Merritt Parkway: Magnetic Fields detail ’50 Song Memoir’, announce pair of Boston shows


Back in May Stephin Merritt revealed initial details of Magnetic Fields’ latest album, a personal 50-song memoir titled, appropriately enough, 50 Song Memoir. Merritt’s new piece of nonfiction dedicates one song for each year of his life, and now we have some additional details surrounding it and a pair of live shows here in town.

50 Song Memoir will be released via Nonesuch Records in March, and we here in Boston will get a chance to digest the entire thing over two nights, April 14 and 15, at Berklee Performance Center. And in true Merritt fashion, there is a proper order of things: Night 1 will features songs 1 to 25, and Night 2 provides songs 26 to 50.

The five-CD, five-LP collection commenced recording on Merritt’s 50th birthday, February 9, 2015.

Says Merritt: “The first song, ‘Wonder Where I’m From,’ explains that I was conceived by barefoot beatniks on a houseboat in St Thomas, Virgin Islands; born in Yonkers, N.Y., but never lived there; learned to talk in Baden-Baden, in the former West Germany (then called the BRD, for Bundesrepublik Deutschland), and moved around constantly throughout my childhood, so that when someone asks me where I’m from, I have no short answer handy. The musical treatment shifts to reflect each locale, as exemplified by Alvin and the Chipmunks’ album Around the World with the Chipmunks.”

The lyrics on 50 Song Memoir are billed, in the press notes, as “a mix of autobiography (bedbugs, Buddhism, buggery) and documentary (hippies, Hollywood, hyperacusis). There is one song per year for the fifty years since the songwriter’s birth in 1965. Musically, the sound ranges as widely and adventurously as possible, within the context of lyrics-driven music.”

Here’s more info about the live show: “In concert, the music will be played and sung by seven performers in a stage set featuring fifty years of artifacts both musical (vintage computers, reel-to-reel tape decks, newly invented instruments), and decorative (tiki bar, shag carpet, vintage magazines for the perusal of idle musicians). The seven performers each play seven different instruments, traditional (cello, charango, clavichord) or invented in the last fifty years (Slinky guitar, Swarmatron, synthesizer). The stage extravaganza will be directed by the award-winning Jose Zayas (Love in the Time of Cholera, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter).

Check out a few selected tracks below.

The Magnetic Fields’ 50 Song Memoir tracklisting:
’66 Wonder Where I’m From
’67 Come Back as a Cockroach
’68 A Cat Called Dionysus
’69 Judy Garland
’70 They’re Killing Children Over There
’71 I Think I’ll Make Another World
’72 Eye Contact
’73 It Could Have Been Paradise
’74: No
’75 My Mama Ain’t
’76 Hustle 76
’77 Life Ain’t All Bad
’78 The Blizzard of ’78
’79 Rock’n’Roll Will Ruin Your Life
’80 London by Jetpack
’81 How to Play the Synthesizer 3:06
’82 Happy Beeping 3:10
’83 Foxx and I 2:43
’84 Danceteria! 3:09
’85 Why I Am Not a Teenager 3:07
’86 How I Failed Ethics
’87 At the Pyramid
’88 Ethan Frome
’89 The 1989 Musical Marching Zoo
’90 Dreaming in Tetris
’91 The Day I Finally…
’92 Weird Diseases
’93 Me and Fred and Dave and Ted
’94 Haven’t Got a Penny
’95 A Serious Mistake
’96 I’m Sad!
’97 Eurodisco Trio
’98 Lovers’ Lies
’99 Fathers in the Clouds
’00 Ghosts of the Marathon Dancers
’01 Have You Seen It in the Snow?
’02 Be True to Your Bar
’03 The Ex and I
’04 Cold-Blooded Man
’05 Never Again
’06 “Quotes”
’07 In the Snow White Cottages
’08 Surfin’
’09 Till You Come Back to Me
’10 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
’11 Stupid Tears
’12 You Can Never Go Back to New York
’13 Big Enough for Both of Us
’14 I Wish I Had Pictures
’15 Somebody’s Fetish