Marshall Crenshaw: Keeper of the rock n roll flame
- Clipped from the Marshall Crenshaw list. He's one of my favorites...
Marshall Crenshaw: Keeper of the rock �n� roll flame
Marshall Crenshaw comes to The Outpost: Keeper of the rock 'n' roll
flame ignites fall season
Thursday, September 02, 2004
By PAUL BRUBAKER
of The Montclair Times
In the liner notes for "This Is Easy: The Best of Marshall Crenshaw,"
Rhino Records executives called the "continued under-appreciation of
Marshall Crenshaw" an "injustice." It just might have been an
understatement. On Friday, Sept. 10, Outpost in the Burbs will open
its autumn season of concerts with a performance by Marshall
Crenshaw � writer of numerous radio-friendly tunes rarely heard on
the radio. There will be no band or set list � just an extemporaneous
exhibition of Crenshaw's lyrically earnest and melodically
"I love doing it," Crenshaw said about playing solo. "I was out this
weekend with a band. It's fun but at the same time, a couple of times
when the tempo of a song was screwed up or an ending of song got
blown, I was thinking it's going to be nice to be back doing the solo
thing again. I like the flexibility that I have, and the freedom."
Crenshaw was a little groggy on the Monday morning he spoke with The
Times from his Woodstock, N.Y., home. The night before, he had driven
home from a gig in The Hamptons. He takes the merciless schedule in
stride � as he has so many aspects of his career.
After the release of Crenshaw's self-titled first album in 1982, the
just-outside-of-Detroit native spent the next few years teetering on
the brink of superstardom. He had the right r�sum� for the job: two
years playing John Lennon in the traveling company of "Beatlemania"
served as an apprenticeship. Gigging in New York City clubs prior to
being signed to Warner Bros. Records made him a favorite among the
city's music writers. "Someday, Someway," his first single, charted
at No. 36, which was no small feat in a year marked by synth-
saturated No. 1 singles like The Human League's "Don't You Want Me
"I bought that record," Crenshaw said. "I liked a lot of stuff from
the '80s. In the beginning of the decade there was this sort of�`New
Wave,' I guess was what they called it. I have a diverse range of
influences and I really like music in general, all eras, all genres.
The basis, I guess, is the rock and roll stuff that I grew up on."
Crenshaw's follow-up record, "Field Day," produced by the legendary
Steve Lillywhite, was anything but sophomoric.
"The lyric writing is stronger on my first album than on my second,
but I like the noise that we made on my second one," he said. "Field
Day's" thunderstorm drumming, courtesy of Crenshaw's brother, Robert,
and production of the band's rhythms and backing vocals were fresh
representations of pop music styles of the '50s and early '60s.
Crenshaw's growing stature as a keeper of the rock and roll flame was
nurtured by cameos in the films "Peggy Sue Got Married," and most
notably, "La Bamba" in which he played Buddy Holly.
"Hey Ritchie relax, man�the sky belongs to the stars," was the line
Crenshaw delivered in the scene in the film just prior to the ill-
fated plane crash that took the lives of Holly, Ritchie Valens, and
J.P. Richardson aka "The Big Bopper."
Crenshaw took a cross-country train home from Los Angeles after "La
Bamba" wrapped, although he said it wasn't because he adopted a fear
of flying from his role in the movie. By 1987, Crenshaw had been
inside the musical skin of two of his greatest influences, and fans
and critics were primed with the expectation that Crenshaw would
finally claim his right to be one of the stars that the sky belonged
to. It never happened, but looking at the last 22 years, Crenshaw
sees his glass as half full.
"I can't dwell on negative things because I want to stay sane and I
don't want to have any stress-related ailments," Crenshaw said. "I've
had a pretty good career. Certainly had many disappointments, but
also I experienced the other side of it, too. I've had some success
and longevity, too. That's the thing I really like at this point. I
feel committed to doing what I do, and the fact that I keep finding
outlets for my energy is something to be grateful for."
Some of those outlets have been outside of the music business.
Crenshaw wrote the musical score for "D�j� Vu All Over Again," a
documentary about Montclair's own New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra.
The HBO series "Sex and the City" featured his music cues. He's
written a book, "Hollywood Rock: A Guide To Rock And Roll in the
Movies," and also wrote the entry for "Buddy Holly" in the
At 50, Crenshaw has a calm sense of his place in pop music. "I'm
worthy, you know," he said. "I'm good. I'm not modest, but I'm
humble. Modest, I guess, is when you don't know your own worth." That
kind of wisdom has carried over to Crenshaw's songwriting on his last
two records, which he holds as his best.
"Television Light," from his 1999 release "#447," is about "a
marriage that was almost breaking up, but didn't."
"This Is Where Home Used To Be," from 2003's "What's In The Bag?" is
a tender remembrance of a place that no longer exists, and was born
of his feelings after Sept. 11, 2001.
"[It's] not specifically about Sept. 11th," Crenshaw said. "But the
mood of it, the atmosphere of it, I don't think I would have written
a song like that at any other time. I had a sense of things that I
never had before, very introspective. I was in a fog of sadness for
such a long time."
That fog has lifted and Crenshaw has even gotten politically active,
in his own way. He spent the summer touring with the Detroit-based
band, The MC5, who made history playing at the protests outside of
the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. On Sunday, Oct.
17, Crenshaw will play at a fundraiser for Sen. John Kerry's
presidential campaign at the Maplewood Women's Club. He'll share the
bill with Maggie and Suzzy Roche, Iris DeMent, and Greg Brown.
Crenshaw's response to critics who say that musicians shouldn't voice
their political perspectives is as pointed and direct as any of his
guitar solos. "That's total bull�It's an insane thing to say," he
said. "I've been hungry for this election ever since the last one.
I've just had a real ache in my guts. I'm just crossing my fingers
that the era that we're in now will come to an end, because I think
it's the most horrible political era that I've ever lived through."
It was the strongest downbeat he hit during the whole interview, but
even Crenshaw's politics, like so many of his love songs, show a
hopeful man, even when aching. "I'm optimistic at this point. I want
to stay in that mode for now," he said, "until at least after
Marshall Crenshaw will perform on Friday, Sept. 10, at 8:30 p.m., at
The Outpost in the Burbs, located in the First Congregational Church,
40 South Fullerton Ave. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in
advance; $22 at the door. For reservations, call (973) 744-6560,or go
online at www.outpostintheburbs.com.
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