There was a stretch during the mid-to-late-eighties when I gently transitioned myself from the sort of stuff played on album rock radio stations to the material that had a more comfortable home at the left end of the dial. It helped that I had a hometown radio station that was a weird hybrid of the two, embracing select college radio artists (R.E.M. chief among them, but also the occasional Camper Van Beethoven or Robyn Hitchcock song) even as it leaned most heavily on the rootsy classic rock likes of Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat, and the seventies output of the Kinks. If something was positioned somewhere right between the two, really belonging to neither world, it was especially helpful as I constructed my gateway. John Hiatt’s Bring the Family was a prime example of that. I think it’s probably still regarded as such all these years later. Another example in the same rough vein that’s largely forgotten now is Peter Wolf’s Come as You Are.
The second solo album from the former lead singer of the J. Geils Band, it was greeted with a decent amount of anticipation at the time. It was only a few years earlier that Wolf was front and center on one of the most unavoidable hits of the early eighties and he enjoyed modest chart success the first time he went out on his own. And the new album arrived with a buzzy music video back when a buzzy music video was the clearest path to broader airplay (surprisingly, that lead single charted about as high as “Lights Out,” Wolf’s previous Top 20 solo hit). I don’t think anyone was making an argument that Wolf was becoming a major artist, but there was a sense he was creating music worthy of attention.
I liked the clarity and punchiness of Come as You Are. There’s a directness to the songwriting that reaches back to the bluesy foundations of rock ‘n’ roll, but the music is constructed with respect for the forward motion of pop culture. It wasn’t quite tough enough (or, for that matter, dumb enough) for album rock radio and not quite edgy enough for college radio. It was a nice hybrid that has to settle for the indignity of simply being good. When I found my way into a college radio both approximately a year-and-a-half later, I think I did play the album’s opening track, “Can’t Get Started,” once or twice. In retrospect, I’ll bet it fit in just fine.
Listen or download –> Peter Wolf, “Can’t Get Started”
(Disclaimer: It appears to me that Come As You Are is out of print. I supposes it’s possible that this track showed up on some Peter Wolf compilation that may be out there in the world — it is the second single from the album — but I didn’t notice any such thing existing in the wild. Thus, it is my understand that this track can’t be purchased in a physical form from your favorite local, independently-owned record store and therefore posting this track impedes fair-minded commerce in no way. That typed, I understand how copyright law works, even if I don’t fully agree with it. Fair use is a concept that deserves to be respected, too. Anyway, I will gladly and promptly remove the track if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)