LX Commentary #22: Jubalee

“Jubalee” is an epic track oozing with vivid imagery to work with, making it ripe for a play by play trek across various locales.

Florist –> Tea Shop –> Circus

My initial approach was a redux of the fake Halloween neighborhood watch trick-or-treating section, sending Benji & C & Frank back out on the town. The Halloween sequel approach made less sense once the L-centricity of Side D emerged, but taking the opportunity to see some places beyond the small apartment stuck around–including the addition of a fictional record shop to acknowledge the origins of the song title’s non-traditional spelling.

The most interesting unplanned event while writing this chapter was the sudden disappearance of the narrator. His absence was felt after being so disruptively loquacious throughout (especially in some early drafts), and I loved the meta absurdity of characters who sort of danced around whether or not they could hear the fourth-wall breaking narrator throughout needing to acknowledge how much they rely on him when he goes missing.

That said, it was a direction bordering on “last straw” territory for suspension of disbelief—again especially in some early drafts. I cut / re-instated / cut / re-wrote / cut / moved / shortened / lengthened this part so many times not even C could calculate an exact number.

I had more or less resigned myself to dropping the concept until I figured out the ending, at which point the stars aligned and I found a way to make the narrator’s absence both a fun/weird interlude and foreshadowing as to where this whole thing was headed via another appearance by our frenemy Evilon.

All those Quantum Leap references were good for something…

Tidbits:

  • It’s not uncommon for Benji Hughes to bust out “Summer of 69” in full or in part during shows, hence the mini Bryan Adams tribute here.
  • Reflections of a Balladeer” is a Goldenrods era unreleased song. I almost used it as the Side B title, but once I landed on The Ballad of Heartman & Songstress I’m glad I found another place to use Reflections. (It also includes a fittingly meta lyric about being “all right inside this song”)
  • “The artwork showed two cartoonish hands on a gray background. One was orange and the other pink”
    “Mark flipped through the Js and found what he was looking for on the thirty-sixth try. He returned with a copy of Jubilee, the soundtrack to a punk rock film from the late 1970s.”
    The live KISS album Frank picks foreshadows the end of this chapter, while the David Bowie album hints at who/what Frank really is. (Mark and Frank both dig it since it has counting and outer space!)
  • An older draft kicked off this chapter with the 51st viewing of Slow Century, followed by Jubilee. The soundtrack stayed, but the movie commentary didn’t.
  • In the bible, Jubal is the inventor of music. In LILILIL, Chocolon is the lord of chocolate. Evilon is the villain of L Extreme (so far) but an ally of the Space Princess in LILILIL. Evilon and Frank refer to each others as “Lons” from time to time—especially at the end of this chapter. Evilon & Chocolon, meet Jubalon—the lord of music. And there’s Jubalee…
  • Realizing I could subtitle/reference both of Benji’s old bands by calling the florist section Muscadine & Goldenrods might have been a contributing factor in keeping those scenes around. (Originally it was much longer—including over a thousand words about venus fly traps I thankfully trimmed down. You’re welcome.)
  • In an older draft, the florist knew Jessica from her funeral magic shows, but it didn’t really make sense given the Jessica & L situation. Another version had them at the florist to buy flowers for the DJ’s funeral—but that was before the DJ lived. “I figure we’re all born to die” calls back to that version of events while also referencing a Goldenrods song.
  • Benji pulling the flowers from his sleeve was inspired by his performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
  • Twenty-one dollars = twenty-first song on the album.
  • You cannot outlaw plants.
  • Three Walls Down was a band Muscadine toured with in the 90s, featuring the brother of Mike Mills from REM.
  • “I’m an excellent judge of volume” (aka an EJOV) is a line from a different work in progress novel I stole to include here. Perfect way for an obsessive counter to describe a clown car.
  • “Bono sang “Send in the Clowns” to a live audience. The whole car joined in. Benji couldn’t believe it. Every clown in town was in love with U2.”
    My lyrically saturated brain connected “there’s a circus in the town somewhere” to “maybe I’ll get lucky there’s a circus passing through” from the song “Crazy For You” off A Lovers Extreme as the most logical way to transport the gang to the circus. Bringing back Bogo from You Stood Me Up was a nice bonus.
  • I’m way too amused by “find out every clown in town’s in love with U2” as a forced mondegreen punchline. Benji called it an obvious joke, but one he’s used himself independently of the book.
  • “That song was missing from this release” acknowledges missing songs from the re-release editions of Songs in the Key of Animals (missing “Chablis”) and A Lovers Extreme (missing “Lightning and Gold”) compared to their original incarnations.
  • Guthrie, Jeremiah, and Dolly are three dog characters from another book I’m working on called The Dog is Here to Save Me. I misremembered the “six little dogs” lyric as three, opening the door to a crossover. The remaining three dogs are all Benji Hughes references. Bear was on stage at one of the Largo residency shows. “A doggy named Pickle” appears on the first song from LILILIL. And “Got No Legs” is me mishearing the intro to “What A Pretty Color” as “I know a dog named Got No Legs” instead of “ain’t got no legs.”
  • “L pulled the trigger and fired. But a love gun doesn’t fire bullets. It plays songs. Songs by Kiss.”
    The animal cracker shapes come from Benji Hughes songs—the “Peacockin’ Party” parade in order of appearance (minus the snake and penguin, but including the mosquito), the tiger from “Freaky Feedback Blues” and the parrot named Me from the aforementioned LILILIL opener for good measure.
  • I know there was a reason I chose not to go with the “Two scents. Both contradictory…” opening to the Popcorn & Booze section, but I can’t recall exactly why right now.
  • “Frank extended his arm in a two fingered rock and roll salute he learned from the Alive 35 album cover. His makeup made a lot more sense now. Especially when he stuck out his tongue.”
    The “deep, sultry voice of an advertising pitchman” bit references a commercial for a dog treat called Stackerz Benji Hughes worked on in his Frisbie days.
  • “Tight Tee Shirt” features a real sweet girl who keeps a pistol in her purse. I omitted the gun earlier to use as a surprise for anyone paying as much attention to the lyrics as I am.
  • References to shadow puppets first appeared towards the end of You Stood Me Up. Why? Because the future is behind us and the past is all we can see.
  • Frank is back to quoting (actually paraphrasing) Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with “Your life appears to you as a dream. You sometimes doubt if indeed it were all true, for it never presented itself to your mind with the force of reality.”
  • If Heartman had to choose a card game with a villainous Lon for all the coins, of course the answer is “Hearts, man.”

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