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Music / Spillane

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Spillane is a 1987 album by John Zorn, the title track of which is built around the Mike Hammer stories by author Mickey Spillane. The tracks were composed with file-card pieces, where musical ideas written on note cards form the basis for discrete sound blocks arranged by way of a unifying theme. In the liner notes Zorn explains that he let the music be inspired by scenes he read in Spillane's novels and their film adaptations. Spillane is sometimes regarded as a Concept Album, but it isn't one: the second and third tracks have no thematic or conceptual connection with the first one, although stylistically they employ Zorn's technique of frequently shifting from one genre of music to another.


  1. "Spillane" (25:12)
  2. "Two-Lane Highway" (18:16)
  3. "Forbidden Fruit" (10:20)

Two-Lane Tropes

  • Adaptation Distillation: The title track, which took up the entire first side of the original vinyl, is inspired by the work of author Mickey Spillane. Zorn explained:
    ''Spillane's world was a natural choic for me because of the "extreme" nature of his vision. The dramatic elements implied many musical genres that I hold dear — jazz, rock, R&B , movie soundtracks — and the tough, violent quality opened the door for a variety of noise aggrevates which were used here predominantly as transitional devides and for dramatic contrast."
  • Alliterative Title: "Forbidden Fruit".
  • Avant-Garde Music: The music intercuts between different musical styles and quotes from Spillane's work.
  • Blues: "Two-Lane Highway" features guitar work by blues legend Albert Collins.
  • Careful with That Axe: The album opens with a female scream.
  • Classical Music: All throughout the album, but most audibly during "Forbidden Fruit".
  • The Conscience and Inner Monologue: Mike Hammer's conscience is voiced by guitarist Robert Quine (better known for his work with Richard Hell and the Voidoids and Lou Reed).
  • Deadpan Snarker: John Lurie as Mike Hammer. Albert Collins's laconic monologue about checking into his motel room also qualifies.
    Albert Collins: Figure I'd pull off the road, stop for the night at the Penthouse. Good motel. Lady at the desk says, "Enjoy your stay, Mister Collins!" She gives me my key. "Room 66." "Okay." I walk down there,, open the door, step in...see somethin'...a little funny. I step out. I walk back down to the office and ring for the lady. Drop my key on the desk. She said, "What's wrong, Mr Collins?" I said, "Well, honey...there's already someone in that room. He's got the air-conditionin' turned up high, and he's sittin' up in the bed, lookin' at TV. Eyes wide open. ...'Cept he's got an icepick in his I guess I'll be checkin' out."
  • Death Song: "Forbidden Fruit" was inspired by the passing of Japanese actor Ishihara Yujiro in 1987. Zorn wrote the track as a tribute to him.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The black-and-white album cover.
  • Epic Rocking: The 25:12 "Spillane". "Two Lane Highway" is a subversion as the whole thing lasts 18:16, but it's split into two tracks (Originally due to vinyl limitations, but it has stayed that way on nearly every issue since). Then it becomes a Double Subversion when you realize Part 1 is still 13 and half minutes.
  • Extreme Mle Revenge: "Spillane"
    If I shut my eyes I feel like I'm back in Indiana. Then I open them and I want to take the next guy I see and rip the ribs right out of his chest. I want to take this crowd and mash it together like a sack of potatoes.
  • Genre Mashup: Zorn mixes Jazz, Blues, Country Music, Lounge, Classical Music, Avant-Garde Music, Thrash Metal.
  • Genre Roulette: As typical for Zorn's albums.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: The lyrics of "Forbidden Fruit" are in Japanese.
  • Grey Rain of Depression: "Spillane"
    Stupid idiots. I hate the rain. I hate people like that. They don't know how wet the rain can get.
  • Hard Boiled Detective: Naturally, since the music is inspired by Spillane's novels.
  • Improv: All tracks feature at least some improvisation, sometimes against a through-composed backdrop, sometimes as collective improvisation.
  • Instrumentals: The music is mostly instrumental, save for some dialogue read here and there, and some singing on "Forbidden Fruit".
  • Jazz: The music sometimes mimicks a typically jazzy Film Noir sound.
  • More Dakka: "Spillane"
    The gun backed back like she did. She didn't have room for any pockets. There was a party of bullets going on inside her shirt.
  • Not Quite Dead: A voice quote heard during "Spillane"
    You kill ten guys, one of them is bound to come back. He doesn't know how dead he is. He runs after you and grabs your gun. You better wake up.
  • One-Word Title: "Spillane".
  • Record Needle Scratch: Scratching is done during "Forbidden Fruit".
  • Record Producer: John Zorn.
  • Shout-Out: Inside the booklet there's a screen shot of Japanese actors Ishihara Yujiro, Kitahara Mie and Tsugawa Masahiko from the film Kurutta Kajitsu (1956).
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: "Spillane"
    I feel like I just smoked a deck of cigarettes and forgot to blow out the smoke.
  • Special Guest: Jazz organist Big John Patton and blues guitarist Albert Collins contribute to "Two-Lane Highway". The track "Forbidden Fruit" features the Kronos Quartet, turntable artist Christian Marclay and Japanese singer Hiromi Ota.
  • Spiritual Successor: His album "The Bribe" (1998) is recorded with the same musicians and continues themes introduced on "Spillane".
  • Spoken Word in Music: The music is predominantly instrumental, but at some points we can hear snippets from Spillane's works been read.
  • Stock Sound Effects: A barking dog, a police sirene, an applauding bar audience, a car braking, thunder crash, stuff breaking, a ticking clock, applause, a wind machine, someone dialing a phone, and a lot of rain can be heard during "Spillane".
  • Take Off Your Clothes: "Spillane"
    There are only so many ways a woman can undress. I thought I'd seen them all.