It’s not really news when Art Garfunkel says something about Paul Simon, but he’s obvious;y still bitter about their breakup years ago. Still, a quote that includes “I created a monster” is bound to get some attention.
It’s sad but also not surprising. Paul Simon can come across as a dope sometimes, but spending your entire professional career with your childhood friend seems pretty tough as well.
RIYL: Watching people bare their souls for all the world to see, risking abject humiliation in the process
I have not done many interviews in my time as senior editor for Bullz-Eye.com – certainly not in comparison to my good friend and colleague Will Harris, who does roughly six million interviews a year – and yet, there aren’t that many people left that I am dying to talk to. I interviewed boyhood idol John Taylor in 2005 (big story behind that one, which you can find here), and have picked off members of Blur, the Kaiser Chiefs, Hard-Fi and Depeche Mode along the way. The only three big ones left on my list were Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, and Bryan Ferry.
I scratched one of them off the list yesterday. Glenn Tilbrook was doing press to promote Squeeze’s new album Spot the Difference – which the band readily admits was made for licensing purposes so they can rake in a little extra cash from soundtrack supervisors and advertisers – which meant I had the opportunity to tell him something I’ve wanted to tell him for a long time: that Squeeze’s 1991 album Play saved my life.
Here’s the back story: I was involved in a tempestuous relationship with a girl who was under tremendous pressure from her parents to stop seeing me. And, wanting to please her parents and therefore make life easier, she started to listen to them, even after I had moved cross-country to be with her. Finally, I gave up, and made plans to move to Boston with my brother. I was working at a record store before I left, and they had a promo copy of Play. Since the people who frequented the suburban mall that housed the record store had no interest in Squeeze, the manager let me take it home. Home at the time was a flea-infested apartment I shared with some older guy. It was not where the heart is, which is why this album proved to be a massive source of comfort.
There seemed to be a song on the album for each emotion I was feeling at any given moment, with a lyric to match. “Each day’s a hope, each day’s a prayer, that I’ll rebuild and I’ll repair,” from “There Is a Voice,” or the opening lines to “Crying in My Sleep,” which I would sing to myself while busing tables, one of my three jobs after landing in Boston: “Breaking up is breaking my heart and showing me the door / But if I get it open, I’ll discover that there’s much more to life than this.” Even for the songs that weren’t an exact match to my situation, there was a vibe to it that resonated with me. I needed to feel better about myself. Play helped me do that.
Flash-forward 19 years, and I’m having a Skype chat with Tilbrook, who’s vacationing in the south of England after finishing what he calls the best tour of the States he’s ever done. And I lay it all on the line.
BE: On a personal note, you should know that Play basically saved my life.
GT: (Stunned) Wow.
BE: I was going through a hellacious breakup, and that album was extremely comforting to me. I know it didn’t sell a lot of records, but I’m so glad you guys made it.
GT: You know, a man who’s subsequently become my best friend said exactly the same thing to me! He was going through a divorce at that same time, and said, “Play, it just got me through.” Wow, that is really weird. What a weird coincidence. ‘Cause not that many people heard the record anyway, and that’s one of our best records, I think.
Here’s the thing I wanted to mention, but obviously don’t have the data to back up: I find it highly unlikely that Glenn’s friend and I are the only ones who were saved by this album. Is there anyone else out there who found solace, and ultimately rebirth, in these songs? It can’t be only me and this other guy…can it?
Back me up here, people. Does anyone else have the emotional connection to Play that I have? Let’s hear your stories in the comment section.
Lastly, thank you Glenn (and Chris) for writing such moving songs, and for being a great interview. Can’t wait to hear the new material you’re working on. Oh, and as a post-script, I ended up getting back together with the girl in question and dating her for another few years, and in following her to Chicago, I met the woman who would become my wife. It took a little longer than I hoped, but I got that door open after all.
It’s never easy for any artist to take a successful debut and translate that success to a second album, but the road to Wolfmother’s sophomore release was particularly troubled — in fact, vocalist Andrew Stockdale is the only member of the band that managed to survive the journey from 2005’s Wolfmother to the just-released Cosmic Egg.
