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69 Love Songs

"I'm Sorry I Love You" redirects here. For the Korean drama series, see I'm Sorry, I Love You.

69 Love Songs is a three-volume concept album by The Magnetic Fields. As its title suggests, the album is composed of 69 love songs, all written by Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt. The album was released in 1999 in the United States (as a box set with Merritt interview booklet, and as three separate individual volumes), and in 2000 in Europe and Australia (box set without booklet).

Conception

The album was originally conceived as a grandiose musical revue. Stephin Merritt was sitting in a gay piano bar in Manhattan, listening to the pianist's interpretations of Stephen Sondheim songs, when he decided he ought to get into theatre music because he felt he had an aptitude for it. "I decided I'd write one hundred love songs as a way of introducing myself to the world. Then I realized how long that would be. So I settled on sixty-nine. I'd have a theatrical revue with four drag queens. And whoever the audience liked best at the end of the night would get paid.

Genres and themes

The variety of 69 Love Songs also derives from the many song genres that Merritt raids and filters through his own sensibility. Merritt has said "69 Love Songs is not remotely an album about love. It's an album about love songs, which are very far away from anything to do with love.". Some of the genres are obvious, as in the songs "Punk Love", "Love is Like Jazz", "World Love" and "Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget". Other songs indirectly reference some of Merritt's favorite artists, including Fleetwood Mac ("No One Will Ever Love You") , Cole Porter ("Zebra"), Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark ("Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits"), The Jesus and Mary Chain ("When My Boy Walks Down the Street"), Billie Holiday ("My Only Friend"), and Irving Berlin ("A Pretty Girl is Like...").

Another way of understanding 69 Love Songs is through Merritt's praise of an artist (Laurie Anderson) who "write[s] heartbreaking melodies with words that make fun of heartbreaking melodies. Consider "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!" where Stephin and Claudia, playing jilted lovers modeled closely on Sonny & Cher, sing their complaints to one another, overplaying and overstating their grievances such that their words become garish declarations of woe ("what a dark and dreary life / are you reaching for a knife?") to which the other character isn't really capable of responding but must still follow in tone ("yeah, oh yeah"). The lack of a firm distinction between content (what is sung) and form (the way it is sung) implies that this couple lives and dies by virtue of how persuasively they can sing to one another, and illustrates the persistent Magnetic Fields songwriting device of trapping a character within the conventions or formalities of a genre.

Several of the songs bend genders as well as genres. For example: a man sings "He's going to be my wife" ("When My Boy Walks Down the Street") and "the princess there is me" (Long-Forgotten Fairytale"). Other common themes include place names (e.g. Washington, DC; Lower East Side; North Carolina; Paris; Venice), animals (e.g. bear, goldfish, jellyfish, rabbit, bat, dog, boa constrictor, cockroach), as well as themes common throughout Merritt's work (e.g. the moon, dancing, rain, and eyes).

Track listing

All songs written by Stephin Merritt. All lead vocals by Stephin Merritt except as noted.

Volume 1

  1. "Absolutely Cuckoo" – 1:34
  2. "I Don't Believe in the Sun" – 4:16
  3. "All My Little Words" – 2:46 (vocal by LD Beghtol)
  4. "A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off" – 2:41
  5. "Reno Dakota" – 1:05 (vocal by Claudia Gonson)
  6. "I Don't Want to Get Over You" – 2:22
  7. "Come Back from San Francisco" – 2:48 (vocal by Shirley Simms)
  8. "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side" – 3:43 (vocal by Dudley Klute, violin by Ida Pearle)
  9. "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits" – 2:25
  10. "The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be" – 1:11
  11. "I Think I Need a New Heart" – 2:32
  12. "The Book of Love" – 2:42
  13. "Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long" – 2:33
  14. "How Fucking Romantic" – 0:58 (vocal by Klute)
  15. "The One You Really Love" – 2:53
  16. "Punk Love" – 0:58
  17. "Parades Go By" – 2:56
  18. "Boa Constrictor" – 0:58 (vocal by Simms)
  19. "A Pretty Girl Is Like..." – 1:50
  20. "My Sentimental Melody" – 3:07 (vocal by Beghtol)
  21. "Nothing Matters When We're Dancing" – 2:27
  22. "Sweet-Lovin' Man" – 4:59 (vocal by Gonson)
  23. "The Things We Did and Didn't Do" – 2:11

