#59 – “Nightgown Of The Sullen Moon” (1989)

They'll Need A Crane EP
A.S.: The shuffle gods are feeling quite guilty about the “Ten Mississippi” mishap.
L.K.: We’re really breezing through the 1980s though, for the most part.
A.S.: I suppose, although outside of “7-11” we haven’t gotten any of the really obscure, weird old stuff.
L.K.: Yeah. I’m just talking album tracks and EPs here.
A.S.: True, it does feel quite disproportionate.
L.K.: I am always distracted by John Linnell’s loud breathing in this song. Between the echo effect and however close he must’ve been to the mic and the overall overload of syllables, the intakes of breath are waaay louder than they should be.
A.S.: Yeah, he’s cramming a lot of words into a little bit of space.  Is this the closest he comes to rapping until “Too + 3 R One”?
L.K.: Not really; he’s just cramming a lot of words into little space, which is a pretty frequent thing in his earlier stuff.
A.S.: I guess “Don’t Let’s Start” does that a bit – but here, it has entire verses of this pseudo-rapping.
L.K.: I still don’t think it’s rapping at all. It’s melodic! He fits more words into less space in “Rhythm Section Want Ad” and you wouldn’t call that rap, would you?
A.S.: Oh yeah, those lines. Now I’m just hearing “Nightgown” in my head as an actual rap, and it’s sounding pretty great.
L.K.: There are old school hip-hop-esque early TMBG songs and this is not one of them. Actually, I believe they are all Flans songs. “You’ll Miss Me”, that’s rap. This is not.
A.S.: Right, right, right. So I guess this song was based on title of a children’s drawing.
L.K.: It’s like “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” but without the drug overtones!
A.S.: Well…
L.K.: In fact, with an explicit denial in the song of drugs being involved.
A.S.: Not entirely inescapable of referencing drugs, but true, it is pretty opposite of the “Lucy” ordeal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was purposeful.
L.K.: TMBG not knowing there was a book called Nightgown of the Sullen Moon is kind of like Flansburgh having no idea there was a Beach Boys song called “Santa’s Beard”. Your ideas are inevitably less original than you think they are. Wait, does the book predate the song or not?
A.S.: It does; 1983, by Nancy Willard, according to Amazon.
L.K.: Because theoretically John Linnell could’ve seen it in a bookstore or something and completely forgotten about it and then thought he came up with the phrase on his own. A case of cryptomnesia.
A.S.: Maybe, although in this case, it’s more likely that the girl who drew the titular drawing read the book.
L.K.: Ah, true. But I don’t know any more details about that story either, sadly. I can’t envision him just talking to random little girls and asking them about what they were drawing.
A.S.: I dunno, maybe he had a friend with a daughter in school or something.  It’s not terribly unlikely. The other odd thing about this song is that it’s almost never been performed live, at least not since people began keeping regular setlists of the band’s performances.
L.K.: Well, there are a lot of songs that have never been performed live. I find I have a hard time trusting the report that it was played at one show in 1995 when it’s never been played at any other shows before or since. I won’t believe it unless I hear an audience bootleg from that night, but one doesn’t seem to exist. In this case, it seems like a song that would be sort of hard to replicate live just because of the unique echoey sound of the recording.
A.S.: Nah, it’s easy to add reverb to microphones.  Every fucking band that’s around today likes doing that.
L.K.: Yeah, but I mean the specific sound of the backing instrumentation. I can’t really envision electric guitars in this.
A.S.: The band’s never been known for trying to exactly replicate material, especially with regard to how the older stuff has to be performed by the live band. I can hear “Nightgown” with the full band, and I feel like it’s due for a revival, similar to what happened with “Hey Mr. DJ”.
L.K.: Again, a song that was never played live before then. The band would have to make a specific commitment to learn it, but since they won’t be touring until next year and they’ll probably have a new album out by then, I don’t really see it happening any time soon.
A.S.: Eh, just for whenever they tour next.  If that happened to “Hey Mr. DJ”, it could happen to “Nightgown” too.  It’s not exactly likely, but the song is also a fan favorite.  And the band did just relearn 10+ tracks from Lincoln!
L.K.: Oh I just remembered that this song contains the word “whoredom” in it… sorry for the abrupt change of train of thought there.
A.S.: That’s okay.  Clearly a callback to “The Big, Big Whoredom”.  Which is odd, because unless you were a Dial-A-Song enthusiast or had seen the band way back in its early days, the reference wouldn’t have made sense to anyone.
L.K.: Maybe they were just really into that word at the time, for some reason. I wasn’t convinced it was a real word at first, but apparently it is in the bible a lot…which isn’t surprising, I guess. Still doesn’t explain why it’s popping up in a song based on a child’s drawing.
A.S.: We should be used to inexplicable things at this point. I do like the idea of the Johns going weirdly Biblical, although they had sort of done that in another song from around the same time.
L.K.: I am mildly curious about the version of this song that is on the ELUSIVE 1986 DEMO TAPE, but it doesn’t seem to be that much different, just shorter and in a different key.
A.S.: Oh boy, I didn’t know that existed.
L.K.: Apparently nothing is really known about it, though somebody at the wiki at least has a photograph of it, which is more than we have for the 1983 demo tape.
A.S.: And that there’s a lot of blank space in between the songs, which is really odd.
L.K.: I’m guessing it probably wasn’t meant to be distributed.
A.S.: What a curio of the catalogue, there.
One Response to “#59 – “Nightgown Of The Sullen Moon” (1989)”
  1. Nathan says:

    I wrote a post on this song before. It’s long been a favorite of mine, although it’s somewhat outranked in my mind by its fellow B-side “It’s Not My Birthday.” I’ve heard that they don’t play it because Flansburgh doesn’t find it fun, but I don’t know how true that is.

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