Calling out of Context 7: Lisztomania

Posted on 25.09.2012


What is Listomania; the song lyrics say nothing of making lists?

Colloquially, listomania is a random form of OCD where a person makes to-do and top -# lists incessantly and maybe (maybe not) enjoys crossing things off as some form of achievement. I’m not sure if that’s an actual scientific or medical term, but it’s definitely a popular one in the realm of the interwebs.

I myself have fallen victim to this, but not because I happen to enjoy crossing shit off, even though that part IS really fun (and validating!). I happen to have an issue with my short-term memory (cue the pot jokes… got them out of the way? Good) and really have trouble remembering things. So lists are helpful, sometimes.

Take, for example, this screen shot of my desktop:


No, really. I can stop anytime. I need them. Seriously.

… wait, what? I think I was writing about something.

Oh yeah. Phoenix is a band.
Wait, let’s back that up.
Lisztomania (emphasis on the Z there) is a movie.
No wait, there’s more. Further back!

First of all, the song is called Lisztomania, not Listomania. They sound the same though, since the Z gets grouped with the S to make a longer SS sound before getting on to the T.

Lizstomania is a term that came from Heinrich Heine about a Hungarian musician (pianist) named Franz Liszt, who many believe to have been one of the first ‘rock stars’. He was so popular; in fact, that his piano performances would literally sell out and there would be standing room only and screaming women. And this was in 19th century Europe, where decorum was usually key. Many consider him to be the most technically gifted pianist of the 1800’s. As an interesting aside, he donated most of his proceeds to charity rather than becoming fabulously and ridiculously wealthy.

Lizstomania is also a movie from 1975 by Ken Russell, based on the life of Franz Liszt. Roger Daltrey played Liszt: telling? We think so. Even better? Ringo Starr played the Pope in the same movie. It was released the same year as the Who film Tommy. It was, apparently, a good year for musically themed movies.

Phoenix is a French alternative rock band that made a really popular song called “Lisztomania,” which was released in 2009. It of course has nothing to do with list making, and not easily or lyrically much with Franz, either.

But I think that Franz is definitely in there. Maybe indirectly, maybe not at all. I am not claiming to know the answer to whether or not the song is about Franz Liszt, but I can say that lyrics like this:

Let’s go slowly discouraged, we’ll burn the pictures instead
When it’s all over we can barely discuss
For one minute only, not with the fortunate only
Thought it could have been something else
These days it comes, it comes, it comes, it comes
It comes and goes

Think less but see it grow, like a riot
I’m not easily offended
It’s not hard to let it go from a mess to the masses

This is show time, this is show time,

Lyrics like that make me think about the personal life and lost loves of Franz Liszt, intertwined with his rabid popularity and constant invitations to play and tour. And about the life of rock stars in general.

But that might just be me, because I read a lot about Franz in prepping to write all of this.

However, one can’t deny that Phoenix’s video for Lisztomania is DEFINITELY giving a nod to Franz, regardless of whether the song lyrics do the same. The music video follows Phoenix on what looks like a (walking) tour of popular cited Liszt locations and is cut with scenes of the band getting ready to perform on WHAT I WOULD BET MONEY ON is a stage that Franz Liszt once performed on, himself.

With all of this taken into consideration, maybe the band isn’t writing so much about Liszt in the lyrics as they are discussing what it means to be famous while trying to maintain a personal life. No lists involved. Unless you’re talking about set lists, that is.

Wait. What just happened? I blacked out.

Posted in: music