“His intelligence, integrity, and passion for the great song always show up in his music,” wrote Robert Christgau in his Consumer Guide of Marshall Crenshaw. Over a span of 30 years, Crenshaw has released 13 albums, all of which have received the highest marks from critics and have earned him a fiercely local fan base. And now as Crenshaw prepares to transition from releasing physical albums to making his new music available in a subscription series to be announced soon, he will celebrate his first 30 years of recording in a special three-nighter at City Winery, 155 Varick St. in New York on Friday and Saturday, April 29-30, which are already sold out, with Sunday, May 1 just added. For information, click here.
Crenshaw will perform his debut single and his self-titled debut album in sequence, adding as many other hits and favorites as time permits. He will be joined by Yo La Tengo guitarist Ira Kaplan, longtime associate Graham Maby on bass, drummer Josh Dion, and on the 29th by original drummer (and brother) Robert Crenshaw.
According to Crenshaw, “The emphasis in the advertising, etc. has been on my first album but this year actually marks the 30-year anniversary of the release of ‘Something’s Gonna Happen’ on Shake Records, my first record, and a really, really darn good one, produced by the late Alan Betrock and myself. Therefore, this year marks my 30th year as a recording artist . . . amazing. It’s crazy!! Holy @!*&&^%!!!
“In 1978, by chance, not by design, I landed in New York City (with my wife) and the next few years were something like a whirlwind. We still do and always will look back on those days with great fondness; these anniversary shows will give me and everyone else in the room on those nights a chance to celebrate those times.”
“As it stands now we’re planning on mostly focusing on early repertoire, sprinkling in some middle period stuff, even some brand new stuff,” Crenshaw says. “I’m normally not that big on nostalgia and don’t plan to make a habit of it, but sometimes it can be a sweet feeling, harmless fun, etc.”
Rolling Stone, in its review of Crenshaw’s first long-player, called the album “1982's most gorgeous singer-songwriter debut,” adding, “every song here sounds like a classic.” Said Creem: “Marshall’s songs are perfect unto themselves — melodies, jaunty rhythms, super fine love lyrics and an exactly executed production that gives the songs a final and finished veneer when put on vinyl.”
Indeed, it was 1981 when Detroit-area native Crenshaw released his first single, “Something’s Gonna Happen” b/w “She Can’t Dance,” on New York Rocker founder Alan Betrock’s Shake Records label. The collectors’ site Discog calls it “As truly romantic, energetic and catchy as any early Beatles, British Invasion or Buddy Holly top hit record.” From it came the Warner Brothers contract that produced such classics as “(You’re My) Favorite Waste of Time,” “Someday Someway,” “Whenever You’re On My Mind” and “Cynical Girl.” The great songs continued with the Life’s Too Short album on MCA (“Fantastic Planet of Love”), three albums for Razor & Tie and the 2009 release Jaggedland (“Someone Told Me,” “Passing Through,” “Never Coming Down”). The Onion’s “A.V. Club” cited Jaggedland’s “sophisticated, warm, and carefully crafted melodies,” while SonicBoomers called it, “as good as anything he’s ever done,” adding, “There is a freshness of spirit to all these songs, like the artist is just starting out instead of being 30 years into a career.”
As The New York Times noted, “Mr. Crenshaw’s songs seem to roll off the guitar in a casual blend of pre-1970s styles — folk-rock, surf-rock, country and above all the Beatles — that put melody first. With his winsome tenor, he delves into the ways love goes right and goes wrong, from distant yearning to the aftermath of infidelity, hiding turmoil within the chiming tunes.”
And the Denver Post, reviewing a show from Crenshaw’s most recent tour, stated, “Crenshaw’s best songs, replete with irresistible hooks and perfect for his voice, are what drew critics and listeners from the beginning. Yet, in live performances, as well as on record, Crenshaw’s noted guitar talents shine through.”
As well as celebrating the first 30 years, the City Winery shows will mark the end of the album era for Crenshaw, who will shortly elaborate on plans to offer a subscription series to a quarterly series of vinyl and digital EPs, which will be available from his web site and other locations.
Further reflecting on his 30-year-old debut 45 RPM recording, Crenshaw notes, “I know that on that night I’ll be thinking of Alan Betrock. We already had some momentum on a couple of fronts: Robert Gordon’s version of ‘Someday Someway’ was causing a big sensation on NY radio, our club gigs were creating a lot of excitement, the press was getting on board, etc., but when Alan stepped into the picture it really put the pedal to the metal. We made a great record, my first, and really, I’d wanted to make a record with my name on it since I was a little kid. Alan put us in touch with another mover and shaker, the great Andy Schwartz, who had taken over New York Rocker magazine from Alan. There were others but that magazine was one of my bibles at the time; in fact I’d met Alan by responding to an ad that he’d run in the magazine announcing the launching of Shake Records.
“These guys had clout and credibility, not just with me but with everybody who was cool and involved with rock music in the city. Pretty soon ‘Something’s Gonna Happen’ was on the radio right alongside of Robert Gordon’s ‘Someday Someway’ and we were officially a big deal on the New York rock scene, something I was hugely proud of, and hopefully not too arrogant behind.”
And looking toward the three dates at City Winery, Crenshaw says, “I’m excited to say that joining us on guitar all weekend, all night long, will be the great Ira Kaplan, somebody who really knows how to spice up the proceedings.”