HBO’s “The Last Of Us” Gave Linda Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time” The Kate Bush Bump
I did not grow up in a Linda Ronstadt home. When it came to female singers of the sixties and seventies, my family’s loyalties lay with Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Cass Elliot, and Karen Carpenter. Up until 40 hours ago, the only Linda Ronstadt song on my iTunes was her 1974 cover of “You’re No Good”. But that was 40 hours ago, aka “The Before Times.” “Before what?” some of you might be asking. Before Sunday night’s episode of The Last Of Us. In one emotional scene, Nick Offerman’s Bill plays Linda’s song “Long Long Time” on the piano for Murray Bartlett’s Frank. Linda’s version (released in 1970) is played at the end of the episode. Variety reports that, on Sunday night, “Long Long Time” was up 4,900% in Spotify streams. That’s right, Linda got the Kate Bush “Stranger Things” bump! SPOILERS GALORE for The Last Of Us ahead…
I’m serious about these spoilers. If you don’t want to hear about the (surprising) premise/ending of Episode 3, also titled “Long Long Time”, blown for you, click away! AWAY! So, The Last Of Us is a zombie show based on a video game. It’s basically The Walking Dead, but actually good, and with 4,900% more Pedro Pascal (mmmm). Pedro’s Joel is traveling across America with Ellie (played by Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey), a teenager who’s immune to the zombie virus. The first couple of episodes were fairly standard; we get flashbacks to the initial outbreak in 2003, see Joel and Ellie meet up and sneak out of the Boston quarantine zone, and watch a bunch of zombies blow up. Fun!
Things change in Episode 3. There’s a little Ellie/Joel action at the start, but, about 15 minutes in, we switch over to a (pretty much) stand-alone story told in flashbacks. It’s 2003, and Nick Offerman’s character, Bill, is hiding in his bunker, avoiding the government rounding up (and eventually executing) the other residents in his small town. Bill is a survivalist gun nut, and, for the first few years of the zombie pandemic, he’s perfectly happy living alone in his little post-Apocalyptic paradise. He eats what he hunts, grows veggies on his land, cleans out the local wine store, and builds fences and traps to keep out zombies and other trespassers. If if it weren’t for the zombies changing Last Of Us history forever, we would all be asking where Bill was on January 6, 2021.
Flash forward to 2007, when Murray Bartlett’s Frank (mmmm) falls into one of Bill’s traps. Frank’s on his way to Boston, and would love a hot shower and a hot meal. Bill obliges, and, during their lunch together, there are *sparks*! When this scene aired, I turned to my boyfriend and excitedly asked, “Wait… are they gonna fuck??” He was pretty sure they wouldn’t because this is a zombie show based on a video game. But, after lunch, Frank talks Bill into playing his piano, and Nick Offerman performs a very sweet version of “Long Long Time”. Then… they kiss and fuck! I repeat, THEY KISS AND FUCK. IT’S EXTREMELY HOT. Here’s the song and kiss:
The rest of the episode follows Bill and Frank’s romance over the years. They meet Pedro’s Joel, and begin to trade supplies. Their story ends in 2023. An elderly Frank is dying of a degenerative disease and asks Bill to help end his life. On Frank’s final day, he and Bill get married in their living room and eat the same meal they had during their first meeting. Then, Bill puts enough sleeping pills to kill a horse in both their wines, and they head to bed to die together. And I wept and wept and wept. Weeks later, Joel and Ellie arrive. They discover a letter from Bill, who offers Joel his truck, weapons, and supplies. As Joel and Ellie drive out of Bill’s town, Linda’s “Long Long Time” plays once again. And I wept and wept and wept.
That night, I downloaded “Long Long Time” and have listened to it approximately 50 times. According to this tweet from Spotify, I was not alone:
Oh, so all our hearts were breaking last night… 🍓 #TheLastOfUs pic.twitter.com/upTiav0MLw
— Spotify News (@SpotifyNews) January 30, 2023
The song choice was made by executive producer and director Craig Mazin, but after his friend Seth Rudetsky suggested it. Mazin was looking for a song for the two characters to connect over.
Speaking with Variety, Mazin said, “I knew that song needed to hit certain things about longing and aching and endlessly unrequited love,” he said. “I could not find the right song for the life of me. I was trying and trying, and then I texted my friend Seth Rudetsky, who is the host of Sirius XM on Broadway and a savant. I told him, ‘Here’s all the things I need,’ and two seconds later: ‘Linda Ronstadt, “Long, Long Time.”’ I was like, there it is. That’s it!”
“Long Long Time” was written by Gary White, and featured on Linda’s 1970 album Silk Purse. The song spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaked at #25, and earned Linda a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Female Vocal Performance. Here she is performing it on The Johnny Cash Show:
Aaaand I’m crying again. Thanks a lot, Nick Offerman, Murray Bartlett, and Linda Ronstadt!
Pic: YouTube & HBO