Marshall Crenshaw talks about Jerry Boys, working for Disney, and his love for the lost art of making records

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.

To read the rest of Bullz-Eye’s interview with Marshall Crenshaw, click here.

  

Twenty years later, producer John Leckie looks back on “Stone Roses”

Producer John Leckie may not be a household name, but thanks to his work behind the boards for a long list of diverse, well-respected acts (including Pink Floyd, Radiohead, all four Beatles, and Public Image Limited), his talents are well known to most rock fans — whether or not they’re aware of it. One of his past projects, the Stone Roses’ self-titled debut, celebrates its 20th birthday this year, and thanks to the good people at Sony Legacy, it’s getting scrubbed and primped for a deluxe reissue — one which Leckie is now out making the promotional rounds to support. Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker, an unabashed Stone Roses fan, naturally jumped at the opportunity to interview Mr. Leckie — and the transcript of their chat is now live at Bullz-Eye.

One of the first questions, naturally, is just how far the reissue’s sound has come from the original CD — and Leckie has an interesting response:

We would make the vinyl master that would then be a CD master, and then it would be copied again for overseas. By the time it’s pressed in America or Australia, it’s a copy, of a copy, of a copy, of a copy.

In other words, if you own an original U.S. pressing of Stone Roses, the fidelity is even dodgier than you might have imagined. But is the new CD remaster the be-all, end-all version, or does Leckie recommend trendier audiophile measures, like listening to a new vinyl pressing? Leckie is vinyl-friendly, as you might imagine, but he’s surprisingly pragmatic, as it turns out:

It’s like, well, what are you playing it on? Most people listen to music on iPods or even little speakers on their laptop. Or in the car, with the windows open. Vinyl is an experience. You don’t do anything else. You just sit and listen to it.

To read more of David Medsker’s wide-ranging interview with John Leckie — including his thoughts on the punk bands of the ’70s, some of his favorite lesser-known projects, and his 20-years-removed perspective on Stone Roses, click on the above image or follow this link!

  

Colin Hay basks in the “American Sunshine”

If you remember Colin Hay, it’s probably for one of two things: his days as frontman for ’80s superstars Men At Work, or his multiple appearances on the soundtracks of Zach Braff’s “Garden State” and “Scrubs.” The reality, of course, is that Hay’s career is deeper than either of those things might suggest; since rising from the ashes of Men At Work in the ’80s, he’s released a series of solo recordings that, while not as commercially successful as he might have hoped, have earned him consistently solid reviews — and the ongoing devotion of a small but dependable following. Hay’s latest album, American Sunshine, is out this week — and Bullz-Eye’s Mike Farley (who also reviewed the album) sat down for a chat to discuss Hay’s outlook on the new material, his years as a solo artist, and the prospects for a Men At Work reunion.

You’ll notice Mr. Hay is smiling in the above photo, and for good reason — not only did Braff’s fanhood expose him to a new (and presumably rather lucrative) avenue of exposure for his music, it helped keep the audiences at his gigs from turning into the depressing “give us the hits” crowds many “heritage” artists have to deal with. As he tells it:

Maybe there are some people that want to hear Men at Work songs, and that’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with that. But for the last decade or so, the people that come to see me tend to not mind the Men at Work songs, but they tend to want to hear new things.

Also undoubtedly helping Hay’s mood — and inspiring the title of his latest album — is his longtime residency in southern California, which he recounts in the interview:

I came here (Los Angeles) in 1988, because they suggested that I meet the record company and say hello and hang out and stuff like that. So I came over here, and I ended up making the record here. And then things were pointing away from Australia at that particular time, so I just stayed. And I’m still here, really. I like it. I like Los Angeles.

To read the rest of Mike Farley’s interview with Colin Hay, click on the image above, or just follow this link!

  

The Trashcan Sinatras’ Paul Livingston gets “Into the Music”

Most other bands would long have since wilted in the face of the many different types of adversity faced by the Trashcan Sinatras, but — much to the joy of discerning pop fans all over the world — they’re still kicking. In fact, they’ve completed a new album, the soon-to-be-released In the Music, and are embarking on their first American tour in five years. To celebrate the occasion, guitarist Paul Livingston sat down for a chat with Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker, who just so happens to be a fan from way back. As you can imagine, the interview was a rather informal affair, touching on everything from the heartbreak of dealing with labels going out of business to tour preparations to what it was like to have Carly Simon appear on the new album. Sadly, it turns out the meeting wasn’t, well, a meeting at all:

After we recorded the backing tracks in New York, the producer, Andy Chase, was going to set up a studio at his house in Martha’s Vineyard. And he said, “Come on, Carly Simon lives here.” And we were floored, and thought, “That would be great if we could meet her.” And so he asked her to sing on a song, and we got her a lot of the songs we were working on. But the disappointing thing was, when we were in Martha’s Vineyard, she was in New York. So we didn’t meet her, which is kind of a bummer.

Also kind of a bummer? The label behind the Sinatras’ last album, Weightlifting, imploding before it had a chance to make the band any money. Mr. Livingston is pretty genteel about the whole affair, however, saying:

It was a kick in the teeth, but at that point, we didn’t get down about it. We just smiled and moved on. That sort of shit happens all the time. And it’s nothing personal, you know? You just gotta laugh and shake your head.

For more of the interview — including how the band is adjusting to Livingston’s Southern California move, rumors of their back catalog getting the reissue treatment, and who will buy whom a drink when Livingston and Medsker meet up in Chicago — follow this link!

  

Pete Yorn talks “Back & Fourth,” singing with Scarlett

The hype surrounding his music has died down considerably since he made his Sony debut in 2001 with musicforthemorningafter, but even as the choruses of “next big thing” have subsided, Pete Yorn has set about building a career out of one solidly crafted, well-reviewed album after another — and he’s looking to add two more to the catalog this year: the recently released solo set Back & Fourth, and an upcoming duets set with Scarlett Johansson, Break Up. Having just completed a string of dates opening for Coldplay, Yorn is ready to hit the road in support of Fourth, and was nice enough to set aside some time on a day off for a chat with Bullz-Eye’s Neil Carver. Their talk touched on the new albums (of course), his newfound love for New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” what inspired him to work with Scarlett, and how his songwriting process has changed over the years:

“In the old days, I wouldn’t really write much on tour. I’d come home and everything would come to a grinding halt, and then I would start to get really restless and freaked out. That’s when I’d start writing the songs.”

To read more of what Pete Yorn had to say in his Bullz-Eye interview, follow this link!

  

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