Volume 2

  1. "Roses" – 0:27 (vocal by Beghtol)
  2. "Love Is Like Jazz" – 2:56
  3. "When My Boy Walks Down the Street" – 2:38
  4. "Time Enough for Rocking When We're Old" – 2:03
  5. "Very Funny" – 1:26 (vocal by Klute, arrangement by Gonson)
  6. "Grand Canyon" – 2:28
  7. "No One Will Ever Love You" – 3:14 (vocal by Simms)
  8. "If You Don't Cry" – 3:06 (vocal by Gonson)
  9. "You're My Only Home" – 2:17
  10. "(Crazy for You But) Not That Crazy" – 2:18
  11. "My Only Friend" – 2:01
  12. "Promises of Eternity" – 3:46 (arrangement and instruments by Chris Ewen)
  13. "World Love" – 3:07 (arrangement by Gonson)
  14. "Washington, D.C." – 1:53 (vocal by Gonson)
  15. "Long-Forgotten Fairytale" – 3:37 (vocal by Klute)
  16. "Kiss Me Like You Mean It" – 2:00 (vocal by Simms)
  17. "Papa Was a Rodeo" – 5:01 (vocal by Stephin Merritt and Simms)
  18. "Epitaph for My Heart" – 2:50
  19. "Asleep and Dreaming" – 1:53 (arrangement and keyboards by Daniel Handler)
  20. "The Sun Goes Down and the World Goes Dancing" – 2:46
  21. "The Way You Say Good-Night" – 2:44 (vocal by Beghtol)
  22. "Abigail, Belle of Kilronan" – 2:00
  23. "I Shatter" – 3:09

Volume 3

  1. "Underwear" – 2:49
  2. "It's a Crime" – 3:54 (vocal by Klute, arr. and all instruments by Ewen)
  3. "Busby Berkeley Dreams" – 3:36 (arr. by Gonson)
  4. "I'm Sorry I Love You" – 3:06 (vocal by Simms)
  5. "Acoustic Guitar" – 2:37 (vocal by Gonson)
  6. "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure" – 3:10
  7. "Love in the Shadows" – 2:54
  8. "Bitter Tears" – 2:51 (vocal by Beghtol)
  9. "Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget" – 1:55
  10. "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!" – 2:19 (vocal by Gonson/Merritt, guitar by Gonson)
  11. "Experimental Music Love" – 0:29
  12. "Meaningless" – 2:08
  13. "Love Is Like a Bottle of Gin" – 1:46
  14. "Queen of the Savages" – 2:12
  15. "Blue You" – 3:03 (vocal by Klute, whilsting by Gonson, theremin by Ewen)
  16. "I Can't Touch You Anymore" – 3:05
  17. "Two Kinds of People" – 1:10
  18. "How to Say Goodbye" – 2:48
  19. "The Night You Can't Remember" – 2:17
  20. "For We Are the King of the Boudoir" – 1:14 (vocal by Beghtol)
  21. "Strange Eyes" – 2:01 (vocal by Simms)
  22. "Xylophone Track" – 2:47 (harmonium by Beghtol)
  23. "Zebra" – 2:15 (vocal by Gonson)

Personnel

Performance

The Magnetic Fields:
Performed by Stephin Merritt with:

Additional musicians:

Vocalists:

Vocals by Merritt with:

Production

Produced by Stephin Merritt. Recorded at Polar West, Mother West, Polar Mother and Sonics. Engineering by Stephin Merritt with additional engineering by Charles Newman, Chris Ewen, Claudia Gonson, Eric Masunaga, and Jon Berman. Management by Claudia Gonson. Mastered by Jeff Lipton.

