STEREOGUM:It’s funny that I ended up talking to you today, I just unearthed a box of VHS tapes from my high school days. One of them was an old copy of Industrial Symphony, the performance you staged with Julee Cruise.
DAVID LYNCH: Heavy duty! That’s great.
STEREOGUM: The tape looks like it’s been through a war, but I still have a VCR. I’m gonna watch it again.
DAVID LYNCH: Well, you gotta check it out. That was filmed in Brooklyn, where you are. It was in front of Brooklyn Academy of Music. Me and Angelo did that and it was a great … but a super intense night and two weeks prior.
I’d never heard of this. Here’s a summary from Wikipedia:
The presentation opens with Cage and Dern engaging in a telephone conversation, the gist of which is that he is breaking up with her, to her great sorrow. Though they are never named as such, the two characters bear a striking resemblance to Sailor and Lula from Lynch’s movie Wild at Heart. The rest of the play is a hallucinatory “dream” that the Heartbroken Woman has.
The show takes place on a stage, the main props being a tall metal girder-like structure, and an abandoned shell of a car, with flickering lights and cacophonous sounds used to disturbing, nightmarish effect. Much use is made of actors suspended from ropes, flying and falling, as well as dancers.
Julee Cruise sings […] They are the normal, studio recordings – the songs are mimed. Her voice can also be heard in track 6, in which she gets pushed into the boot of the car. In track 8, the boot opens and she sings from it, her face superimposed on a TV-screen. One recording, “Rocking Back Inside My Heart”, is also featured in Twin Peaks (for which Cruise recorded a vocal version of the theme).
Michael J. Anderson (known for his role as the small, dancing Man From Another Place on Twin Peaks) is featured on track 3, patiently sawing a log of wood to Badalamenti’s discordant music. He is also part of the stage ensemble on track 5 (instrumental), along with a tall, demonic reindeer-like figure. Finally, on track 6, he reiterates the opening dialogue between Cage and Dern, accompanied by a clarinet-player and a non-speaking actress playing Dern’s part.
Track 9 is wholly instrumental, with a background of dolls being lowered from the roof on strings.
It was released on VHS back in the day and a 10 minute clip is on YouTube (embedded above) but the only current commercial release is as part of the 10 disk Lime Green Set.
My favourite part is when the interviewer says what seeing the VHS meant to them:
STEREOGUM: I was obsessed with that when it came out. I can’t remember how old I was when I bought it — at a used record store in Oklahoma City, I think — but there was something about it that was just unfathomable to me. I lived on a farm in Oklahoma at the time. So I was like, “this is happening somewhere in the world. Somewhere in the world people are getting to come and see this and I need to be wherever that is.” Also, I just thought it was really, really weird.
I think the effect of David Lynch’s work being distributed around the world on VHS tapes cannot be underestimated. I remember the first time I saw Wild At Heart as a teenager. Blew my mind.