Sunday, October 29, 2017

Songs Marshall Gave Away

As many rock and roll fans know, Marshall Crenshaw played John Lennon in the musical Beatlemania, first as an understudy in New York City and on the West Coast, then in the national touring company. He left the production in February of 1980 to concentrate on songwriting and a recording career. He had, it appears, barrels full of songs, many of which he'd record on his fabulous self-titled debut in 1982. Several of his songs were also recorded by other artists keen to capitalize on Crenshaw's ear for sublime hooks and 1960s AM radio melodies and dynamics. Most notably, Bette Midler recorded "You're My Favorite Waste of Time" in 1983, and Robert Gordon issued a version of "Someday, Someway" in 1981 which made it into the 70s on the Billboard Singles Chart. (Crenshaw's own version reached number 36, a year later.) Gordon also recorded a version of Crenshaw's first single, "Something's Gonna Happen."

Some of the songs that Crenshaw gave to others he himself never got around to cutting. I recently pulled out Gordon's Are You Gonna Be The One, which featured "Someday, Someway," and was surprised that I'd forgotten that there are two other Crenshaw songs on the album, "She's Not Mine Anymore" and "But, But." A couple years later, Gordon cut Crenshaw's "Wasting My Time" for the soundtrack to the movie The Loveless, and a decade later "I Need You, Girl" for All For The Love Of Rock 'N' Roll. To my ears, each is a gem, perfect for the ageless voice of Gordon, characteristically Crenshawian in their timeless Buddy Holly/Beatles vibe, appealing chord changes, and ear-candy melodies.

Austin, Texas-based blues singer Lou Ann Barton recorded Crenshaw material on her 1982 debut Old Enough, a version of "Brand New Lover," which Crenshaw would record for his debut, and the R&B-flavored "Stop These Teardrops."

In 1989, Crenshaw gathered his brother Robert on drums, Graham Maby on bass, and producer Alan Betrock to cut a handful of demos with legendary singer Ronnie Spector. Among with some familiar tunes ("Someday, Someway," "For His Love" (aka, "For Her love"), "Whenever You're On My Mind," and "Favorite Waste of Time") Spector cut a version of Crenshaw's "Communication." These tracks weren't issued until 2003, a tease to an album-that-never-was.


Anonymous said...

great article. In '83 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band cut "Maryanne" as a B-side. Doesn't stray much from Marsh's version but still cool. Also just last week picked up a 45 of Kelly Willis doing "Whatever Way the Wind Blows," saw her do it on Austin City Limits back in the day just never knew it was released as a single.

Joe Bonomo said...

Thanks, anon! Those are great versions. I focused on songs MC wrote but never recorded himself.

brianbcomedy said...

Replying to Anon's post- at the time the NGDB's version of Maryanne was out I played it as an LP cut at the country radio station I was a DJ at (I'm a big Crenshaw fan.) I received a call from an irate listener saying "that wasn't country music." I then explained to her that was from the same album from the Dirt Band that had "Dance Little Jean", which was a top ten song at the time. By the end of the conversation she was apologizing for giving me a hard time!