Marshall Crenshaw - vocals, guitar; Robert Crenshaw - vocals, drums; Chris Donato - bass; Tom Tealey - lead guitar
After graduating from his role as John Lennon in the touring cast of Beatlemania!, Marshall Crenshaw, armed with a stack of four-track demos, landed an indie deal with Shake It Records, who promptly issued a much-talked about single called "Something's Gonna Happen." That song led to a 1982 signing with Warner Brothers and a debut album that broke out with the hit "Some Day Some How." This show, recorded in Asbury Park, NJ, was staged by Crenshaw to promote his third Warner's LP, Downtown. Although Crenshaw never attained enough commercial fame to make him a big star, he did build a very loyal following, with his concise, power-pop songs and Beatles-esque vocal arrangements.
By the time this recording was made, Crenshaw was already establishing himself as a competent songwriter. As with his contemporary John Hiatt, Crenshaw found himself writing and recording his own songs, but found greater success when his material was covered by other established artists. In addition to appearing on his own records, Crenshaw's material has been covered by Robert Gordon, Marti Jones, Kelly Willis, the Gin Blossoms and Bette Midler.
This show, captured at the legendary Stone Pony club, where a young Bruce Springsteen got his start, is an energy packed performance that was originally broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour. "Yvonne," "There She Goes Again" and "One More Reason" open the show, and give Crenshaw a broad launch pad for the rest of the performance. Crenshaw is one of those artists that likes to put the audience at ease early on in his set, and this show is no exception. Cracking jokes but staying well tempered and demure, Crenshaw leaps into the poppy, infectious McCartney-inspired mid-tempo rocker, "The Distance Between You And Me." "Blues Is King" is up next, and the chords over the verse are not unlike the feel of the Fab Four's "Paperback Writer." Despite the implication of its name, this song is a far cry from the blues.
Ben Vaughn's "I'm Sorry, (But So Is Brenda Lee)" is a cow-punk rocker that sounds a little out of place with the rest of Crenshaw's set, but is a great song nonetheless; Crenshaw does it so well, moreover, that it makes an admirable addition. A notable highlight of this show is a killer version of the old Jackie Wilson rock 'n' roll classic "Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want To Meet)."
Although Crenshaw has continued to write, record and tour, he was never able to break out of the showcase club circuit - a blessing to his devout fans who enjoy seeing Crenshaw in an intimate setting like this one. In addition to his musical career, Crenshaw has appeared as an actor in a number of TV shows and films. He played Buddy Holly in the classic Richie Valens biopic, La Bamba, and also appeared in the Kathleen Turner breakthrough film Peggy Sue Got Married. In addition, he has written a book on the history of rock 'n' roll films, and published articles about vintage guitars. The music's where it all started, though, and this recording offers Crenshaw at his very best.