What better day to reflect on Room 13 than Friday the 13th? In this recurring feature, Songs to Maze By, I’m going to visit each room to propose a brief playlist for your listening pleasure while stuck in various rooms in the Maze. This room seems an appropriate place to start – I have a special fondness for it, the Room 13 Mazecast being the first episode I appeared in.
Here’s how this will work. I’ll think about the room in terms of its visuals, text, associated solutions, and overall theme. Then I’ll pick three or four songs that seem to fit based on the appropriateness of title, feel, lyrics, and/or video. The more connections the better. The choices, of course, will be highly subjective and personal, based on my own musical taste and experience. Many of you will disagree violently with my choices, I am sure – and if you do, feel free to post your alternative picks in the comments.
This room, as of posting, is sitting at “mostly solved” on the Abyss. I won’t get into the details, but the solutions have to do with time, addition, light and shadow, and filmmaking. With the clock, sundial, and list of time increments all being prominent features, a dominant theme seems to be the passage of time. As well, the text makes reference to the association of the number 13, and Friday the 13th in particular, with superstition and bad luck.
A lot of songs spring immediately to mind, based mainly on their titles. One of them is “Add It Up,” by the Violent Femmes. Much as I love this potty-mouthed rock song, and I love it VERY much, the link really comes only from the title of the song to a room solution (and not a well-loved solution at that) – it’s just too weak a connection. I mean, there IS mention of “luck” in the lyrics, but the word is only there to rhyme with … er … another word, rather than having much meaning in the song.
“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder is tempting, and it’s an incredible song, of course, but to me it just seems too boppy and upbeat to be right for the Maze. I discovered the song “Thirteen” by Big Star when researching this post, and it’s a lovely song, but the lyrics don’t connect much to the room other than, I guess, obliquely to time by evoking nostalgia for adolescence.
Now for the songs I do recommend for your Room 13 playlist:
4. “Time after Time,” Cyndi Lauper
Of the Maze era – it was released not long before the book came out – this beautiful ballad is full of love and heartache, and of course, references to time, but also features some very Mazey lyrics. How about “caught up in circles, confusion is nothing new”? Perfect for someone stuck in the Loop. And what about: “the second hand unwinds”? Fits perfectly for Room 13, in which the second is notable for its absence from the list of time increments. And with a slight shift of perspective, the heartfelt chorus can become an ominous chant from the Guide: “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me / Time after time.” I sometimes sing this song to my kids at bedtime; no wonder they get nightmares!
3. “Time,” Pink Floyd
This one is a no-brainer. I could quote much of the lyric and find a way to apply it to Maze and Room 13, but here’s a particularly apt section: “And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again / The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older / Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.” The skeleton clock, sundial, and hourglass in 13 seem to be saying the same thing. Earlier, there’s a shout-out to the Guide: “… Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.” Pink Floyd is just Mazey through and through, as 515 on the Abyss would probably tell you, and I expect you’ll see more of them on future playlists.
2. “Time in a Bottle,” written by Jim Croce, performed by Jim Henson
I first encountered this haunting song as a sketch on The Muppet Show and it has stayed with me ever since. Through Henson’s emotional vocals and puppetry the plaintive love song becomes a meditation on the alchemical yearning to capture eternal youth and the impossibility of doing so, the ability to save time in a bottle being the opposite of the true nature of time: an inexorable fall of sand through Room 13’s hourglass.
Jim Henson is right up there on my list of people, living or dead, with whom I’d want to have lunch, given that particular wish. I feel like if he ever got a chance to look at Maze he probably dug it. Many of us who were fortunate enough to be kids while he was producing his magical movies and TV shows have loving memories of seeing Labyrinth on the big screen – a movie in which the setting itself, a massive and multi-landscaped maze, arguably stole the show from David Bowie in tights – no small feat. (As a side note, according to White Raven, Manson’s publishers pushed him to name his book Maze instead of Labyrinth, his preferred title, to avoid confusion with the movie, which came out at around the same time.)
Finally, although no bottles appear in Room 13, they are one of the repeating objects in Maze, appearing in the Prologue, Room 1, Room 29, Room 37, and Room 39.
1. “Bad Luck,” Royal City
The title is perfect for Room 13, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The lyrics of this song, by Toronto band Royal City (active 1999–2004), seem eminently suitable for the Maze in general, especially “Bad luck you are a terrible laughing god” – a perfect description of the malevolent Guide and his bellowing laughter. One reviewer said Royal City’s lyrics possessed a “dark mystifying surrealism,” which seems to describe Maze equally well. The sound possesses elements of folk, country, alt-rock, and even punk, producing a slightly jarring, disquieting, yet urgent feel that fits well with the experience of navigating Maze.
The stop-motion animation video is sweet yet creepy, and has a kind of “Frankenstein/Pet Sematary with dolls” vibe, with perhaps a whiff of Persephone. I don’t want to brag, but my lovely and talented sister made the teddy bear protagonist. (Echoes of the Room 2 bear?) Her friend Brad Peyton, who made the video, has since gone on to direct increasingly noisy and expensive films in Hollywood, most recently the disaster flick San Andreas. Thus also connecting this song with the movie/director theme in Room 13.
Just one last connection before I go, but it’s a goodie: one of Royal City’s former band members, Nathan Lawr, went on to form his own band, which is called – wait for it – Minotaurs.