Born near Detroit, Michigan, Marshall Crenshaw began playing guitar at age ten and he received his first break playing John Lennon in the off-Broadway company of Beatlemania. In 1987, he played Buddy Holly in the Richie Valens biopic “La Bamba.” While living in NYC, he recorded the single “Something’s Gonna Happen” for Alan Betrock’s Shake Records, which led to a deal with Warner Bros. His debut album, Marshall Crenshaw was acclaimed as a pop masterpiece upon its release in 1982 and established him as a first-rate songwriter, singer and guitarist. The record spawned the Top 40 single “Someday, Someway,” which rockabilly singer Robert Gordon covered and scored a hit with a year earlier, and other classics such as “(You’re My) Favorite Waste of Time,” “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
A quote from Trouser Press sums up Marshall Crenshaw’s early career: “Although he was seen as a latter-day Buddy Holly at the outset, he soon proved too talented and original to be anyone but himself.” All Music Guide captured Crenshaw’s vibe perfectly: “He writes songs that are melodic, hooky and emotionally true, and he sings and plays them with an honesty and force that still finds room for humor without venom.”
“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 loyal fan base.
“I wanted to think of a different way of working that would inspire me and keep me motivated,” Marshall Crenshaw says of his newest endeavor: a subscription-only service that addresses the recent seismic changes in the music-industry landscape by cutting out the record-company middle man to distribute his new recordings directly to fans.
The subscription service, which the veteran singer/guitarist/songwriter/producer recently launched via a successful Kickstarter funding campaign, will provide fans with a steady stream of new Marshall Crenshaw music via a series of exclusive three-song 10-inch, 45-rpm vinyl EPs on Addie-Ville Records, six of which the artist plans to release over a two-year period. In addition to the vinyl discs, subscribers will also receive a download card for high-quality digital versions of the EP tracks.
Each EP will consist entirely of newly recorded, never-before-released material, encompassing a new original Crenshaw composition, a classic cover tune, and a new reworking of a time-honored favorite.
“I really do think that vinyl sounds best, and that playing a vinyl record is still the optimum listening experience,” Crenshaw asserts. “And with the sound quality that you get at 45 rpm, I think that these things are going to deliver the goods, sonically.”
The first subscription EP’s A-side is the brand-new Crenshaw number “I Don’t See You Laughing Now,” recorded with longtime cohorts Andy York (John Mellencamp, Ian Hunter), and Graham Maby (Joe Jackson, They Might Be Giants). The record’s double B-side features a memorable new reading of The Move’s 1971 post-apocalyptic anthem “No Time,” recorded with veteran New Jersey rocker and frequent Crenshaw collaborator Glen Burtnick; and a new version of “There She Goes Again,” whose original version appeared on Crenshaw’s eponymous 1982 debut album, recorded live with alt-country icons the Bottle Rockets.
All three tracks were mastered for maximum awesomeness by legendary engineer Greg Calbi, who will handle mastering duties on the entire EP series.
Earlier this year, fans made the subscription project a reality by pledging more than $33,000 to Crenshaw’s Kickstarter campaign, above and beyond Crenshaw’s original goal, in increments ranging from $1 to $5000.
Crenshaw is excited that his new subscription model allows him to embrace his love for singles, while allowing him to make music on his own terms, free of record-company politics and the emotional baggage that routinely accompanies the making of full-length albums.
“I’ve always put a great deal of care into the albums I’ve made,” Crenshaw states. “But as a listener, I’ve always been a singles guy and an individual-tracks guy. I’m looking forward to creating a steady output of music in small batches, rather than being stuck in a cave for months and stockpiling a whole bunch of music and dumping it out all at once. Now, when I finish something, I get to put it out, instead of having to wait until I’ve got 12 more.”
Over the course of a career that’s spanned three decades, 13 albums and hundreds of songs, Marshall Crenshaw’s musical output has maintained a consistent fidelity to the qualities of melody, craftsmanship and passion, and his efforts have been rewarded with the devotion of a broad and remarkably loyal fan base.
After an early break playing John Lennon in a touring company of the Broadway musical Beatlemania, the Michigan-bred musician began his recording career with the now-legendary indie single “Something’s Gonna Happen,” on Alan Betrock’s seminal Shake label. His growing fame in his adopted hometown of New York City helped to win Crenshaw a deal with Warner Bros. Records, which released his self-titled 1982 debut album. With such classics as “Someday, Someway” and “Cynical Girl,” that LP established Crenshaw as one of his era’s preeminent tunesmiths — a stature that was confirmed by subsequent albums Field Day, Downtown, Mary Jean & 9 Others, Good Evening, Life’s Too Short, Miracle of Science, #447, What’s in the Bag?and Jaggedland.
Along the way, Crenshaw’s compositions have been successfully covered by a broad array of performers, including Bette Midler, Kelly Willis, Robert Gordon, Ronnie Spector, Marti Jones and the Gin Blossoms, with whom Crenshaw co-wrote the Top 10 single “Til I Hear It From You.” He’s also provided music for several film soundtracks, appeared in the films La Bamba(as Buddy Holly) and Peggy Sue Got Married, and was nominated for a Grammy and a Golden Globe award for penning the title track for the film comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Crenshaw also wrote a book about rock movies entitled Hollywood Rock ’n’ Roll, and has assembled compilation albums of the music of Scott Walker and the Louvin Brothers, as well as the acclaimed country-and-western collection Hillbilly Music . . . Thank God! Since 2011, he has hosted his own radio show, The Bottomless Pit, on New York’s WFUV, Saturday nights at 10 p.m. ET.
But it’s writing songs and making records that remain at the center of Marshall Crenshaw’s creative life, and he’s distinctly excited about the potential of his new subscription service. “I still think that recorded music is a great art form, I still love it and believe in it, and I’m still always striving for excellence. The fact that the Kickstarter thing was a success, and that people responded so well to the concept, felt like a good validation of that.”
“This is a really inspiring situation,” Crenshaw concludes, “and I think that it’s gonna be a good way for me to proceed into the future.”