Essential Music #7

Last week my pal Joe BlackBerried me: “Who sang this?”

Some day, some way
Maybe you’ll understand me

Before I had a chance to respond, he followed up with: “Got it Marshall Crenshaw.”

Twenty-four years after its release, Marshall Crenshaw’s debut album remains, as Joe demonstrated, memorable. Its twelve classic songs suggest what radio in Heaven must sound like.

Rolling Stone dubbed the eponymous first album “1982’s most gorgeous singer-songwriter debut” and devoted a four-page spread to Crenshaw and his band before the album was even released.

“Which is pretty cool,” Crenshaw proudly acknowledged when I interviewed him in October of 1994. “But I think it was too much exposure all at once. The first thing we did when our record was about to come out was we hired a publicist. A really, really powerful publicist, actually. Instantly there was this big hype, so there was this high level of expectation right from the git-go. It was kind of magnified by this article. I really didn’t have much of anything to say, either, so that just kind of set the tone for the whole exercise. What we maybe should have done instead was just go out and earn our fans in the rest of the country the way we had done it in New York.”

Indeed, in the early ’80s Marshall Crenshaw was the Next Big Thing on the East Coast. “I was really proud of the fact that we were like the most popular band in Manhattan for a little while. We stirred things up pretty good there for about a year.”

Crenshaw first came to public attention playing John Lennon in the Broadway musical Beatlemania. Years later, he portrayed Buddy Holly in the 1987 film La Bamba. Along the way, he released more than a dozen albums, toured incongruously with Hall and Oates and as part of the reformed MC5, and edited a book called Hollywood Rock.

“I had this friend who was a book-packager in New York. Somehow he had become convinced that I was an expert on rock & roll movies. He said that he and I should do the ultimate, comprehensive, critical guide to rock & roll movies. I didn’t think anything would ever come of it. But then something did.”

Assisted by a team of singers and rock critics, Crenshaw summarized the plots, listed cast members, and rated (in three categories: music, attitude, and fun) films as popular as Jailhouse Rock and A Hard Day

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