Aimee Mann weds ‘Bachelor No. 2’ and ‘Magnolia’ albums together for Black Friday Record Store Day reissue

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Long Beach resident, Jesse James, competes for the first time in his T1-Desert Truck in the 2019 NITTO King of the Hammers race. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Long Beach resident, Jesse James, competes for the first time in his T1-Desert Truck in the 2019 NITTO King of the Hammers race. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

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  • Thousands of motor homes fill the desert during the week long King of the Hammers off-road event in Johnson Valley CA. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

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    “Magnolia” debuted first in December 1999 with nine of the 13 songs on its soundtracks sung by Mann, and all but her cover of Harry Nilsson’s “One” written by her, too.

    “Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo,” came five months later in May 2000, its 13 songs representing some of the best work of her distinguished career.

    Now, “Bachelor No. 2” marks its 20th anniversary with a limited-edition double vinyl reissue as part of Black Friday Record Store Day, and Mann says she’s happy that these two halves of her work from that period are now made whole.

    “Most of the songs on ‘Magnolia’ were recorded at the same time as ‘Bachelor No. 2,’” she says. “And ‘Save Me’ was originally supposed to be on the record.

    “I think ‘Wise Up’ had originally been recorded for the movie ‘Jerry Maguire,’ and then Paul Thomas Anderson heard that and felt like he had a place for it in ‘Magnolia,’” Mann says. “The cover ‘One’ had been done for a Harry Nilsson tribute.

    “But it was all certainly part of the same time, so that’s why I wanted to kind of bring them all together.”

    ‘Magnolia’ blossoms

    Mann met and befriended Anderson after her husband, singer-songwriter Michael Penn, scored “Hard Eight” and “Boogie Nights,” the director’s first two films.

    A filmmaker for whom music often contributed to the narratives Anderson told on screen, the storytelling quality of Mann’s lyrics and emotionally evocative melodies had a natural appeal that grew stronger as both artists carried out their own creative work.

    “When I was writing, when we were talking, he was writing the script,” Mann says. “It wasn’t like the movie was totally finished and then I went off and wrote a bunch of songs. It was a bit more of a back and forth so there were songs that he heard that I think he started to think about a place in the film and write a scene.”

    The song “Wise Up” turned into a key scene in the film, with most of the ensemble cast singing along to Mann’s track. Anderson also shot a music video of Mann singing “Save Me” on the set like a spectral visitor floating through the lives and homes of the characters.

    “It was very surreal,” she says, laughing as she describes performing opposite the “Magnolia” stars, yet mostly not seeing them. “I wasn’t wearing contact lenses so when I took my glasses off I couldn’t see anybody. I was in a scene with Jason Robards but he was blurry. Like this is such a sad, missed opportunity.”

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    Seeing the finished film at a pre-release screening was nearly as surreal though much more in focus.

    “I was blown away,” Mann says. “I think I really hadn’t understood how all these stories and threads were going to weave together.

    “There was something there, the tone, that was really interesting,” she says. “Almost like PTSD where unusual experiences seem commonplace because nobody reacts to them, but normal life, it feels surreal.”

    The film earned three Oscar nominations including one for Mann’s original song “Save Me,” which landed the singer, whose previous on-screen role was limited to the role of Nihilist Woman in “The Big Lebowski,” on an Oscar show broadcast to nearly 80 million viewers.

    Already a nervous performer on television broadcasts, Mann says the Oscars delivered the additional stress that all of the nominated songs that year were shortened into a medley.

    “It’s hard to sing for just a minute,” she says. “You’re sort of barely getting into it and then they’re like, ‘Nope, it’s Randy Newman’s turn.’”

    An independent ‘Bachelor’

    By the time “Magnolia” hit theaters and Mann appeared on the Oscars, she was a singer-songwriter without a record label.

    Her old label Geffen had been swallowed up by Interscope, and in the aftermath, she and other artists were told that if they didn’t want to stick around they could break their contracts.

    “I had a couple of conversations with them about releasing (‘Bachelor No. 2’) because the record was done, and in the first conversation, Jimmy Iovine said, ‘It’s not done until I say it’s done.’

    “And I’m like, ‘Oh, great, here we go,’” Mann says, and laughs.

    So she left, taking the unreleased album with her.

    “I think just out of pure stubbornness,” Mann says. “Like, I just wanted to make the record I wanted to make, and I didn’t want to have endless conversations with somebody about what was the single and what wasn’t a single.

    “I never thought my music was so left of center that it couldn’t be played on the radio. I never really understood the resistance to me and my music, as if it was uncommercial. It was hard to have those conversations.”

    But this was 2000, and few artists on major labels had left to go completely independent. Mann didn’t care.

    “I was talking to my manager, like, ‘I don’t care if we have to sell this thing out of the back of a van,’” she says. “He was game; like, let’s figure it out.”

    They sold 25,000 by filling online orders, then landed an independent distribution deal and sold another 275,000, making “Bachelor No. 2” the top-selling album of her career.

    Mann, like many artists, doesn’t like to revisit a work once it’s released into the world beyond the studio. Usually, it’s on to the new stuff. In Mann’s case, right now that’s an album of songs she wrote for a musical theater adaptation of the book and movie “Girl, Interrupted,” which for the moment is titled “Queens of the Summer Hotel” after a line from an Anne Sexton poem.

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    “At the point where they’re mastered and mixed and everything, you don’t tend to sit down and listen to your own music,” she says. “Maybe you should. It is kind of eye-opening.”

    Revisiting “Bachelor No. 2” this year for the reissue, she says she was pleasantly surprised at how strong it remains.

    “I guess my memory of it was that it was OK but not that great,” Mann says. “I really enjoyed listening to it. The performances were great. I was very happy with the songs.

    “And I’m really happy to reunite ‘Save Me’ with the rest of ‘Bachelor No. 2,’ because it originally should have been on it.”

    Black Friday Record Store Day

    What: Exclusive releases, including new releases, reissues, and special editions, by artists famous and obscure in all genres.

    When: Friday, Nov. 27

    Where: Your local independent record store.

    Be aware: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, most shops won’t be operating as usual this year. Most California shops appear to be offering some combination of curbside pick-up and online shopping, but check your local store for specific details.

    For more: Details on releases, participating stores, and their specific conditions can be found at