There are songs about Bowie, Buddy Holly, and even infamous killers Bonnie and Clyde and all the many famous faces, figures, and fixtures of the imagination, but when Pete Yorn was sequestered during the pandemic, there was one specific icon that transformed into a song.
“Elizabeth Taylor” captures the essence of retaining some sense of sanity during the most uncertain of times with the lyrics, Terrified of making mistakes and arranging time / I was always looking for other things on my mind …You take one next step to another day It was swirling around you and me.
“At the end of the day, it’s about picking yourself back up, dusting yourself off, and getting the fuck back out there,” says Yorn of the track, off his upcoming ninth album Hawaii, set for release early 2022.
Following his first covers album, Pete Yorn Sings the Classics, released earlier in 2021, and his Rooftop EP, commemorating the 20th-anniversary release of his debut, Musicforthemorningafter, “Elizabeth Taylor,” co-produced with Jackson Phillips, marks Yorn’s first piece of original material since Caretakers.
In the video, Yorn is seen exercising, a mostly irregular activity for the artist.
“This video is a metaphor, a metaphor for anything you see in it really—or maybe it’s not,” shares Yorn. “This is a video of me doing the most mundane thing I need to do every day to stay sane. I know it’s not pretty—skinny ankles and hairy legs. The concept seemed anti-music video to me. I think that’s why I liked it. I mostly don’t like working out. I try to avoid it at all costs, but it usually helps me to feel better and keep on going through life, and I like that, especially during the pandemic.”
Taking its Groundhog Day cues, Yorn’s daily chores repeat through the final act, where he’s all dressed up with somewhere to go.
“We don’t know where or why,” says Yorn, “and then attention drifts up to the sky for a brief moment, and then it all goes black.”
To accompany his starlet-twisted tale, Yorn shared a track-by-track breakdown of 10 other songs about famous people tied to the lockdown-driven anthem.
1. “Bonnie and Clyde” (Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Bardot)
Such an intoxicating vibe from the moment it begins. A long-time favorite of mine. Interestingly, It is rumored to be based on an English language poem written by Bonnie Parker herself a few weeks before she and Clyde Barrow were shot, titled “The Trail’s End.”
2. “Paul Revere” (Beastie Boys)
Pure, classic Beasties. Takes me back to my boyhood with such an unconventional backing track. Sucks you in.
3. “Oh Yoko” (John Lennon)
The rhythmic feel of this song is just amazing. The way the drums and Nicky Hopkins’ piano propel the track forward as if skipping along through a beautiful meadow on a warm spring day.
4. “Buddy Holly” (Weezer)
Great song [and] even greater video by Spike Jonze.
5. “Leif Erikson” (Interpol)
Strong early Interpol, seemingly touching upon exploration.
6. “MLK” (U2)
Beautiful hymnal that closes out the unforgettable fire. When I was little, I initially misread it as MIlk. It was great in that it brought my attention to social issues I hadn’t really been exposed to yet. It was because of this song and “Pride (In the Name of Love),” another tribute to Martin Luther King, that Bono received the highest honor of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, an organization founded by [his widow] Coretta Scott King.
7. “Alex Chilton” (Replacements)
Classic Replacements homage to the late, great Alex Chilton, singer of Big Star, one of my favorite bands of all time. Chris Bell who sings “I am the cosmos” was the bass player of Big Star.
8. “David Bowie” (Phish)
Love this song from Junta. The bass jams hard. Fun song to get lost in. Only lyric is “David Bowie,” repeated over and over…until…wait for it…
9. “Kellen Winslow” (Boss Selection, featuring Pete Yorn)
Had a great time recording this one with Sunny Levine for his Boss Selection project. Deep cut that you may not have heard…Sunny’s dad plays saxophone on this one. “All I ask is you don’t look back…it’s a shame to grow apart.”
**10. “Murray” (Pete Yorn)
I know a man who lives under his covers / Lost his mind from the TV / Now he’s playing / Somebody told him / That he was no good at / Talking out the left side / Of his mouth sings Yorn’s in his 2001 single, off Musicforthemorningafter, about torturous relationship between the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and his father Murray.
Photo: Beth Yorn