July 27, 2021

This girl will only break your heart: “Wicked game”, the desire and the subsequent sadness

Not an advertising executive would have planned it better: ex-boxer, surfer, charismatic actor and owner of an unmistakable voice. Elvis reincarnated, with a good dose of Roy Orbison, for better (and lucrative) signs. The problem was timing: mid-80s, shoulder pad and synth times. Or of guitars that sounded like such, played with people who used those. Nothing similar to what he proposed at that time and he still maintains, stoic, Christopher Joseph Isaak.

Installed mentally, musically, and aesthetically sometime between the mid-to-late 1950s, the Stockton, California-born proposal has really changed little. Since its beginnings with the band Silvertone in the early 80s, Isaak’s style and themes have remained unchanged: on a base indebted to the first rock & roll, with surfing, folk and rockabilly as variants, the good of Chris only talks about love.

Of course, don’t be fooled by his champion look, because Isaak’s love hurts. In all ways, if necessary. Thus, when he is not dedicated to dreaming it (remembering the prom, at a funeral in the rain, or in some sad hotel on a lonely road), he makes all the (successful) efforts to lose it.

Live and in interviews he will tell some jokes to ease the situation, but believe him when he says that “the world was on fire and no one could save me except you. It’s strange how desire makes people act foolish.” A kind of self-confession with falsetto that repeated “I don’t want to fall in love with you”, knowing that it seemed quite difficult, because “that girl will only break your heart”. With you, the treatise of wish and regret called “Wicked game”.

Presented in Heart-shaped world (Warner, 1989), the song was created in an Isaakian circumstance, by inventing a neologism. “It was 4 in the morning and someone called me saying that he was going to my house. Right after saying yes, I regretted it. I already knew what was going to happen,” the composer told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website. a few years ago.

That more than debatable bitterness, led him to write the subject while he waited for the visit and, considering the limited success of his career so far, nobody put too many chips on creation. Until a story of lovers faced with justice and maternal anger, changed everything.

How to make a David Lynch film It’s called a 2010 short film by Joe McLean, where analysis of other people’s work and teasing go hand in hand. The premise was simple: the director, after not having understood any film by the director of Twin Peaks, decided to make a kind of instruction manual for amateurs.

You know, close-ups of insects, inexplicable dialogues, women with trunks who give hidden messages and dwarves who dance in hidden rooms, where people talk backwards. And in between all of that, larger-than-life loves, like Sailor Ripley and Lula Pace Fortune, who in Wild at heart, escaped from gangsters and overprotective mothers, to the rhythm of an instrumental version of “Wicked game.”

Based on a book by Barry Gifford, the 1990 film, with the brilliant performance of Laura Dern and the fantastic acting of Nicholas Cage, delved into the ideology that David Lynch spread with unexpected success at that time. Some years after Blue Velvet and contemporary to the first season of Twin Peaks, Wild at heart It was another wonderful exploration in a dreamy and nightmarish North America, where incest, crime and passionate love occurred at the same time, in a time difficult to determine, but with clear signs of the 50s.

In that context, Isaak’s music (and image) fit the bill. Therefore, after using a couple of songs from the first album Silvertone (Warner, 1985) in Blue Velvet, Lynch played an instrumental version of “Wicked Game” so effectively that Lee Chesnut, director of a radio station in Atlanta, not only programmed the original song over and over again, but he annoyed everyone he could to broadcast the track. . A few months later, “Wicked game” was a worldwide hit, with two videos to see how the marketing plan was put together on the fly.

In the first, directed by Lynch, Isaak is accompanied by his stable band along with some images from the film, in an elegant and evocative result. In addition, the eternal Kenney Dale Johnson on drums and the recently deceased James Calvin Wilsey on guitar, known as “the king of slow”, can be seen in action, who with two sustained notes and a judicious use of reverb did wonders.

For the second video, the renowned photographer Herb Ritts surrounded himself with landscapes and people, indeed, very photogenic and filmed Isaak in Hawaii with the super model Helena Christensen, who would be romantically linked to the singer. A knight of those with memory, Isaak has always denied it, attributing it only to the good interpretive ability of his film partner.

It’s one thing to go on stage in an electric blue suit and sing flawlessly, spouting jokes (very effective) that reveal a more than proven script. Another different is that for the encore you return with a wardrobe made with pieces of reflective glass. And so, like a kind of walking disco ball, then without missing a beat, smile and retire in triumph.

The indelible image comes from Isaak’s performance at the 2010 Azkena Rock Festival, in Vitoria, Basque Country; and server, who was present, without having set foot in Las Vegas, never felt closer. There, the Californian pulled his own and other people’s repertoire with little risk (when they weren’t personal hits like “Wicked game” or “Somebody’s crying”, the borrowed ones were “Oh, pretty woman” or “Love me tender”) and a lot affection for the audience.

This postcard well represents the last 28 years of Chris Isaak’s career. After the worldwide success, the man continued to do more or less the same with some flashes of fame again thanks to the cinema (the use of “Baby did a bad thing” in Eyes wide shut by Stanley Kubrick), but above all by keeping the activity live, either normal or in disco ball mode.

He has also taken up acting intermittently, with David Lynch himself in Twin Peaks: Fire walk with me (1992), with Bernardo Bertolucci in Little Buddha (1993) and, above all, playing himself with grace not only in other people’s programs, but also in one in his name (The Chris Isaak Show) on Showtime between 2001 and 2004. All this, without losing that aura of normal guy, given to relativize his achievements.

When in 2012, The Guardian asked him what it felt like to see new artists like the xx or Lana Del Rey being influenced by him, he had nothing but words of good-natured honesty. “I have not heard those groups, besides seeing Lana on television the other day and someone said ‘Hey, it’s the same chords from’ wicked game ‘. Likewise every time someone takes inspiration from me, I’m excited. I’m not the great thing and I think they could look for someone better to draw inspiration from. “

Excessive modesties aside, it must be said that “Wicked game” continues undaunted in radio programming, giving a dark patina to thousands of love fantasies. And although too many covers have tried to damage the original (HIM, Il Divo, Corey Taylor, our compatriots from La Ley, among many, many people), its simple beauty seems to save it from everything. His wicked charm, probably too.