stipe essay about electrolite/mulholland drive
Mulholland represents to me the iconic ‘from on high’ vantage point looking down at L.A. and the valley at night when the lights are all sparkling and the city looks, like it does from a plane, like a blanket of fine lights all shimmering and solid. I really wanted to write a farewell song to the 20th century.
‘20th century go to sleep.
We won’t blink.’
And nowhere seemed more perfect than the city that came into its own throughout the 20th century, but always looking forward and driven by ideas of a greater future, at whatever cost.
I name check three of the great legends of that single industry ‘town’, as it likes to refer to itself. In order: James Dean, Steve McQueen, Martin Sheen. All iconic, all representing different aspects of masculinity - a key feature of 20th century ideology. It is the push me-pull you of a culture drawing on mid-century ideas of society, butt up against and in a great tug-of-war with modernism/rebirth/epiphany/futurism, wiping out all that that came before to be replaced by something ‘better’, more civilized, more tolerant, fair, open, and so on... [see ‘reagan’, ‘soylent green’, ‘bladerunner’, current gubernatorial debates]
The ‘really deep’ in the lyric is, of course, self-deprecating towards attempting at all, in a pop song, to communicate any level of depth or real insight.
Mulholland is the place in films where you get a distance, and the awe, of the city built on dreams and fantasy. Far away enough to not smell it but to marvel at its intensity and sheer audacity. Kinda great.
The title of the song came from flying into L.A. and/or seeing it from on high and it looking like a blanket of stars or those bizarre sea creatures that light up when you stir up the water. How I got ‘electrolite’ out of that I don’t know, I still can't think of the word I was going for, but it is actually called ‘phosphorescence’ or ‘bioluminescence’. I thought it was ‘electro’- something, so I just used light/lyte, giving it the ‘lite’ of modern fad diet language.