Confession: I cheated a little.
On A Love Extreme the album, “Mmmmmmm” comes before “Even If” sequence wise, not after. It’s the last song on the first CD, or a little instrumental bridge between two songs on the vinyl / streaming versions.
In the first draft I honored the spirit of the 37 second interlude by cutting to C interrupting Benji’s Heartman & Songstress story to complain it wasn’t true in a Princess Bride / Neverending Story sort of way. But I didn’t like how it broke the immersion of the book within a book fairytale vibe and had to remind myself that serving the story took priority over serving the songs.
Since I’d already established all of the instrumentals were dreamy scenes, that had to happen here. “Girl in the Tower” opens with the lyric “I had a dream last night…” so slotting in this dream immediately before it made the most sense. C’s objection got tacked on to the end of GitT as a coda, and the dreammmmmmmy segue got its proper place.
I did take the opportunity to bend another rule though. The other dreams are written in first person, but I gave this one to the narrator. He omnisciently walks us through Heartman’s visions, coyly drops hints about where this whole thing is going, and does some more of that fourth-wall breaking that was fun (with a purpose!) to write.
Writing this chapter came shortly after I decided the narrator of L Extreme should be the same person who narrated LILILIL, the space-opera concept album Benji made for his daughter and released via his website in 2014. In real life that’s Jeff Bridges, but in the Benji Hughniverse it’s an all knowing cat who can simultaneously experience past, present and future. So it technically isn’t Jeff Bridges (unless he’s interested in doing the audiobook…), but if you imagine the narrator speaking somewhere between The Dude & Starman you’re getting close to the voice I heard.
- I wrote the first instrumental dream staring at the cover of Love Devotion Surrender and riffing on what I saw. Here the starting point was a photo of Benji in a Hawaiian shirt that was making the rounds while he was promoting Songs in the Key of Animals. (It’s also a common wardrobe choice for live shows.)
- A 37 second instrumental doesn’t give a whole lot of foundation to work from, so this chapter draws inspiration from the songs “The Beach,” “Shark Attack” & “Time Machine” among other things.
- “Do songwriters dream of one hit wonders?” used to be “Do songwriters dream of number ones?”—both to pair with “Do counters dream of one number?” and to have an excuse to drop a reference to “Neverending Party” by the Goldenrods. An astute early reader pointed out a number one was the only positive thing in the list. They were right.
- “Are we all members of one big sleep club?” references a neat little side hustle involving Jeff Bridges that includes this glowing review of Benji by Jeff. (And man, somnolent is a great word I wish I used…)
- Acknowledging the song sequence switch in the story made sense for the narrator, and also got me off the hook in case anyone thought I made a mistake.
- You don’t want to know how many times I had to count out the Ms in this song title while proofreading. Making things harder, my original digital download version of the album from the old Lala.com (RIP) spells it Mmmmmmmmmmm—but I use the seven-character version from the back of the LP/CD.
- “Wearing a Hawaiian shirt in Hawaii is a bit like wearing the shirt of the band you’re going to see at their concert.” It’s funny because it’s true.
- “Heartman raises his left hand in a casual peace symbol wave.” See photo above.
- “The current sweeps her up and flips her over.” This happened to my wife on a vacation in Hawaii while I watched. That’s a play by play.
- “A stereophonic squeal that sounds like two girls instead of one.” Best album screams outside of Kurt Cobain, courtesy of the shark attack girls Kim Tallon & Hillary Lefebbre.
- When the scene changes to Heartman dressed as a knight, the story starts taking cues from the official music video for “Girl in the Tower” embedded at the end of this post.
- “What you don’t know‘s gonna hurt you” comes from what might be the darkest song in the Benji Hughes catalogue. I’m still not exactly sure why I decided to end this chapter with that line, but I’m glad I did.