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Music / 69 Love Songs

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"Give me a week or two to / Go absolutely cuckoo"

69 Love Songs is the sixth studio album by American indie rock band The Magnetic Fields, released on September 7, 1999.

Band leader Stephin Merritt originally conceived the album as musical revue featuring one hundred songs to be performed by four drag queens. Whoever's act the audience liked the most would be paid. However, he quickly realized that the task as he saw it was impossible, so he shortened the number to sixty nine and decided to record the whole thing with his own band.

Despite its monster length and overwhelming number of different musical styles present, it was the album that brought the band into the mainstream for the first time. It received critical acclaim (placing in the top five of most major lists of the best albums of the year) and was a surprise commercial hit. The song "The Book of Love" was Covered Up by Peter Gabriel in 2010 and gave him his first hit in nearly ten years.

Merritt insists that despite the title, the album is not actually about love, but the nature of love songs themselves. Although more than a number of listeners will tell you they work both ways.


Volume One

  1. "Absolutely Cuckoo" (1:34)
  2. "I Don't Believe in the Sun" (4:16)
  3. "All My Little Words" (2:46)
  4. "A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off" (2:41)
  5. "Reno Dakota" (1:05)
  6. "I Don't Want to Get Over You" (2:22)
  7. "Come Back from San Francisco" (2:48)
  8. "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side" (3:43)
  9. "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits" (2:25)
  10. "The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be" (1:11)
  11. "I Think I Need a New Heart" (2:32)
  12. "The Book of Love" (2:42)
  13. "Fido, Your Leash is Too Long" (2:33)
  14. "How Fucking Romantic" (0:58)
  15. "The One You Really Love" (2:53)
  16. "Punk Love" (0:58)
  17. "Parades Go By" (2:56)
  18. "Boa Constrictor" (0:58)
  19. "A Pretty Girl is Like..." (1:50)
  20. "My Sentimental Melody" (3:07)
  21. "Nothing Matters When We're Dancing" (2:27)
  22. "Sweet Lovin-Man" (4:59)
  23. "The Things We Did and Didn't Do" (2:11)

Volume Two

  1. "Roses" (0:27)
  2. "Love is Like Jazz" (2:56)
  3. "When My Boy Walks Down the Street" (2:38)
  4. "Time Enough for Rocking When We're Old" (2:03)
  5. "Very Funny" (1:26)
  6. "Grand Canyon" (2:28)
  7. "No One Will Ever Love You" (3:14)
  8. "If You Don't Cry" (3:06)
  9. "You're My Only Home" (2:17)
  10. "(Crazy for You) But Not That Crazy" (2:18)
  11. "My Only Friend" (2:01)
  12. "Promises of Eternity" (3:46)
  13. "World Love" (3:07)
  14. "Washington, D.C" (1:53)
  15. "Long-Forgotten Fairytale" (3:37)
  16. "Kiss Me Like You Mean It" (2:00)
  17. "Papa Was a Rodeo" (5:01)
  18. "Epitaph for My Heart" (2:50)
  19. "Asleep and Dreaming" (1:53)
  20. "The Sun Goes Down and the World Goes Dancing" (2:46)
  21. "The Way you Say Good-Night" (2:44)
  22. "Abigail, Belle of Kilronan" (2:00)
  23. "I Shatter" (3:09)

Volume Three

  1. "Underwear" (2:49)
  2. "It's a Crime" (3:54)
  3. "Busby Berkely Dreams" (3:36)
  4. "I'm Sorry I Love You" (3:06)
  5. "Acoustic Guitar" (2:37)
  6. "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure" (3:10)
  7. "Love in the Shadows" (2:54)
  8. "Bitter Tears" (2:51)
  9. "Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget" (1:55)
  10. "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!" (2:15)
  11. "Experimental Music Love" (0:29)
  12. "Meaningless" (2:08)
  13. "Love is Like a Bottle of Gin" (1:46)
  14. "Queen of the Savages" (2:12)
  15. "Blue You" (3:03)
  16. "I Can't Touch You Anymore" (3:05)
  17. "Two Kinds of People" (1:10)
  18. "How to Say Goodbye" (2:48)
  19. "The Night You Can't Remember" (2:17)
  20. "For We Are the King of the Boudoir"(1:14)
  21. "Strange Eyes" (2:01)
  22. "Xyolophone Track" (2:47)
  23. "Zebra" (2:15)

Tropes present in this album include:

