Earlier today, the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart premiered a new track — a cover of the Magnetic Fields’ “Jeremy” — on a fan’s Tumblr, which is a pretty awesome move. Taking the good vibes even further, the band’s Peggy Wang wrote an extended note about her personal relationship to Magnetic Fields’ music, and it’s a very charming read. Here’s Peggy:
The Magnetic Fields, for me, were part of an immature phase. I know that has negative connotations, but in hindsight, I don’t think I could have fallen harder for any other band at any other time in my life. I had the kind of naive scrawl-their-name-on-my-notebook fixation that any young teenybopper would have had, except back then, I didn’t have the luxury of the internet to find out much about my favorite band, and I didn’t live in a big city where I might hope to catch a glimpse of my teen idols as they rolled through town. There wasn’t even a fan club for me to join. The Magnetic Fields were a band without context.
It was a hot boring summer, 1995 to be specific, I didn’t know how to drive, and my best friend had gone away to Jewish summer camp. All I had were a few Magnetic Fields CDs (my mom was kind enough to drive me all the way to the now defunct Tower Records in downtown New Orleans to find them) and the liner notes I had pinned to the wall. I didn’t have a face to put with Stephin Merritt’s name or voice, but I did have all the time in the world to romanticize the man who wrote the sort of lyrics he did, the tales of young love that were so much more specific and painterly than the songs playing on the radio. I was never the sort of teenager that wanted to run away, but the Magnetic Fields were my singular escape from the ennui of suburban life, amplifying my obsessions and daydreams.This all sounds very nostalgic, but at the time, the Magnetic Fields were exactly the opposite. They gave me hope that someday I would grow up and experience the kind of love that Stephin Merritt wrote about, even if it ended in the most hyperbolic of tragedies. They weren’t even songs I could relate to just yet…I just wanted to be able to relate to them one day.
Now that I’m older, I can look back at the time and see how the Magnetic Fields were a band that could exist outside of a context and still make me fall in love with them. I didn’t need to know if they were anyone else’s favorite band, I didn’t need to know what they looked like or where they were from or any frivolous details a hypothetical Tigerbeat interview might have divulged to me. I was struck recently while watching Strange Powers (the Magnetic Fields documentary) how completely clueless I was to the details of a band I claimed to love so much. I had no idea how Claudia and Stephin met, or what kind of Wurlitzer piano Stephin used. My current adult pragmatic self considers many factors, both superficial and visceral, to determine whether I “like” something, and perhaps that’s just the burden of growing up. The Magnetic Fields might have been the last band I ever unconditionally loved without ever stopping to try to understand why — just the kind of love story I hoped to one day live through.
“Jeremy” b/w “My Life is Wrong” is out 10/9 on Slumberland.