As David Lynch prepared last year to shoot a musical performance that would help close out his revival of "Twin Peaks," his direction to singer Julee Cruise was simple. "He said, 'Julee, you are a child full of wonder,'" recalls Cruise, a longtime musical collaborator with Lynch. "And he meant it. If he means it, then I'm going to do it."
During Sunday's two-episode finale to Showtime's "Twin Peaks: The Return," Cruise performed "The World Spins," a dreamy, mournful, hopeful song known to fans of the original series. With music composed by Angelo Badalamenti and lyrics by Lynch, she sang in hushed, ethereal tones: "Moving near the edge at night / Dust is dancing in the space / A dog and bird are far away."
In the show's fictional rural town of Twin Peaks, Cruise was back onstage at the Roadhouse, the only return engagement from the original series of 1990-91. For most of the revival's 18 episodes, Lynch featured a live performance of a full song at the Roadhouse (also identified by an exterior neon sign as the Bang Bang Bar), where the artists have included Nine Inch Nails, Eddie Vedder, Au Revoir Simone and the Chromatics. For Cruise, it meant once again performing a song that has helped define her idiosyncratic career and the recognizable sound texture of many Lynch films. "It gives me goose bumps: 'Dust is dancing in the space,'" she says of the lyrics. "How many times have we seen that but haven't been able to write it? That is a beautiful lyric. It's that life goes on — it does."
In the original series, Cruise performed the same song at the Roadhouse in a climactic second-season episode that revealed the killer of troubled prom queen Laura Palmer. That episode was directed by Lynch, and Cruise's performance captured its feeling of tragedy, sadness and revelation. On Sunday, "The World Spins" emotionally connected the new series with the original, signaling the passage of time.
"I will always be known as this," Cruise says of her work with Lynch, "and I will always be proud of this." The song predates the debut of "Twin Peaks," originating on the singer's 1989 debut album, "Floating Into the Night," produced in New York City by Lynch and Badalamenti. The collaboration created the sonic blueprint for the series. An instrumental of the album's "Falling" became a recognizable theme of the show, reflecting Lynch's taste for what he has described as the "low and slow."
"I worked with these guys for an entire year and a half," Cruise recalls of those pre-digital recording sessions. "It was analog, and the synth would break down. I was frightened every single song, bringing my head voice down."
Cruise met Lynch during the production of the filmmaker's 1986 breakthrough feature, "Blue Velvet." When Lynch was unable to secure the rights to This Mortal Coil's recording of "Song to the Siren," Cruise was recruited to sing on a replacement song that aimed to capture the same mysterious flavor: "Mysteries of Love," written by Lynch and soundtrack composer Badalamenti. The ethereal nature of the song was a new challenge for Cruise, who previously had been enough of a belter to once play Janis Joplin in a stage revue.
The sound the trio created together defined the rest of her career. "I must have taken it from listening to what my mom and dad loved — low, low, bluesy-type music, like Shirley Bassey. But I sing this like a classical French horn player," she says now. "There is no baby-ness to it. There is no girlishness to it. If you listen to it, and all the harmonies that I did make for it ... are like a French horn quartet. And that is the way Angelo would want it, and loved how I phrased things. And David was quite a good trumpet player." Lynch's presence was essential to that sound. "Leave it up to just Angelo and me performing? No, it just wouldn't have the magic."
To shoot her performance for Sunday's episode of "Twin Peaks: The Return," Cruise flew to the Roadhouse interior set in Pasadena in February 2016. Lynch asked her to dress in what she would normally wear for a concert. After two takes, she was done. Cruise stayed on set long enough to watch another Lynch regular, Rebekah Del Rio, perform "No Stars," with Moby on guitar behind her, for a different episode of the series. "She did two takes," recalls Cruise. "It was amazing."
Cruise tours less often now, but she is contemplating some live performances around the world, including in Australia and Europe. After "Twin Peaks" became a sensation during its first season, her own career took off. She recorded a second solo album with Lynch and Badalamenti, 1993's "The Voice of Love," and she starred in a one-hour musical film, "Industrial Symphony No. 1," released in 1990 by Warner Bros. Records.
"It was so much fun to be part of something that just went ba-boom!" Cruise says. "You really didn't know it was going to do that. What a nice surprise life takes you on."
Over the years, she's recorded other albums with different producers, has filled in for the B-52s' Cindy Wilson on tour and has performed frequently with Bobby McFerrin, but she still identifies herself most strongly with her work with Lynch. It has sometimes made her feel possessive of the director, she says with a laugh.
"I heard somebody say, 'Oh, there's a new Julee Cruise,'" she says with mock horror. "That's all it took. I don't know what singer it was. I get very possessive. David is mine. How could they?"
She recognizes the influence her work with Lynch has had on a new generation of singers and musicians, and she has become friends with some of them, including Sky Ferreira. She has never met chanteuse Chrysta Bell, a current Lynch muse whose debut solo album was produced by the filmmaker. Bell also appears as FBI agent Tammy Preston in the revival, and she recently released a version of "Falling," originally recorded by Cruise.
"It was good. I've seen her do other things that just blew me away," Cruise says of Bell. "She's got a very womanly voice. She's like a true alto. I'm a mezzo-soprano. I'm surprisingly high."
Now both share a world created by Lynch. But one fan who didn't plan on tuning in Sunday was Cruise, who has yet to watch a single episode of "The Return." She has her reasons. "I won't watch the show yet. It's got to be on my terms. I have to watch it in an intimate setting by myself," she says, explaining that she will watch it as the marathon 18-hour film Lynch has described the new limited series as. "It's very personal."
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