He's got those little round glasses, that soaring tenor and a knack for hooky melodies that could choke a whale. Way back in the early Eighties, critics slobbered all over him for the pure pop magnificence of his debut album, Marshall Crenshaw.
And if you haven't guessed the identity of this mystery star, he is, in fact, Marshall Crenshaw.
Marshall's last album, 1991's Life's Too Short, was an arresting effort plagued by lame promotion; it quickly disappeared, and we've heard nary a recorded Crenshaw peep since. So what has he been up to lately? Earlier this year, the man compiled and edited Hollywood Rocks, a history of rock in the movies, and he has just released the CD My Truck Is My Home (no relation to My Mother the Car). Though Truck features no new material, it showcases 14 live performances of yer Crenshaw faves, recorded at gigs over the last 12 years. Great stuff.
Crenshaw is trucking once again, and will be stopping here as part of KZON-FM's AirZONa fest on Saturday at Desert Sky Pavilion. Call 260-1015 for more info, but first, listen to Marshall!
Screed: You live in Woodstock. Did you go to Son of Woodstock?
Crenshaw: I did, I went for one day. I thought it was great, but it was kind of strenuous. After I'd been there for 30 minutes, it began to pound rain. Then when it cleared up, I saw Melissa Etheridge, not somebody that I would have normally gone to see. But I really liked her set; that's kind of the way the day went. I ended up seeing a lot of people I wouldn't usually see. Screed: Why a live record, and who's the guy in the jumpsuit on the CD? Crenshaw: The idea [for a live album] had been kicking around for years. The guy who produced it, Will Schillinger, has been doing our sound for us more or less since day one. He has this giant tape library of stuff we've done over the years, and I just decided I wanted to do it now. You wouldn't know who that picture is--I didn't know when I first saw it. It's a guy named Bo Donaldson [of Heywoods fame]. I just looked at it and said, "God, I dig that picture. Let's put it on the CD." And we did. Screed: I just saw a picture of Anson Williams [Happy Days' Potsie Weber]. Crenshaw: A current one?
Screed: Yeah, he's a director now.
Crenshaw: Wow. Oh, well, you gotta do something. Screed: You're known as a songwriter, so why haven't you been cranking out the hits?
Crenshaw: I've never been that prolific; my output has always been sporadic. When I first started doing it, I was doing it in a frenzy. For about ten to 14 months ['82-83], I was banging 'em out with great haste. Every time I'd sneeze, there'd be another song; that kind of wound itself down. Since then I've had episodes of productivity--about the beginning of 1990, I got into a productive mode--but it's been pretty slow since then. I do it when I can do it, but you have to rest sometime. It's a very fragile thing; if it's not happening, I leave it alone.
Screed: Have you ever written head to head with anybody, la Lennon and McCartney? Crenshaw: I don't think I could do that. The thing about Lennon and McCartney was that they were best friends, constant companions, almost two halves of one entity. I just don't have any friendships like that. Except my wife, and she's not a songwriter.
Screed: What does she do?
Crenshaw: She works in a hospital; she's a working girl.
Screed: So she can support your music career?
Crenshaw: Hell, no! I make money at this! Screed: I think a lot of people who worship your hits don't realize you're a hell of a guitar player.
Crenshaw: Thanks. You know, the reason I'm doing what I'm doing is to play guitar. I sat down and tried to write a bunch of songs as an outlet, as a way to be a guitar player. I decided that I should invent a context for myself, a musical style. I was really surprised when people focused on the songs; I always thought what we'd get over on was our style and our sound, the way we did the songs. Screed: Before you made it, you were Lennon in Beatlemania on Broadway. Did you ever have any second thoughts about joining that show?
Crenshaw: Oh, no, no, no! I wholeheartedly got into it, it was a transforming moment in my life. It was a way to break out of being a bar-band musician. I needed a drastic left turn in my life, and that was about as drastic as I could get. Before that I was playing in an oldies band in Detroit, six sets a night, six nights a week, and hating it. Prior to that I spent about seven months in the western part of the States doing nothing, then scuffling around Montana and Colorado in a country band, barely scraping by. I had all these notions in my mind about wanting to do records, I was looking for a miracle to happen. I wouldn't describe Beatlemania as a miracle, but it did put me in New York City and give me a steady income, so it was a good thing. Screed: Did you get Lennon groupies?
Crenshaw: Yeah, there were Beatlemania groupies. We did have people that would follow us from place to place, camp out at our hotels. It was rather absurd.
Screed: Was it odd pretending to be Lennon?
Crenshaw: Yeah, I didn't like the idea of the show. I wasn't very good at it, you know? I was a bad fake Beatle, but I loved the music. I felt like a jerk dressed in those clothes. Screed: A lot of the new live album was culled from dates in Washington, D.C.
Crenshaw: Yeah, speaking of D.C., I played at 9:30 Club [an ancient downtown rock dump] about three months ago, and I had this rental car. After the show, I get in, start to drive away, and suddenly the power steering was gone. I made it back to the hotel, the next day I took it to a garage, and the guy opens the hood and the power steering belt is just laying there. He picks it up, and what do we find on the power steering belt? Rat fur. A rat had crawled up into the engine, and when I started the car, the rat got pulled across the engine.
Screed: What do you think of the new record? Crenshaw: I think it's really good, it's exciting, you know? And plus, uh, it's just good. I do good stuff.
Fresh Clubbage: Once upon a time, it was Dooley's, hosting people like Lou Reed, the Police, the Runaways and the Plasmatics. Then it became After the Gold Rush. Now it's the Electric Ballroom. The massive Tempe nightclub had its grand-opening weekend recently, and I was there grandly opening beers and listening to the Refreshments and Beat Angels rock the place. The Ballroom is a welcome addition to the local scene; great sound system, huge stage and an appropriately sticky dance floor. Everything you want in a rock 'n' roll club. It's located at 1216 East Apache. Call 894-0707 for more info. Go See: Flying 99 is a brand-new band in town that apparently has nothing to do with Barbara Feldon. (Note column's third pathetic TV reference.) It does, however, have a lot to do with ex-members of Strangelove and Zen Lunatics. You can check out the lads when they open for Dead Hot Workshop on Friday at Hayden Square.
You all may laugh, but I don't care. I'm gonna plug Henry Mancini! The Scottsdale Concert Band will perform an evening of the late, great composer's work ("Moon River," "The Pink Panther Theme"--need I say more?) on Wednesday in the college Performing Arts Center. Call 423-6333.
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Drop in on Doo Rag, TIMCO and Royce Union Friday at Boston's. Call 921-7343.
If that's not enough, try Blast Off Country Style with Cath Carroll, Air Miami and Eggs over at Hollywood Alley on Saturday. Call 820-7117.
And finally, the Chandler Downtown Doo Dah Days Festival goes down Thursday through Sunday in--you guessed it--downtown Chandler. See Jerry Riopelle, Humberto Herrera, Redd Kross, God's Child and tons of other fun events. Like Rock With Barney, whatever that may be. But for pure, unadultered titillation, you'll not want to miss Bozo the Clown. Call 833-7150.
The Meat Puppets' latest album, Too High to Die, has gone high enough to be certified gold. Congratulations, boys!