Falling Back Into, and Floating With, the Dreamy Musical Sound of ‘Twin Peaks’

picture from the pilot episode of
Courtesy Everett Collection
Julee Cruise (center) appears as a road house singer in the 1990 pilot episode of Twin Peaks, which featured her songs "Falling" and "The Nightingale"

It’s been 35 years since FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) entered the weird little Pacific Northwest town of Twin Peaks on Feb. 24, 1989, within the context of the story in David Lynch’s classic, even weirder little series Twin Peaks, which premiered on ABC on April 8, 1990.

I loved the surreal feel of the show when I tuned in that night, but found even back then, as the series continued through its first season in April-May ‘90, and then in a second season that began in the fall, that its attempt to develop a plot to resolve the initial “Who killed Laura Palmer?” mystery made things weaker.

A lot of people were certainly expecting, if not demanding, an answer to that question, but I would have enjoyed Twin Peaks without a plot, even if it had only been a series of the sorts of dreamlike images that Lynch can conjure up so well. I think perhaps that Lynch might have preferred that, as well, and maybe audiences were not ready for something like that at the time.

But during its brief initial run, Twin Peaks did look fantastic, and those images were enhanced by an equally impressive musical sound courtesy of composer Angelo Badalamenti, a frequent Lynch collaborator, and singer Julee Cruise.

As soon as I heard this classic opening theme to the series, I was hooked on its sound:

And there were other great instrumental moments from Badalamenti in the series, like “Laura Palmer’s Theme” and “Love Theme from Twin Peaks”:

I bought the Twin Peaks soundtrack album to hear more, and then I also discovered that a few of the songs featured in the series had appeared on Cruise’s album called Floating Into the Night, which had been released a year earlier, in 1989.

After tracking that CD down, buying it (via a lot of legwork visiting various record stores) and giving it a listen, I was even more blown away by its tracks, which combined Cruise’s vocals, Badalamenti’s music and Lynch’s lyrics into what is still one of the most ethereal, dreamy-sounding albums that I’ve ever heard.

close-up image of singer/actress Julee Cruise in the 1990 pilot episode of "Twin Peaks." She has her eyes closed as she emotionally sings into a microphone while appearing as a road house singer in the episode</b>

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Julee Cruise performs “Falling” in the Twin Peaks pilot episode


Among the songs on that album was “Falling,” the vocal version of the show’s theme song, which Cruise also performed in a role as a road house singer in the April 8, 1990, pilot episode, called “Northwest Passage”:

Cruise also performed the lovely song “The Nightingale” in that episode, another tune found on Floating Into the Night:

The later Season 1 episode “Cooper’s Dreams,” which aired May 10, 1990, did not feature Cruise in person, but did include her Floating Into the Night track “Into the Night” on its soundtrack during a key moment:

Also on the album were two songs  — “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart” and “The World Spins” — that Cruise sang on the show when she returned as the bar singer in the Season 2 episode called “Lonely Souls,” which aired Nov. 10, 1990:

There is other greatness on Floating Into the Night that wasn’t featured in Twin Peaks, like “Mysteries of Love,” which had been used in Lynch’s 1986 film Blue Velvet, and a song called “Floating,” which you can hear Lynch and Cruise working out during a recording session in this cool and fascinating film clip from 1989:

A few songs off of Floating Into the Night — as well as other original content — did also become part of an interesting, avant-garde concert piece that Lynch, Badalamenti and Cruise collaborated on (along with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern, who around that time had also starred in Lynch’s Wild at Heart) called Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted.

It looks like this was performed live a couple of times in ’89, then was released on video in ’90 (directed with Lynch’s unmistakable style). You can check it out here:

In addition to other projects over the years, Badalamenti and Cruise revisited the world of Twin Peaks with their music and, in Cruise’s case, again in person as the road house singer, in Lynch’s 1992 movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and then in the 2017 Showtime limited series Twin Peaks: The Return.

Both musical artists sadly passed away in 2022; Badalamenti at age 85, Cruise at 65.

But their masterful work in contributing to the sound of Twin Peaks in particular continues to live in my mind and soul as among the things that, over the past three decades, I have frequently found myself re-listening and briefly zoning out to via CD or YouTube clips, or by simply replaying it in my head, since it appears to have gotten burned into my brain in 1990.