In my earliest couple of years at the college radio station, I mentally differentiated between those artists who completely belonged to us kids — those that I could see as rough contemporaries — and those who were, for lack of a better term, “adults.” This wasn’t always based purely on chronology. The Cure, for example, released their fourth studio album at around the same time Marshall Crenshaw released his first, but it was the Detroit native who I automatically slotted into a sort of college rock elder statesman role. After all, the Cure were still crafting songs that spoke directly to the moony longing of my teenaged soul. It was Crenshaw who was releasing records that shimmered with a level of maturity that seemed distantly unobtainable to me.
Part of my perception was certainly based on external influences. Crenshaw’s albums were reviewed as if they were stately sonic dispatches offering a reasoned counter-argument to brash ruffians banging out more aggressive rock sounds. In a sense, his releases were made for those music critics who’d been at it for twenty years or more, who still wanted to love the melding of guitars, bass, and drums, but were starting to feel like some of it was too darn loud. Crenshaw was a smart, tuneful songwriter, and a kindly empathetic interpreter of others’ songs. That his efforts in the latter category sometimes smoothed out a song’s jagged kinks, as with his cover of Richard Thompson’s “Valerie,” only made him more appealing, no doubt, to rock critics of a certain age.
That take on “Valerie” appears on Good Evening, the Crenshaw album that arrived as I was closing out my first full year as an ever-dazzled member of a college radio station staff. I really liked the record, but I’ll admit there was a thread of self-congratulation to it whenever I added a track from it to one of my playlists. I was a real grown-up, by gum, and I could play real grown-up records. Of course, that sentiment strikes me as silly these days, and not just because Crenshaw then was a full decade younger than I am now. Fine music has no age range attached to it.
Listen or download –> Marshall Crenshaw, “Whatever Way the Wind Blows”
(Disclaimer: I believe Good Evening to be out of print, at least as a physical item that be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner than compensates both Mr. Crenshaw at the proprietor of said shop. Crenshaw’s got a respectable bustle of “greatest hits” kind of compilations devoted to his work, so it’s possible the track shared here crops up on one of them. Even so, I mean no fiscal harm to any worthy parties — I don’t really include Warner Bros. Records in tat constituency — and will gladly remove the music file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)