  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: "How Fucking Romantic", on purpose as a dig against love songs.
    How fucking romanTIC
    All the stARS are out
    twinkling twinkling twinKLING
    And fluttering aBOUT
  • All-Cheering All the Time: The cheer chant that begins each verse in "Washington, D.C".
    W-ASH-ING-TON, baby, D.C!
  • Anchored Ship: Played for Laughs in the song "The One You Really Love":
    I gaze into your eyes of blue
    But their beauty is not for me
    You're thinking of someone who's gone
    You're dreaming of the one you really love
    You're dreaming of...the corpse you really love!
  • Animal Metaphor: Multiple tracks invoke animals as symbolism:
    • "Boa Constrictor" equates the feeling of love to the experience of being asphyxiated by the titular species of snake.
    • The narrator of "A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off" compares himself to such, using the frenzied state still-living decapitated chickens can enter as an analogue for constant infatuation.
    • "Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long" takes imagery of pet dogs and ironically alludes to the Stock Animal Name Fido's association with loyalty to rebuke an unfaithful lover.
    • "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits" refers to rabbits' association with sex and fertility, the viewpoint character imploring his loved one to "do it all day long".
  • Basso Profundo: "Time Enough for Rocking When We're Old" and "Xylophone Track" are both sung in the lowest register Merritt can muster.
  • Birds of a Feather: "Papa Was A Rodeo" has the singer spend the first two verses rattling off his issues with commitment and monogamy to discourage his one-night-stand from thinking this will be more than that. It then flashes to "55 years later/We've had the romance of a century..."
    What a coincidence, your papa was a rodeo too!
  • Busby Berkeley Number: "Busby Berkeley Dreams". The lyrics convey the old Hollywood musicals these were a part of.
  • Cupid's Arrow: Played With negatively in "Epitaph for My Heart".
    Let this be the epitaph for my heart
    Cupid put too much poison in the dart
  • Dead to Begin With: "Parades Go By" is told from the perspective of a dead man watching his former lover try to come to terms with his untimely death.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: Used on Merrit's vocals in "I Shatter" to convey that the relationship he was so meaningful it was almost automatous.
  • Emo Teen: Discussed in "I Don't Want To Get Over You"
    I could make a career of being blue
    I could dress in black and read Camus
    Smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth like I was seventeen
    That would be a scream...
  • Empathic Environment: Taken up to eleven in "I Don't Believe in the Sun"
    The moon to whom the poets croon has given up and died
    Astronomy will have to be revised
  • Flowers of Romance: "I'm Sorry I Love You"
    A single rose in your garden dwells
    Like any rose, it's not itself
    It is my love in your garden grows
    But let's pretend it's just a rose.
  • Gender-Blender Name: According to Word of God, "Mike" in "Papa Was A Rodeo" is a woman.
    "Papa Was a Rodeo," as should be explained in the box set book, is (in my mind) sung by a man, who resembles a Lee Hazelwood character, to a woman named Mike, as Nancy Sinatra's character was called in "Wild Angels." It is thus explicitly a Lee & Nancy tribute, with an actual lyric reference, however roundabout, which is more than I usually do.
  • Genre Roulette: And how! The album explores more than its fair share of genres, including:
    • Synthpop: "Promises of Eternity", "I Can't Touch You Anymore", "Strange Eyes"
    • Psychedelia: "Sweet-Lovin' Man", "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure", "Epitaph for My Heart"
    • Lonely Piano Piece: "Busby Berkely Dreams", "Asleep and Dreaming"
    • Ambient: "Love in the Shadows"
    • Reggae: "It's a Crime"
    • Jazz: "Love is Like Jazz"
    • Punk Rock: "Punk Love", "Washington D.C."
    • Noise Pop: "When My Boy Walks Down the Street", "I'm Sorry I Love You", "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!"
    • Experimental: "I Shatter", "Experimental Music Love"
    • Blues Rock: "Underwear"
    • Folk: "Abigail, Belle Of Kilronan", "Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget"
    • Baroque Pop: "My Only Friend", "Blue You", "For We Are the King of the Boudoir"
    • Country: "A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off", "Bitter Tears", "Papa Was a Rodeo", "Acoustic Guitar", "Xylophone Track"
    • Cabaret: "My Sentimental Melody", "Zebra".
  • God Is Love Song: "Kiss Me Like You Mean It," though it's somewhat of a subversion in having God return the affection physically.
  • Gratuitous French: Fully half of the rather short "Underwear" is this.
    La mort, c'est la mort
    Mais l'amour, c'est l'amour
    La mort, c'est seulement la mort
    Mais l'amour, c'est l'amour
  • Intercourse with You: "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits" barely manages to hide the fact that it's about this:
    Let's pretend we're bunny rabbits
    Let's do it all day long
    Rapidly becoming rabid
    Singing little rabbit songs
    I can keep it up all night
    I can keep it up all day
    Let's pretend we're bunny rabbits
    Until we pass away
  • I Will Wait for You: Defied in "Abigail, Belle of Kilronan" with the narrator explicitly begging his girlfriend not to wait for him to come home from the war.
    When I come home - if I come home - don't be alone
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Two from "Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long":
    you scare me out of my wits when you do that shih-tzu
    you're all out of luck, I don't care what you fox-hounds do.
  • Let's Duet: Merritt duets on one song with each of his fellow vocalists (Claudia Gonson on "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!", Shirley Simms on "Papa Was a Rodeo", L.D. Beghtol on "The One You Really Love", and Dudley Klute on "Underwear").
  • Limited Lyrics Song:
    • Both "Experimental Music Love" and "Punk Rock Love". You literally just read all the lyrics to both.
    • Many of the shorter songs only have one short verse, such as "Roses" and "How Fucking Romantic".
  • LOL, 69: Surprisingly averted. Merritt has stated any innuendo implied by the title is unintentional. 69 is just a fun number to draw.
  • The Lost Lenore: The narrator's crush from "The One You Really Love" has a serious case of this.
  • Metaphorgotten: "A Pretty Girl Is Like..." keeps getting its similes mixed up until it finally concludes that a pretty girl is like... a pretty girl.
  • Miniscule Rocking: Several songs hover around the 1-minute mark. "Roses" clocks in at 28 seconds.
  • Mood Whiplash: The numerous songs with different subject matters and different genres will undoubtedly lead to this.
    • The eerie ambient track "Love in the Shadows" is placed between the psychedelic pop-influenced "The Death Of Ferdinand De Saussure" and the country rock "Bitter Tears".
  • Rattling Off Legal: "Epitaph For My Heart" quotes from the warning label on the back of Merritt's keyboard.
    "Caution, to prevent electric shock
    Do not remove cover
    No user-serviceable parts inside
    Refer servicing to qualified service personnel"
    Let this be the epitaph for my heart...
  • Really Gets Around: The narrator's love interest in "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side".
    Andy would bicycle across town
    In the rain to bring you candy
    And John would buy the gown
    For you to wear to the prom
    With Tom the astronomer
    Who'd name a star for you
    Harry is the one I think you'll marry
    But it's Chris that you kissed after school
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Reno Dakota" was named after a real person, a filmmaker who ghosted Stephin after a blind date.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!"
    Her: Are you out of love with me?
    Are you longing to be free?
    Do I drive you up a tree?

