few years ago Marshall Crenshaw cut a song called “Television Light.” In it there was line
about glancing into other people’s lives, and realizing that
all of us have a tale or two to tell. Over the last 20 years,
Crenshaw’s done a great job explaining some of his own tales. His work
is filled with jubilation and amusement, melancholy and regret - each has resonated
in a truly singular way. Being a champion communicator, he’s made his
moods feel like our moods. And being a rocker, he’s put an irresistible
kick behind ‘em, too.
From the forward motion of "Mary Anne" and "Someday, Someway" on
his critically ballyhooed debut disc, to the bittersweet eloquence of "Tell
Me All About It" and "Glad Goodbye" from 1999’s #447,
Crenshaw has proven to be one of rock ‘n’ roll’s best and
most distinctive songwriters and performers.
In the Bag? (Razor & Tie Records), Crenshaw's
latest installment in an ever-shifting career, reconfirms that
isn't usually considered an experimentalist, but perhaps he should
be. Over the years his sound has evolved and expanded, moving from
stripped down popabilly to larger-than-life- rock, and elsewhere.
What's In the Bag? finds him running
his imagination in various ways, and its scope becomes its
ultimate calling card. This time around Crenshaw eschews flat-out
rockers for something a bit more sophisticated and seductive.
There's a jazz vibe to several of these tracks, and it's enchanting.
The singer runs in many New York circles, and working with
pals from Sex Mob and Jazz Passengers gives this new set of
tunes a lilt and a bounce that brings an unusual character
to Crenshaw's always-catchy songs.
"The guys who did a lot of this album have a more diverse
range of experience than me. It's cool to point musicians in
and trust them to take you somewhere new."
To say that Crenshaw has had an interesting career so far would be putting
it mildly. He's been in the movies (he portrayed Buddy Holly in the movie La
Bamba, and also apeeared in Peggy Sue Got Married)
and he's been in the road-show version of Beatlemania.
His songs have been plastered all over the soundtracks to several hit movies
and covered by artists as diverse as Robert Gordon, Bette Midler, Kelly Willis,
Marti Jones and the Gin Blossoms.
got a bunch of his like-minded show business acquaintances
together and put out a book on all the great and lousy rock & roll
movies in existence called Hollywood Rock & Roll.
He's put together comps of his own for record companies and
has contributed chapters to books on vintage guitar collecting.
Crenshaw is a true rock & roll renaissance man while still
remaining the everyman.
Born in Detroit and raised in the surrounding area, Marshall played in a number
of different bands in high school, eventually landing in his first professional
combo, ASTIGAFA (an acronym for "A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed for All," cribbed
from the back of Sgt. Pepper). Although nothing releasable came of this venture,
it surely cemented the basic ingredients of his style that would surface full
bloom at the dawn of his solo career.
But Detroit was not a musical hotbed by the late '70s, so Crenshaw responded
to an ad in Rolling Stone and auditioned for the Broadway musical Beatlemania.
Hired as a John Lennon understudy, Crenshaw moved to New York City and quickly
found himself in a heady, competitive situation. After serving a six-month "Beatle
boot camp" training, he appeared with the show for six months in Hollywood
and San Francisco, then finished up his last six months with the production
on the road. Though he found the show creatively stifling, it made him sit
down and figure out what kind of music he wanted to do and eventually -- after
buying a four-track recorder -- started making demos whenever he was home.
Soon Marshall was armed both with demos galore -- dropping them off to any
show business connection that might listen -- and his younger brother was playing
drums in his trio, which was starting to plug into New York City's burgeoning
new wave club scene. About that time Crenshaw hooked up with local scenester
Alan Betrock, who had recently started his own label, Shake Records. It was
Crenshaw's debut single "Something's Gonna Happen" on Betrock's label
that kicked up enough noise to bring major label interest knocking at his door.
with Warner Brothers in 1982, Marshall recorded five superbly
crafted studio albums before parting ways seven years later to
sign with MCA for one album, Life's Too Short.
During this flurry of activity, Crenshaw also flexed his acting
muscles, portraying a high-school bandleader in Peggy
Sue Got Married, Buddy Holly in La
Bamba and a role on the Nickelodeon series Pete
Emerging from a three-year hiatus, Marshall signed with the independent label
Razor & Tie label, released a live album (Live: My Truck Is
My Home) in 1994 and in 1996, released a new studio effort, Miracle
of Science. The 9 Volt Years, a collection of demos and home recordings, followed
in 1998, and a year later Crenshaw returned with a new studio effort, #447, followed
Is Easy! The Best Of Marshall Crenshaw in 2000, I've
Suffered For My Art...Now It's Your Turn in 2001 and What's
In The Bag? in 2003.
Today, Crenshaw continues to tour across the country and is working on a project
involving his interest with the Beatles.