Upon deciding to run with this fairytale interlude for the rest of side B, my storytelling goal became connecting the dots from Benji & Jessica to Benji & L while moving things towards a confrontation in “The Tower”—whatever that might turn out to be. So easy to do, right? 🙂
My favorite part of this chapter was a happy accident. Originally I recycled the shopping list from “Where Do Old Lovers Go?” here, showing the grocery store scene from the internal point of view. Somewhere along the line I picked up the habit of listening to each chapter’s song on repeat as I wrote/rewrote, and one day the drawn out way Benji Hughes sings the opening line here sounded like a rebus.
Wouldn’t it be sweet, if you could be in love with me?
Aside from the pronoun in the middle, each one had an easy image. And so did IT if I invoked the iconic Stephen King title.
(I suppose a middle finger could replace the Fahrenheit lamb, but we’ll keep this G rated in accordance with the old “contains no explicit language” label that once appeared on an old version of the Benji Hughes store website.)
- Easter egg in the paperback edition: The list is written in a font based on Benji’s handwriting. The first few parentheticals use my wife’s handwriting to represent Jessica adding clarifying comments. In real life my wife would never add extra detail to a shopping list (she can make the grocery store a scavenger hunt…), but I can make fun of her for it here 🙂
- If (magazine) references a sci-fi mag from the 50s where this Heartman & Songstress section would fit right in. (There’s also an Australian film magazine, invoking the movie references.)
- “Eyes like billboards” comes from Benji’s unreleased song “Masters in China” covered by Priscilla Ahn. (Ditto “red wine saliva” a little bit later.)
- “Your sweet, sweet kiss. Like an ice cold drink of cherry wine.” references the song “Magic Summertime” by Eleni Mandell, covered by Benji on Songs in the Key of Animals. (The original also has a line “just like a fairytale when we first met” that isn’t in the cover version, but invokes an appropriate mood here.)
- “Adequate portion of potion” isn’t from a song, but it’s one of my favorite phrasings.
- At one show during his month-long Largo residency in 2010, Benji tried to have his band play “All You’ve Got To Do Is Fall in Love” and “So Much Better” simultaneously with him singing lead on the latter and Jackson Browne on the former. It was as weird and wild as you’d imagine—and almost worked in the places where the word LOVE (of course) overlapped. More on that later, but I bring it up here since this made me treat these two chapters/songs as companion pieces. Hence the mysterious foreshadowing at the end.
- The animated video for this song by Jon Williams and Paul Friedrich influenced the way I imagined Heartman Benji while writing this section—and was also the first concept I mocked up for the book cover. You can watch that video below (My favorite part is the piano playing fish!) plus a bonus cover version by Ben Cahn.
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