a big part of FF, with transgendered student Tong and the general focus on an unconventional family.
MF: It’s a book about the family you make, right? It’s a book about the family you’re not supposed to have but do, due to bad life circumstances. You build the family out of the parts you find. When you can’t trust and rely on your own family, that’s what this book is. It’s these people that are a human junk drawer; they only make sense in the context of one another, but in that context they are great. They are going to save the universe. But if you take one piece out, it doesn’t work anymore. And they grow as characters in the book. Suddenly there’s going to be this pink cloud and more stuff coming. Everything is changing, everyone is growing up a little bit, and this is a book about a father building a fucking family.
AVC: You guys both have families of your own. How has parenting experience influenced FF?
MF: Oh God. Your heart runs around outside your body. It’s joyous and terrifying. And I wanted to write books I could read to my kids. And we do. We curl up into bed when new issues come and I read it to them. It’s right at the heart of it all for me personally. I’ve never done a book that I could unequivocally share with my children, and I wanted both Fantastic Four and FF to be that. And there’s stuff that my kids say that goes right into the book, and now Henry’s published; he got published in the letters column. It completely informs everything about these two books.
MA: Family is everything for me. Many reasons why we’re not going to be doing any appearances or any more traveling for the foreseeable future is because everything we want and have is right here. We pretty much have our own family compound; my oldest son lives across the street.
MF: You can pop up on the hill, and all your kids and grandkids are right there.
MA: Our daughter, our youngest, just gave birth to our first granddaughter, and that’s why we were in Phoenix when our house got broken into. We agreed to do Phoenix Comicon because it was another excuse to go back there. And now we’ve moved back here because we want to be there for the walking and the talking. We started young, our kids started young, and we’re young enough where we can take this all in and ride bikes with the kids and they hang around with us. They’re at our house all the time, and we can dump them back when we want to go out. It’s just the perfect balance of everything. So the only trips we really want to do right are with the whole family. So family is number one, friends are number two, and a lot of our friends are like our family. Family is the most important.
MF: Breakfast family. Sorry, an Arrested Development joke.
Blondie, “Atomic” (1979)
MA: Blondie—wow. First of all, I don’t care if she’s 90 years old, I’ll never get tired of looking at her. She just has an amazing face. A lot of the reasons I’m attracted to Laura is that she reminds me of Debbie Harry.
MF: [Laughs.] Oh my God, you’re right! How have I never seen that? Lordy, now that’s all I’m going to be able to think about.
MA: “Atomic,” again, it’s that simple riff. It catches you and you want to move when you hear it. It’s a kind of thing where if you take your pool party from the family friendly to the sexy chick at the pool, you think of “Atomic.”
MF: Also, I maintain that if Debbie Harry had blond hair in Videodrome instead of being a brunette, if she was the Debbie Harry people associate with Blondie, Videodrome would have made $8 billion.
The Breeders, “Cannonball” (1993)
MF: “Cannonball” was on one of those records that came out in the summer, so I have a lot of summer-related memories of it, and they just put out the 20th-anniversary disc [of Last Splash].
MA: They were just on Jimmy Fallon.
MF: Yeah, and she had the Styrofoam-cup mic.
MA: [Mimicking song.] Ooooo.
MF: But I was a huge Pixies fan. I was onboard for exactly two cultural phenomenas from jump street, which were Pixies and Arrested Development, so it’s been a very meaningful summer for me.
MA: Joe [Santiago, Pixies’ guitarist] lives on our hill here, you know?
MF: I know he’s out there. When they were doing the Doolittle shows, a mutual friend of ours is friends with his wife. Our friend Ben called us and said, “Listen, are you coming up for the Pixies show? His wife is a friend, and we’re going to a private show and an afterparty, and we’re all going to be there before and after, and we’re all going to have this magical Pixies experience.” And then I got swine flu. And it took a while for my wife to realize, “You’re real sick.” So sick I couldn’t go see my musical whatever you want to call it. I couldn’t go hang out with my favorite band because I had the pig sickness.
