Saturday, April 30, 2011

"On the Run" / Marshall Crenshaw

Do y'all really need me to give you the set list from last night's show?  Because -- duh -- it was the same as the track list from Marshall Crenshaw, and you do own that album, don't you? (If not, click on the link and buy it through Amazon; I'll earn a nickel or so in commission. I have to do something to support this habit of mine!)

Okay, there were a few other songs.  If all he'd played was the album, it would have lasted about 30 minutes, because -- in the hallowed tradition of perfect radio pop -- there isn't a song on the LP that's longer than 3:06.  So he added a few early compositions, a cover or two, and some non-album gems from the period such as "Whenever You're On My Mind," "Something's Gonna Happen," and "You're My Favorite Waste of Time" (only because our table kept rudely hollering for it).

And if you really want to know, Marshall messed up the track order by playing "Girls" second instead of "Someday, Someway" (for which he sheepishly apologized). That alone should tell you what a slickness-free zone this show was in. He even let his brother Robert -- who reprised his role on drums for the first time in 30 years -- sing "She Can't Dance," which was a nice change of pace. I love Robert's voice too. 

Naturally it was an incredible show, one of the best I've ever been to.  There was Graham Maby doing bass and harmonies, Ira Kaplan (of Yo La Tengo) covering guitar duties, and, along with Robert, Josh DeLeon on drums, as well as another Crenshaw brother, John, contributing assorted other percussion.  Of course their parents were in the audience too. Why not?

Instead of an opening act, a loop of early MC videos was projected onto a movie screen. Was anybody ever so adorable as 1982 Marshall Crenshaw?  Okay, maybe Paul McCartney in 1963. Maybe.  Anyhoo, that's where I got the inspiration for today's post -- one of the videos featured this song from Marshall's 1989 album, Good Evening. (You could click again if you were so inclined.  Good Evening is an extraordinary album that you just may not already own.)  My tablemates and I agreed that it is a severely underrated song, even amid the severely underrated totality of Marshall Crenshaw's catalog, so I decided I just had to share it with you all today.

As I have already gone on at length -- and I have to go wash my hair for tonight's second show in this Winery celebration -- I'll just add a few remarks.

1. Those surging opening chords are so Big Star, aren't they?  This is a song opening that demands you pay attention -- and I always do.

2. I love driving songs.  Despite the fact that this title is "On the Run," not "Drive," this is a driving song. He's "on the run," but references to white lines on the pavement tell you that he's doing it by car -- as if you couldn't already tell by the gear-shifting chord progressions.

3. One of my tablemates, a guy I'd just met, couldn't get over what a great guitarist Marshall is.  "Why does nobody ever mention this?" he wondered, awestruck.  I agree, and so I'm mentioning it.  Just listen to the sizzling guitar in the bridge.

4. Put this song together with "There She Goes Again" and you'd have "Dime a Dozen Guy," another of my all-time favorite MC tracks.  Just sayin'. . . .

5. Should not this song have been used in about a million soundtracks by now?  It is so evocative, so late-night and urban and emotionally turbulent.  When will the guys who pick songs for soundtracks wake up?  (I would be so good at that job, don't you think?)


wwolfe said...

For me, this was one of the great albums of its era. I still can't understand how this wasn't a huge hit - or at least a mid-size hit. I'm amazed Marsh didn't become bitter at the world's ability to overlook his terrific work. That's actually one of his (many) notable achievements, come to think of it.

Holly A Hughes said...

As usual, you've put your finger right on it. Bitterness just doesn't seem to be part of MC's mindset, and of course, that's also part of why the songs are so great.

And it is a gem of an album, isn't it? "You Should've Been There" is another smashing tune that ought to have been huge. They pulled that one out for Saturday night's set -- quite a thrill for me, as it was one of the first Crenshaw songs I ever blogged about.

Anonymous said...

Bette covered his song

Dave said...

MC is a national treasure. Thanks for sharing the videos and the concert reports. I once went to see Laura Nyro five nights in a row at the Troubador in Los Angeles and it was a phenomenal experience. Even though the setlists were similar, each night was different.

I think Marshall Crenshaw is the best debut album in the history of rock. It's heartening that he has grown and matured without shedding the humor and exuberance of his debut.

Holly A Hughes said...

A national treasure indeed! I hope you've sampled some of his more recent albums too, Dave. He's truly grown over the years and just gotten better.

I never knew Bette covered "My Favorite Waste of Time"! Nice number. Of course I prefer Marshall's less-slick rendition, but Bette made it hers as well. I always wonder why more people don't cover these Crenshaw tunes.

Brian said...

Hi Holly. Did you get "Maryanne" from Crenshaw's Web site yet? It's a free download taken from a live show in '87. If anything, it's just nice to see Crenshaw's site up and running.