Friday, November 30, 2007

“Dime A Dozen Guy” / Marshall Crenshaw

Wait a minute – here I’m writing about all these upbeat Marshall Crenshaw songs, and you may be thinking the guy’s a sap. He most definitely is not, let me tell you. And just to prove it, here’s a crafty little number from his 1999 CD #447 (possibly my favorite MC album ever).

Marshall Crenshaw does jealousy and betrayal extremely well too (see here what I wrote a few months ago about “You Should’ve Been There”). This song’s another mini-drama along the same lines, a guy prowling around town in the wake of his girlfriend – only this time, he actually sees her in the company of her new flame. “I saw her Sunday / Down by the Breakers,” he opens his story, in brooding minor key, and later, “First they're at the Forum / Then they're at the drive-in.” I can just see her buzzing past like Tuesday Weld in a Chevy convertible, a satisfied smile plastered on her face by the wind. All those specific references make this so vivid. I remember doing the circuit around Indianapolis as a teenager, chasing the word on who was where with whom. “I asked my buddies / And they all said It's no lie / She's tearin' up the town / With that dime-a-dozen guy” – having this play out in public makes it smart even more.

Seething with jealousy, MC protests “He’s not good looking / At least I don't think so / I just can't figure / Any earthly reason why / A girl like her would choose / That dime-a-dozen guy.” His pride is stung most of all by the fact that he’s losing her to someone so ordinary. He’s so baffled by this, he doesn’t focus on the rest of the story, but in the bridge he drops a crucial bit of info, in a sort of stuttered atonal squawk: “Guess I was thoughtless, careless too / I disappeared on her it's true.” WHAT? Why didn’t you tell us that before?

Even though he declares, “Now I realize I / wasted something / That I cared about / That's why I'm blue,” those phrases stagger woefully down the scale, knowing all is lost. “Is there something about him / That my eyes aren’t seeing?” he moans. Well, YEAH – the new guy hasn’t ditched her like you did, you dope. Sure, our hero is paying for his sins – “Right now it’s feeling pretty grim / To hang my heart out on this limb” – but I really don’t expect her to come back. That’s life, my friend.

I love the fuzzy guitar licks here – guest guitarist Pat Buchanan lays down a retro jazz sound straight out of Peter Gunn or The Fugitive. Between growing up in Detroit and paying his dues in New York City, Marshall Crenshaw’s got an urban edge to his sound, under all its pop brightness; bongos slap like tires on pavement, the stand-up bass thrums like a V-8, guitar chords shift like a manual transmission (shades of Beach Boys car songs), as the singer cruises around town on his heartsick mission. It’s a droll, rueful little comedy, pulled off with style and assurance. And I guarantee if it suddenly came up on your car radio, you’d be MESMERIZED.

Dime A Dozen Guy sample

1 comment:

John Stodder said...

Hey -- nice analysis of the short-story qualities of this great song.

I'm a MC fan, so I'll keep reading your archives. Excellent.