"You Should've Been There" / Marshall Crenshaw
What ever happened to Marshall Crenshaw? When I was at my first publishing job in New York City, all of us junior editors were mad for his first (self-titled) 1982 album; we played the grooves off that thing, and "Rockin' Around in NYC" became our unofficial anthem. His echo-chamber vocals, chugging guitar work, and irresistible hooks owed at least as much to the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly as they did to the Beatles and the Stones. And then there was his adorably geeky look; I've always been a sucker for a singer in glasses, ever since Peter Asher and Chad Stewart and John B. Sebastian (and, admit it, Elvis Costello.) I bought Marshall Crenshaw's second album too; I loved it. And then...
Now we're getting down to the central mystery of my life as a rock fan: What happened in the second half of the 1980s? How did I begin to lose ABSOLUTELY ALL INTEREST in new music? Was it because I didn't drive anymore and had no access to the car radio? Was it because I was moving up the career ladder and more focused on work? Or was it -- shudder -- because I got married and had children and completely stopped being a fun person? Oh, no, it couldn't be that; it had to be because MUSIC IN THE LATE 1980s SUCKED.
Think about it. Disco had a stranglehold on the music industry, and MTV only promoted artists who were interested in the music video as an art form. Whatever my excuse, music gradually fell out of my life for a while. Now I'm crazily making up for lost time.
I didn't run across this 1989 song until this past year when I discovered This Is Easy, a compilation of tracks that are Marshall Crenshaw's finest work (it would be stretching things to call them "greatest hits"). Okay, so the set-up has been done before: a guy waiting for his girlfriend to show up, with no luck. But what he does with it is ten times better than old chestnuts like "Silhouettes on the Shade."
He describes a night of escalating insecurity -- he runs into a pack of mutual friends; he follows another girl and grabs her arm, but it's not her. Jealousy and resentment boil beneath the surface, as the tune modulates into minor keys. He's running around town getting frantic; the scene feels surreal. Oh, yeah, love hurts.
Pop music, just like I like it.
I'm sorry for abandoning you, Marshall. How can I ever make it up to you?