Watching Marshall Crenshaw in Bed With A Cold

Nothing like a cold to make me feel useless…Two things guaranteed to depress me are lack of sleep and being sick. It’s not a terrible thing to be depressed, though.  I’m more likely to be too optimistic than the opposite, so getting sick and falling into a torpor is mental and spiritual correction, perhaps.

marshall-crenshaw.jpgI’m watching Marshall Crenshaw, the singer/songwriter, on a program on the less-well-known PBS station KLCS on this Saturday night.  He’s singing solo with a slighly amplified hollow-body guitar, intercut with interview clips.  He’s talking about how he built up a following — the spark and determination it took “to make yourself known in the world” — and I’m glad he’s proud.  But the fact is, he got pigeon-holed back when he emerged in the early 1980s as a “power-pop” performer, and that turned out to be an obstacle he could never overcome. 

Why does the music media automatically dismiss the best contemporary songwriters?  The best craftspeople in this most soulful of art forms?  Crenshaw should be performing in front of a band, with at least three singers who can support his somewhat thin but expressive voice and more importantly can perform the brilliant vocal arrangements you can hear on so many of his recorded songs. But there is no budget for him to do this anymore.  He’s a power-popper, and those guys are supposed to be selling insurance now.

Now (as I’m watching) he’s admitting he expected to be more successful.  He seems to be blaming himself, claiming that he cultivated attention, but once he got it, it overwhelmed him.  That’s not what I think went wrong.  For the past 30 years, the rock press and the industry’s promotional machine is always biased toward artists who make big gestures, like U2, or who have some obvious PR hook, like the grunge-rockers.  Song craftspersons are treated with suspicion if the craft doesn’t come with a Dionysian kind of persona.

If you saw tonight’s Marshall Crenshaw TV show and want to know what the fuss is all about, the answer is in his studio recordings.   Here (after the jump) are the songs I suggest you download first.  He wrote all but four of them:

  • Someday, Someway
  • There She Goes Again
  • She Can’t Dance
  • Cynical Girl
  • Run Back To You
  • You’re My Favorite Waste of Time
  • Something’s Gonna Happen
  • Whenever You’re on My Mind
  • Our Town
  • One Day With You
  • For Her Love
  • Little Wild One (No. 5)
  • Blues is King
  • Like a Vague Memory
  • I’m Sorry (But So is Brenda Lee)
  • This is Easy
  • Calling Out for Love (At Crying Time)
  • Somebody Crying 
  • They Never Will Know
  • You Should’ve Been There
  • Better Back Off
  • Fantastic Planet of Love
  • Walkin’ Around
  • Wanda and Duane (live)
  • What Do You Dream Of?
  • Twenty-Five Forty-One
  • There and Back Again
  • Starless Summer Sky
  • Dime a Dozen Guy
  • Television Light
  • T.M.D.
  • Tell Me All About It
  • Will We Ever?
  • Long and Complicated
  • Where Home Used to Be 
  • Endless Sleep (live)

2 thoughts on “Watching Marshall Crenshaw in Bed With A Cold

  1. I love Marshall Crenshaw. I’ve been hooked since ’82, when I bought his debut album; I have bought every album/CD since. He never ceases to amaze me, what with the diversity and richness of his performances. I just wish more people would wake up and open their eyes to his amazing talent. Keep with it Marshall, your devoted following appreciates you beyond measure!

  2. Add “Some Hearts” to the above list.
    Marshall Crenshaw is by far one of the best (if not the best) singer-songwriter of the past 30 years.
    Thank you Marshall.

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