Thursday, April 28, 2011

"You're My Favorite Waste of Time" / Marshall Crenshaw

I no longer know whether these tracks were big hits or not.  That's one of the things I love about Marshall Crenshaw -- so many of his songs sound like instant classics, with dreamy hooks and irresistible melodies, and now they're so grooved in my memory, I could swear they're jukebox staples.  (As a fellow Crenshaw fan once put it -- "His songs have a hook for the verse, a hook for the chorus, and another hook for the bridge.") 

So knowing this song so well (it's included as a bonus track on the reissued CD of Marshall's debut album, Marshall Crenshaw), I've sorta forgotten that it wasn't on the original vinyl.  I had to pore over the liner notes to clarify that it was in fact the B-side of Marshall's 1982 single "Someday, Someway," a single which I never owned. (In 1982 I was strictly an album buyer; who knew he had spare tracks that didn't make it onto that LP?). 

The liner notes also tell me that this was recorded by Marshall Crenshaw and the Handsome, Ruthless, and Stupid Band -- Marshall's way of explaining that it was a home demo in which he played all the instruments and sang his own back-up vocals.  A one-man wall of sound, if you will.

But now listen to this track, folks, and tell me -- doesn't it just pour out of some vein of pure pop inspiration?  Whereas "Someday, Someway" is boppy, taut, and urgent, turn over the 45 and you get another side of Crenshaw, all jazzy shimmer. The guy on Side 1 is in a hurry, flustered and strung out by his perplexing girlfriend; Side 2's guy has all the time in the world, and he's happy to waste it on her.

He says it himself -- he's a "daydreamin' fool," "got my head in the clouds above." I love how those harmonies unfold, spilling over like a waterfall. The word "my" alone gets five separate notes and eight beats, before he sashays into the syncopated syllables "fav-rite waste of time." 

The standard line on Marshall Crenshaw is that he's all about power pop, and a particularly retro style at that.  Yes, he can pay tribute to Buddy Holly and Bobby Fuller, but the soul/jazz side of him is just as significant, and it's interesting to see it was here this early. This song is no tight three verses and a chorus, but a stream of consciousness musing; the verses don't even rhyme, and they sure don't tell a story.  He's just in his happy zone, and he's taking us there with him.

My favorite line?  "I don't care / If being with you is meaningless / And ridiculous." (Okay, maybe you could say that's a rhyme.)  Forget flowery cliches; he's not pretending this relationship is anything noble or redeeming. It. Just. Is. And if that isn't how love feels from the inside, I don't know what is.


Anonymous said...

This song was covered in the 80s by Owen Paul and became a huge hit in England

Holly A Hughes said...

Nice cover! I'm always amazed that more bands don't cover Marshall Crenshaw. When you think about it, they're really fail-safe tracks, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

I heard this first by Bette Midler. It is a great song.