    Him: Yeah! Oh, yeah!
  • Rich Bitch: The narrator in "Zebra," big time.
    We've got so many tchotchkes, we've practically emptied the Louvre
    In most of our palaces, there's hardly room to maneuver
    Now I shan't go to Bali today, I must stay home and Hoover up the gold dust...
    But that doesn't mean we're in love.
  • Royal "We": Played for Laughs in "For We Are The King Of The Boudoir."
  • Sex for Services: It appears the only reason the narrator's love interest sleeps with him in "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side" is because he has a car and she needs to get around the city.
    'Cause I'm the ugliest guy on the Lower East Side
    But I've got wheels and you want to go for a ride
    Wanna go for a ride?
  • Shout-Out:
    • "My Only Friend" is a tribute to Billie Holiday.
    • "Acoustic Guitar" name-drops Steve Earle, Charo and Gwar as examples of musicians who wouldn't play the titular instrument as gently as the singer does.
    • "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure" namedrops not only the titular linguist but also Holland-Dozier-Holland as a counterpoint to de Saussure's claim that language can't describe love.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Played with in "How Fucking Romantic", where the singer's partner engages in this to hide that they're not nearly as in love as he is.
    What a tacky sunset, what a vulgar moon
    Play another charming Rogers & Hart tune
    How fucking romantic, must we really waltz?
    Drag another cliché howling from the vaults
    Love you, obviously, like you really care
    Even though you treat me like a dancing bear
  • Silly Love Songs: Most notably averted, despite the album's title.
  • Skeletal Musician: Referenced in "Xylophone Track".
    I can play my ribcage like a xylophone.
  • Spelling Song: "Washington, D.C."
    W! A-S-H! I-N-G! T-O-N, baby, DC!
  • Stalking is Love: "The Night You Can't Remember" is arguably a case of this.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: In addition to Merritt, the album's songs are sung by two of his fellow bandmembers (Claudia Gonson, Shirley Simms) and two of his friends (L.D. Beghtol and Dudley Klute):
    • Gonson: "Reno Dakota", "Sweet-Lovin' Man", "If You Don't Cry", "Washington, D.C.", "Acoustic Guitar", "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!", "Zebra"
    • Simms: "Come Back from San Fransisco", "Boa Constrictor", "No One Will Ever Love You", "Kiss Me Like You Mean It", "Papa Was a Rodeo", "I'm Sorry I Love You", "Strange Eyes"
    • Beghtol: "All My Little Words", "The One You Really Love", "My Sentimental Melody", "Roses", "The Way You Say Good-Night", "Bitter Tears", "For We Are the King of the Boudoir"
    • Klute: "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side", "How Fucking Romantic", "Very Funny", "Long-Forgotten Fairytale", "Underwear", "It's a Crime", "Blue You"
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: "Two Kinds of People"
    a) my love and I, b) other.
  • Uncommon Time: "Love is Like a Bottle of Gin" is in 21/8.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off" gives us this:
    We don't have to be stars exploding in the night, or electric eels under the covers
  • Wham Line: "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!", which starts out as an Anti-Love Song but then dives straight into a Murder Ballad by the end.
    What a dark and dreary life!
    Are you reaching for a knife?
    Could you really kill your wife?
    Yeah, oh yeah!