Instruments

Stephin Merritt played:

  • Voice: Digitech Vocalist, Roland harmonizer, and vocoder.
  • Strings: Kamaka Pineapple uke, Harmony baritone uke, Kaholas uke, Admira classical; Yamaha acoustic-electric 12-string; National lap steel; fado guitar; Gibson, Silvertone, Fender, (12-string) Rickenbacker and unmarked electrics; Gibson electric bass. Harmony mandolin; autoharp; Marx Instruments Marxophone, Ukelin, Tremeloa, Violin-Uke; sitar, zither, violin, and musical saw.
  • Keyboards: Kurzwell K2000 VX; Prophet 5; EML 101; Roland TB303, Super Jupiter, Juno 106 and Vocoder Plus; Synclavier; Korg MS-10 and Poly-800; ARP Odyssey; Kawai K-1m; Yamaha CS-60 and TG100; Moog Satellite, Ensoniq EPSm, Roland S-50 and S-550. Programmed in Performer. Young Chang and Yamaha pianos, harmonium, Wurlitzer electronic piano, Audition chord organ.
  • Rhythm units: Univox; Yamaha RX7 and RX 21; Roland DR660, TR505, TR707, TR727; Select-a-Rhythm; Omnichord; hand-drawn waveforms in Audiomedia.
  • Winds: Yamaha and unmarked recorders, ocarinas, pennywhistle, Maestro wind synthesizer, Hohner melodica, Paul Revere jug.
  • Drums: Gato rumba box, Cosmic Percussion xylophone, Don Diego and unmarked kalimbas; Radio Shack 75-in-One Project Kit, Gretsch drum kit, Zildjian cymbals, rain stick, chimera, maracas, conga, bongos, triangle, bells, tambourine, MorValu washboard, steel drum, Chicken Shakers, finger cymbals, springs and Slinky guitar, pipes, bamboo harp, spirit chaser, sleighbell, fingersnaps, thunder sheet, cabasas, cowbells, and gong.

Live performances

On seven occasions (five in the U.S., and two in London over four consecutive nights) The Magnetic Fields performed all 69 love songs, in order, over two nights. Several of the lavish orchestrations are more simply arranged when performed live, due to limited performers and/or equipment.

Further information

Visit the 69 Love Songs wiki site, which provides information and references for each song, plus links and details to relevant interviews, quotes, reviews and influences.

69 Love Songs, A Field Guide by LD Beghtol (a guest vocalist on the album) was released by Continuum as part of their 33⅓ series on December 15, 2006. The book features unpublished images by official photographress Gail O’Hara (of chickfactor fame), band friend Miss Gretchen and New York photographer Robin Holland.

Appearance of songs in media

  • The song "When My Boy Walks Down the Street" appeared in an episode of the Showtime Series Queer as Folk in 2002
  • The song "I Think I Need a New Heart" appears in the 2003 film Pieces of April. It also appears, sans vocals, in a Cesar dog food commercial that aired originally in the summer of 2006, and in The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection.
  • A modified version of "Boa Constrictor", using la-la-la's instead of original lyrics, can be heard in an Ivory Soap commercial that also aired in the summer of 2006.
  • The song "Chicken With Its Head Cut Off" is featured in a commercial for the television network mtvU in which a girl rummages through a box of love notes.
  • "All My Little Words" appears on The Shield episode "Cupid & Psycho." This was the eighth episode of the first season.
  • An abbreviated "Kiss Me Like You Mean It" punctuated a commercial for Helzberg Diamonds in the early 2000s.
  • Both "Underwear" and "The One You Really Love" have been featured on the e4 drama Skins.
  • "I Don't Want to Get Over You" appears in the 2003 film Intermission. Also appears in episode 339 ("Break-Up") of the radio program This American Life.
  • Peter Gabriel's cover of "The Book of Love" appears in the 2004 film Shall We Dance?.
  • "All My Little Words" was covered by Greek pop group Kore. Ydro. on their 2003 album, If All Eνer Ended Here, with Greek lyrics and different arrangement. In 2006 a new version of the song appeared, which became very popular in Kore. Ydro.'s live set.

References

External links

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