Over the past 30 years, Marshall Crenshaw has sealed his reputation as the consummate singer-songwriter. While he's best known for his sole Top 40 hit,"Someday, Someway," which was on his 1982 self-titled debut, he's respected and revered by his peers. Despite the lack of mainstream success, Crenshaw has continued to regularly record and tour. He's now on the road with a backing band that includes three-fourths of the alt-country quartet the Bottle Rockets. He talks to us about music critics and Dewey Cox.
You've never liked the term "power pop." Why is that?
Because I don't like the idea of my stuff being shoved into a sub-category. I can't tolerate that. Secondly, most of the music that's called power pop is stuff that I don't particularly like. I don't like having my stuff tagged with this puny little label. My stuff is better than that. Call it rock & roll or American vernacular music.
While it yielded the minor hit "Whenever You're on Mind," critic Robert Christgau called 1983's Field Day a "misconceived sequel" to your debut. What do you think of that?
Well, I'd call it an incorrect appraisal. "Mis-executed" might be fair, but not misconceived. It was conceived really honestly, all based on my own personal taste and vision. The problem was that it was hurriedly done and there should have been more thought put it into it. We did our second album less than a year after we did our first. It was stupid. I never should have gotten talked into it. But I'd say no, it was not misconceived. He should have talked to me about it.
Looking back on the '80s, do you think it was a great period for music?
Yes and no. I certainly bought a lot of records during that time. I did like a lot of the pop music back then, but I hated the sound of the Linn drum machine. Everything was going great until that came along. For me, it ruined R&B and pop music. I like to hear people on records with blood in their veins. I like to hear people in the same room playing on a record. When that started to go away in the '80s, I thought it was about the dumbest idea that anyone could come up with. The Linn drum machine sounds like a sack of shit. It's a toy, and it put a lot of people out of work.
What was it like working on Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story?
I did go to the set one day. It's a great atmosphere. I loved that whole project. Some of the other songwriters, like Mike Viola, I knew, but I've gotten to be friends with Dan Bern since. It was a lot of fun.
Does it irk you to have only one Top 40 hit in your 30-year career?
Yeah, I hate that. Of course, I wanted lots of hit records. What I found was that you don't just make records and put them out there. You have to go be in showbiz and you have to conquer territories. I didn't have the stomach for that. I remember when "Someday, Someway" was in the charts, Warner Bros. ran an ad saying "his first hit record." I just loved that. It was like there was going to be more. But there was just the one, and it was crushing.