All that upheaval must have been more than a little traumatic, so it’s hard to blame Stockdale for brushing off questions about it during his Bullz-Eye interview with Jim Washington — in his words, “it’s a bit exhausting to talk about” — and in any event, the band’s heavy sound has survived the transition pretty much intact, so why dwell on the past? Better to just crack open Cosmic Egg and revel in its aural assault, which expands upon the band’s notably Zeppelin and Sabbath-influenced attack. As Stockdale tells Washington, “Certain things inspire you, but then it becomes your own thing. I think the new record is a bit heavier at times and a bit lighter at the same time. There’s a real energy in it, a lot of expression.”
Talking with Marshall Crenshaw is like being invited to the rock ‘n roll grown-up table. After minding your manners at the kid’s table for years, you finally get the chance to show your elders how much you’ve learned about music…only to realize just how little you know. The man is an encyclopedia of rock, which makes sense when you consider that he played John Lennon on the stage, Buddy Holly in the movies, and wrote the instructions for fictional rocker Dewey Cox on how to walk hard. On the eve of a series of shows on both sides of the pond in support of his new album Jaggedland, Crenshaw spoke with Bullz-Eye about how he never wanted to be an arena guy, and offers his two cents on some of the cover versions of his songs. He also explained why he inadvertently terrified his interviewer at a concert six years ago, but that story is off the record.
BE: I would just like to state that there should be a law that forbids you from taking six years between albums.
MC: I know, it’s funny, isn’t it? But that’s how long it took, I guess. My friend Don Dixon said everybody should do a record every four years, and no sooner than that. I don’t know where he got that from, but I guess that’s just what his body clock tells him. Anyway, yeah, I know, six years is a long time. But it was worth it, you know? It was worth taking the extra time and the extra care, I think.
BE: I read that it was Jerry Boys’ work on the Ry Cooder album that attracted you, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he also recorded the Beatles.
MC: You know what? I found that out fast, because I have that book, there is a book called “The Beatles Recording Sessions.” When it came out I just read it and read it and read it, like it was the Bible. So I had seen his name in there but I didn’t make the connection when I bought Mambo Sinuendo, and just proceeded to fall in love with it. Then I went on to his website and I went, “Oh yeah, right.” But that’s only just the beginning of the story with him. I mean, God, you’ve got to really give it up for guys who are…you know, just have that deep of a well of experience and have done that much really high-quality work.
BE: Did you ever have designs of making an Imperial Bedroom-type record with a Geoff Emerick or an Alan Parsons?
MC: No, none of those guys ever crossed my mind. I mean, with all due respect, and so on and so forth. And again, the record that really made me think of Jerry Boys is a record where everybody just sat in the room and played at the same time, you know, Mambo Sinuendo. There are some tracks that are really heavily crafted and edited and stuff like that, but mostly it’s just guys in a room, and the sound of the room. That was what I dug about that record.
BE: Have you ever reached a point where you thought to yourself, “Screw the solo career, I’m going to write songs for Disney artists,” or “I’m going to write songs for up and coming country singers”?
MC: Yeah, I have. Sure, of course. I mean, I have even done the first one. I did a project for Disney Television Animation. I worked on it for about half a year, wrote about a half-dozen songs for an animated sequel to “101 Dalmatians.” It’s been sort of an oddball, patchwork sort of a résumé with me, really. The main thing is my records and my songs, that’s really what it’s about. But I’ve taken lots of side trips. I was in “La Bamba.” One of my songs right now, “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time,” is in a breakfast cereal commercial in Europe.
BE: That makes sense, since it was a big hit for Owen Paul in the UK.
MC: Yeah, you know about that.
BE: Yes. And I just recently heard Bette Midler’s cover of the song, which I can’t say I share the same enthusiasm for.
MC: I was delighted when she recorded it…anyway, what was I saying? Oh, the Nashville thing. Yeah, I had a publisher and a good friend who used to constantly encourage me to go to Nashville. And I did try it, I went there and dabbled in it a little bit, I just could never get that motivated, you know? For better or for worse, the thing I really love is record-making. I just think it’s a great art form. When it comes to the idea of making a record and creating a body of songs for a record, that’s when I really get motivated, you know? But the Nashville thing just sort of never felt like the right direction for me.