MA: A similar thing happened to me. I was invited to a dinner with Courtney Taylor-Taylor of The Dandy Warhols, and I can’t remember why I couldn’t go, but Black Francis was there.
MF: That was that weird summer where Frank Black’s first solo album came out, and this came out and you sort of had two houses of Pixies and fans were like, “Look, someone split a Pixies record in two.”
MA: I did get to see them in the Fox Theatre, which isn’t there anymore, on Broadway in downtown Portland, but I never got to meet them. I keep hoping we’ll run into them at the grocery store or something.
MF: Does he have kids, too? How great would that be? You’ve got a shopping cart full of kids, he’s got a shopping cart full of kids. I would so turn into “The Chris Farley Show” and just be like, “Remember when you…”
But Last Splash is a great record, and Kim Deal is a great songwriter and has an amazing voice. I proposed to Kim Deal one time, and she made fun of me once at a Pixies reunion show. Onstage she made fun of me, which was cool. They played back-to-back shows and there was a show, a night off, and then another show. The first show I was on the floor and up close to the stage and it was great, and the second show was at a college and we were right up at the front the last time and were like, “Let’s let the kids have this one.” So we’re sitting in the back of this auditorium indoors, and we sat with our backs up against the wall of this huge stadium, and she pointed up and made fun of us. That was kind of dope. But in our book, the cannonball is the move of all swimming pool moves. It is the greatest finishing move of all time, and of plot importance to our story. When the cannonball comes, all hell breaks loose.
MA: One of the most humiliating experiences of my life was when Thom Yorke kicked me out of a Radiohead concert.
MF: What?! How? Why? You can’t just drop that and move along! What were you doing?
MA: For years I haven’t been able to talk about it. It was in Salem and there was a mosh pit that started kicking up, and it just got tight and this girl started to panic so I helped lift her up to the stage to get out. So we successfully got her out, and one of the guys that helped me surf her out, I told him I wanted out of there, too. So he helped me out and surfed me there, and somebody later told me that it looked like I was kicking people in the head and I had these big boots on so [Yorke] pointed at me and said to get the blankety blank out of here. So by the time I got it together and the security guys got me out, I asked what happened and on my way out I was calmly asking and explaining what happened. The manager or somebody of authority heard me talking and said to let me back in this seat further away. Now I think it’s funny, but at the time…
MF: Oh my gosh! You really are the Richard Kimball of that situation because there is nothing more antithetical to who you are as a human being. Like, you can’t imagine a more unlikely behavior than, “Yes! Mike Allred was kicking people in the head.” I will be your character witness in that rock ’n’ roll trial. It’s like I didn’t realize that people making fun of me was one of my phobias until I saw that episode of Extras. Suddenly I was having anxiety nightmares about that. It’s like my most nightmarish of nightmares: if Thom Yorke falsely accused me of being a ruffian.
Pink Floyd, “Lucifer Sam” (1967)
AVC: Mike, your band, The Gear, doesn’t do many covers, but you do this song.
MA: We don’t do many covers because my oldest son, who is our drummer, thinks there is something lazy about doing covers. You’d have to ask him why, but every song we write we have to go up against a brick wall to justify it, but with “Lucifer Sam” he loves it. It’s one of the things we bond over is this fascination with Syd Barrett. And again, for whatever reason, when I think of those summer pool party songs, I think of simple, catchy riffs, and “Lucifer Sam” just has one of the best. Whenever we play that song, it’s a fantasy-wish fulfillment, like you’re there in the late ’60s with Syd Barrett with his head on his shoulders. It’s strong musicianship, and you can see those heads bopping up and down in the crowd, and you get that wonderful feeling of the best riffs and how people are moved by them, and they’re almost uncontrollably moving their bodies in unison. It is one of my favorite moments of any time we play, and it’s the last cover we’ll play.
AVC: Are you a musician too, Matt?
