publicity still for Love Songs: A Record

Love Songs: A Record (1983)

Love Songs: A Record (1983) was the first major performance work I created after moving to Chicago in 1982. In some ways, this work continued the form of performance I had created in 77 Dream Songs, of a short, succinct performance, based on an original or pre-existing text, that made use of musical accompaniment to enhance the text. In this case, there was a mixture of actual sung texts with spoken texts that were musicalized. Love Songs was structured like a record album (a vinyl recording, if you will).

Side One was called "Falling In" and Side Two was called "Falling Out." Side One began with "Fact (Homage to Meredith Monk)" with the repeated text "I've got it bad, man." This was followed by "A Very Valentine," (text by Gertrude Stein), "Heavy Date," (text by W.H. Auden), "Long Distance Tango #1" (using the tango known by many names, including "Kiss of Fire"), and ending with "You Really Got a Hold On Me" by Smokey Robinson. The love that had begun as a difficult admission in the first "song" had by this time turned into a masochistic obsession: by the end of the Tango, I was tied up with a phone chord, and that "hold" on me looked a lot like bondage. When one of my back-up singers walks off in a huff, calling me "sick," the stage went dark, and the audience heard a text called "Liner Notes." When the lights went up on Side Two, the process reversed. "It's Gonna Take a Miracle" found everyone on stage in black, instead of white, and I was still tied up, but now by my grief. "Long-Distance Tango #2" unwound me from my bondage, but it left me helplessly tied to a phone that kept not ringing. Instead of a valentine, it was "The Kiss-Off Letter," my English translation of a Brecht-Weill song. And at the end, "Anti-Love Song (for Laurie Anderson)" left me in denial, with a loop repeating "I don't! I don't!" as I declared "I don't love you." But when the loop finally stopped, I looked up at the audience and said, "Don't I?" The implication, for me and hopefully for the audience, is that the record could then be turned again, and the admission of love would start again with "I've got it bad, man."

Love Songs was the central panel in a triptych of works I referred to the L&L Trilogy (for Love and Loss). The two side panels, Love After Science and Ball/Room/Dancing (1984) took my work in ever more personal directions. At that point in my career, I was not always good at documentation. Below are black & white photos, taken at the dress rehearsal, as well as a few color images from the first performance.

my back-up singers...

this is very much how the whole dress rehearsal felt...

in the very pink light with Barbara Steg

playing some air viola...

"So how do I look with this lavelier mike?"

"Love requires an object."

"You Really Got a Hold On Me"

"Whoa, oh, oh, you treat me badly, but I love you madly."

"Didn't you know, it wouldn't be so easy letting you go?"