Marshall Crenshaw on Marshall Crenshaw
Celebrated singer-songwriter on the 40th anniversary expanded edition of his eponymous 1982 debut
Celebrated singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw released his self-titled debut album in 1982 – and now it’s gotten an expanded reissue via Yep Roc Records.
Though he’s pleased to commemorate this milestone anniversary in this way, Crenshaw admits that it’s also “kind of stunning.”
“When I did the record, 40 years in the future was just completely unimaginable,” he explains. “But it’s a beautiful thing to me that the record has had longevity and people still talk about it and want to hear it and buy it and all that good stuff.”
As for why this particular album has such staying power, Crenshaw says, “I can’t really account for it other than to say that I guess it’s a good record.” And this is certainly true: after all, this is the album that introduced the world to some of Crenshaw’s most beloved songs, such as “Someday, Someway,” “Cynical Girl,” and “There She Goes Again.”
VIDEO: Marshall Crenshaw “Someday, Someway”
There’s something of a parallel between this reissue of Marshall Crenshaw and another one that came out on Rhino Records in 2000 – but this new version features liner notes that Crenshaw wrote himself, many exclusive photos from that era and seven bonus tracks (five of which have never been released before).
“The idea was to give somebody a sense of what was going on with us as a band, and also a backstory to the album,” Crenshaw says of the bonus songs. “There’s a live track of a song we used to play all the time in our set that was a key song for us, as far as what we played on stage. And then there are some recordings that I made at home when I first realized that I could write ‘keeper’ songs.”
Unlike other musicians who shy away from showing the world their first self-recorded efforts, Crenshaw is particularly pleased to share his home recordings here. “I like having those out now because I feel like they are really as much representative of where I was at and what I was doing back then as the album is,” he says. “Those recordings are what led to everything. I loved them. I was proud of them. They were recorded on $200 worth of crummy recording equipment, but they sound really cool.”
One of those home recordings, “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time,” is particularly significant for him. In 1983, Bette Midler recorded the song – then Scottish musician Owen Paul made another version of it, which went to #3 on the U.K. charts in 1986. This definitely boosted Crenshaw’s career at the time, and he says he still gets royalties from this.
Of course, Crenshaw’s own recordings have also put him on the map. His first single from the debut album, “Someday, Someway,” reached the U.S. Top 40, and he’s maintained a reputation as a stellar songwriter ever since. To date, he’s released ten studio albums, and released more successful singles, such as “Whenever You’re on My Mind.” (He also co-wrote the Gin Blossoms hit “Til I Hear It from You,” which appeared on the Empire Records film soundtrack in 1995.)
To create those impeccable songs, “I always start with some kind of a beat, just get a groove going, and then start playing guitar – that’s how I did it then; that’s how I do it still,” Crenshaw says, adding that he never writes the lyrics first. “The words are there to serve the music. I’m really strict with myself about that, too. I don’t change the melody to accommodate the words. I’m the composer first and then the lyric writer after the fact. I don’t keep a journal or anything like that. I don’t store up ideas for lyrics.
“I do always think of a title before I write any words,” he continues, “and the title has to come from the music. The part of the song where I’m going to put the title has to stir something in my mind and make me go, ‘Oh yeah, that would be a good title for this,’ and then I go from there.”
Crenshaw says he first felt drawn to making music when he was a small child, growing up in Michigan: “My dad had a guitar, and it just looked like he was really having a lot of fun with it when he would play and sing. He was the first role model that I had, as far as seeing somebody playing and singing. I just right away wanted to emulate that.” Besides guitar, he also took lessons on the piano and drums.
He first made his mark via musical theater, starring as John Lennon in the touring production of the hit show Beatlemania! Despite this success, though, Crenshaw still felt compelled to continue writing and recording his own songs – which would eventually end up on his debut album. This gave him “a sense of real empowerment. As soon as I understood that I was creating this body of work, it was really an amazing feeling.”
Now, this 40th anniversary reissue of Marshall Crenshaw has given him a chance to reflect on the legacy he began then.
“Honestly, it really was a vivid time period where all kinds of incredible stuff happened – my life just kind of blew up,” he says. “I mean, I’m still living in the aftermath of that time period, really. So just looking back on it was emotional and interesting.”
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