MF: No. I was in several shitty bands a very long time I ago. And because I live in Portland, they give you a ukulele and teach you a chord when you come to town, but no, I’m not particularly musical.
MA: Matt’s a great singer, by the way. We’ve done karaoke several times together, and it’s amazing the diversity in what he can do with his voice.
MF: When Mike says karaoke, this is a man who has his own rig, his own mic. Lots of people dick around with karaoke; for Mike, karaoke is like a craft. We did a karaoke signing, and it was all Mike’s PA equipment. It was a sight to see. Mike, you have a stage in your new studio?
MA: We just finished an addition in our house, and it lays out perfectly like a stage. We’ve got the little monitor hanging from the ceiling, and up on the other side are the sound activated lights. It’s really cool.
MF: The “World’s Greatest Grandpa” mug is yours, because that is the best.
AVC: Both of you have done a lot of work where specific songs and artists are direct influences. Do you listen to music when you’re working?
MF: I used to. It used to be an important part of getting me in the mood, but lately I’m so overworked that I can’t even leave the ball game on in the background because I need every bit of focus I’ve got to produce. It is kind of grim these days, but I’ve been so overwhelmed lately that it’s fallen away. I had to take a small road trip yesterday, and I was making phone calls and listening to music, and I had the joy of being able to spend two hours there, two hours back shuffling through whatever I have. It was a joy to give myself two hours to listen to music. I’m really jealous because others can listen to music; I know guys who get on Skype all day and leave Skype on and talk to each other with kind of a virtual studio session going on, but I need everything to be quiet to figure my stuff out.
MA: When I’m working, it’s always sensory overload, but I can’t have a conversation. It can be a movie I’ve watched 100 times. But what I love about listening to music while I’m working or even before I set out to write something is that it puts images in my head. That’s probably the reason Bowie is at the top of the list of favorites, because very few songs have imagery in them like Bowie songs. The first thing I ever published was a graphic novel called Dead Air, and all the chapter titles are song titles. And then my first series was called Grafik Muzik, so I’ve always seen an association between the two. When I was a kid reading comic books, if I wasn’t laying on the floor reading the cover art of an album cover, I was reading a comic book that I had musical association with. And with creating comic books, there’s a rhythm with it in the panels. How small a panel is and how large a panel is, there’s something very musical about a page layout with dialogue and imagery. So that’s always been very strongly linked for me.
Queen, “I’m In Love With My Car” (1975)
MF: I love Queen. When I was a kid—I’m from a pretty rural part of North Carolina—it’s not rural anymore, but when I lived there it was the sticks. Lots of my memories were those dark nights driving down those dark country roads super fast. There’s something about driving and the summer that goes hand in hand for me. And when Freddie’s voice comes in the mix in the background, it’s one of the most glorious moments in music for me. I roll the windows down and try to crack 120 miles per hour.
MA: Roger Taylor is a great singer, but it’s his misfortune that Freddie Mercury is the greatest singer of all time. [Laughs.]
MF: It’s sort of the George Harrison thing. You’re a genius, a singular genius, surrounded by John and Paul. He’s a hall of famer in The Beatles, but there’s bigger hall of famers in front of you to dilute how good you are.
AVC: Comic-book creative teams have always reminded me of bands because of the number of people. In the case of FF, you have someone like Joe Quinones to take lead on art if Mike needs a break for an issue.
MF: He’s like the Billy Preston. [Laughs.] He’s the fifth man.
MA: Before we move on, I need to point out that Joe and his girlfriend are quite the karaoke-ists as well.
MF: Really? Well, well, well. That’s good to know. We need to make this happen.
Desmond Dekker, “That’s The Way Life Goes” (1973)
MF: I’m not a huge ska guy, but I like Desmond Dekker a lot, and this song is just impossibly optimistic. They’re really kind of pessimistic and realistic lyrics, but the song is so joyous. I don’t know, there’s just something to it that it’s impossible to be in a bad mood. And I like that the song owns the notion that life can get super gnarly and super grim, but says that’s just the way life goes; nobody ever knows.
