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‘True Blood’ Music Recap: Death, Lust & Led Zeppelin’s ‘In The Evening’

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Second time's the charm for Jessica and James. (John P. Johnson/HBO)

Second time’s the charm for Jessica and James. (John P. Johnson/HBO)

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Over the course of its five seasons, “True Blood” has consistently been one of the best shows on television not only for fans of vampires but for music fans as well. Each episode is named after a song title, and a number of artists have contributed new recordings to the show. Every week during season six, Radio.com will check in with “True Blood” Music Supervisor Gary Calamar, who has been nominated for GRAMMYs twice for his work on the show.  (To see previous recaps, go here.)

What we heard were ominous rumbles before Robert Plant wailed, “In the eeeeeve-ning… when the day is done.”

What we saw was an anguished Eric Northman clutching Nora in the last moments of her life, before a strain of “Hep-V” led her to the “true death.”

“Oh, oh, I need your love/I need your love/Oh, I need your love, I just got to have…” When Plant sang those lyrics on “In The Evening” (from Led Zeppelin‘s 1979 swan song In Through The Out Door), it was, like many of Zeppelin’s blues-based songs, lust-driven. Hearing it as Eric grieves over Nora, his dead sister and lover (it’s complicated), “In The Evening” becomes an anthem of despair.

Led Zeppelin is notoriously picky about licensing their music for TV, film and advertising synchs. Jack Black famously begged them for permission to use “The Immigrant Song” in School Of RockTrue Blood music supervisor Gary Calamar told Radio.com how Zeppelin came to Bon Temps.

“One of our assistant editors did what every music supervisor dreads,” he said. “He ‘temped’ the last scene with the song,” meaning he put it in as a placeholder until they could figure out another song to use.
“This should never happen, as it leads to a phenomenon known as ‘temp love,'” Calamar continued. “That is when the producers see the scene with a song temped in and it works really well, and now they can no longer see any other song working in that scene. When you have a rich and costly song like ‘In The Evening,’ that can be a big problem.  We tried many other songs that worked to varying degrees, but nothing worked as well as ‘In The Evening.’ So after discussions, negotiations and hoop jumping, we hammered out a deal. And we are thrilled to have the song in the show.”

Still, there are few other songs titled “In The Evening.” Sheryl Lee Ralph’s ’80s era dance song “In The Evening” wouldn’t have had the same gravitas, though “In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down),” which has been recorded by John Lee Hooker, Gary Clark Jr. and Ray Charles, may have worked. But what if Zeppelin had said no, and there were no other alternatives?”The script always starts out with a title and a song to go along with that title,” Calamar explained. “When we get to our spotting session it is decided if that writer’s song choice will actually work, or if I need to find a replacement. I would say it’s about 50/50 that the original song sticks.”

Happily for everyone, this time it worked out. Well, happily for everyone except Eric and Nora.

Vampires certainly are having a rough time this season, but there were some rays of light this week. Well, not really, but at least some of them were getting naked. As arranged by former lover Jason Stackhouse (also complicated), Jessica had a secret meeting with James, the vampire who refused to rape her when ordered to do so by the scientists at “vamp camp” last week. (This week, she asked him to have sex with her; it was her first time with another vampire.) Elsewhere in vamp camp, the ever-crafty Pam continued to seduce the psychologist who has been picking her brain. You can play “In The Evening” in either of those scenes, and it would be equally effective, albeit with a different tone.

Next week’s episode is called “Dead Meat,” which provides a lot more song choices. Sean Lennon, Bush, Judas Priest, Pussy Galore, the Supersuckers and D.R.I. are among the acts who have recorded a song under that name.

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