Roxy Music, “In Every Dream Home A Heartache” (1973)
MA: Within the frame of the song, this inflatable doll is the love companion, and you throw it in the pool. So, again, thinking of all the pool parties, of kids throwing the ball around and sexy women wearing high heels. Transitioning to that, nobody had sexier album covers than Roxy Music.
MF: Country Life remains the hottest, dirtiest thing in universe. It’s the most amazing cover in the universe. [NSFW]
MA: And those girls that were showing their skin were just two girls that were randomly hanging around. They weren’t hired models or anything.
MF: That’s fantastic.
MA: You think of the rock-star life where gorgeous women are at your fingertips all the time and that’s why it’s in my song selection. This almost trancelike delivery of the vocals with the “And then you blow my mind”; then it exploded into this other thing and I loved it. There was this great compilation of Roxy Music videos and early performances and even early Brian Eno stuff, and when they do that song, it’s just eerie.
Bruce Springsteen, “Racing In The Street” (1978)
AVC: The very last song sounds like the end of the party. The way a lot of Bruce Springsteen songs trail off creates this image of walking off into the sunset or, in this case, driving off into the sunset.
MF: Yeah, it’s sort of the doomed loser who never gets away. That’s Bruce, right? It’s so easy for people to forget because I think “Born In The U.S.A.” was so huge and so misused that people forgot how good of a writer he was and what his real milieu was and what he talked about. It’s sort of like Two-Lane Blacktop, the musical. He had a partner that he built this car with, and they’ll go anywhere and race anybody and, first of all, I’d love to drive that car. The one at the beginning of “Racing In The Street,” where he’s describing the car that they built. I’m not a car dude, but to be able to feel that. I’d want to drive to the shore and to drive it alone; there’s something haunting and poetic about it. It’s like fall is coming. It’s always on the horizon no matter how happy things are. It’s a good summer’s end song.
AVC: In the most recent issues of FF, you’ve started to have these grim images showing Scott’s dead daughter Cassie standing around a barren tree. Those flashes of sadness are put in this story that is so full of color and fun, and that same contrast is at the end of this song. It blossoms toward the end even though it’s still melancholy.
MF: It’s kind of a beautiful, tragic mytho-poetic thing. It’s a great piece of work on an album full of great pieces of work. There’s something haunting and beautiful about it. Not long ago, I was in my hometown on the first day of fall, but it was so hot it felt like summer. I have a story in my head, it’s sort of like “Jungleland” and “Racing In The Street” but it’s all with robots, that I’m still trying to work out about my childhood and youth and cars and summers and living in the middle of nowhere and your machines getting you out. I remember being in Carolina driving on all these crazy backroads with my headlights off and listening to “Jungleland” and “Racing In The Streets” a lot, trying to chase after something that wasn’t there anymore. It still kind of haunts everything.
I left and didn’t come back for a long time, and when I came back everything was different, and when I left everyone kept saying Charlotte was going to be the next Atlanta, which is the kind of thing that you tell yourself so that you don’t blow your brains out. And they were right. Charlotte is like Atlanta now, and it’s this kind of southern metropolis. It’s crazy and sprawling, and in my mind, these places that I remember were thick Carolina forests, almost like jungles, are now $2.2 million McMansion developments. So there’s the memory of driving through nothing and through fields and forests, and now there’s homes and traffic lights and I can still remember how to get around, but now I’m on directional memory because normal memory is useless. Now, because everything is developed and everything is gone. I remember where the big stump was where you’d turn right, but now there’s a house there. There’s something very weird about it. It’s as if you can’t go home again. [Laughs.]
MA: Well, I’d like to go on record and say that “Jungleland” is my favorite Bruce Springsteen song.
MF: It’s so great, right? Just let The Boss take you where he’s going. That record, that song is so—I know that song and it’s way too real for me. I’m getting shivers just thinking about it.