With the release of his first album in 1982, Marshall Crenshaw seemed destined for greatness. Rolling Stone called the self-titled work the year's "most gorgeous singer-songwriter debut." And the Village Voice hailed it as "the most blissfully pure pop-rock album in ages."
But something went wrong. The critics raved, but the public did not buy. "Marshall Crenshaw" never reached higher than No. 50 on the Billboard album chart.
In the 12 years that have passed since, Crenshaw has continued to write music and record albums -- achieving decent if not spectacular commercial success. He's written a book on the history of rock music in the movies, called "Hollywood Rock." And lately, he's been touring. This weekend you can find him performing at Bohager's along with the Connells, Ocean Blue, Lotion, Love Riot and the Greenberry Woods.
It's fitting that Crenshaw is back out on the road, since his latest release is a live album called ". . . my truck is my home." Crenshaw got the idea for the album's name from a hat a friend bought at a truck stop in Holland.
Crenshaw says he has no regrets about how his career has turned out.
"I guess I really only had a shot at mega-stardom when my first album came out," he says via telephone from the offices of his record label, Razor & Tie Music. "But for different reasons it just didn't happen. I pulled away from the music business because I found it daunting. I made the wrong gestures at the wrong times. I never had much of a shot of it after that."
MTV was just emerging when the first album came out, and suddenly making a cool video was important for a musician. But Crenshaw wanted no part of music television. In fact, he didn't want any part of radio either.
"I had a blinding hatred of radio," Crenshaw says bluntly. "If I was touring and there was a radio station that didn't play my music, I didn't make an effort to go out and charm the people."
But times have changed. A more laid back Crenshaw is excited about his new album, and he's working on songs for another album. "I've got about four good songs right now, and about a dozen others I'm working on," he says.
Part of Crenshaw's excitement about his music has to do with him working with small, independent Razor & Tie. Several large labels wanted the live album, but Crenshaw says none of them seemed right. "They [Razor & Tie] were really motivated by genuine enthusiasm, and that's what I liked about them. I didn't want a high-pressure situation. I wanted some fun. This record was for me," he says.
And being who he is, Crenshaw will do exactly what he wants, regardless of the circumstances. "I'm really lucky. I'm in that 1 percent of rock musicians that gets to have some freedom and gets to have some recognition at the same time . . . I'm famous enough. I'm busy enough."
And that's all he says he really needs.
Home in on Crenshaw
To hear excerpts from Marshall Crenshaw's "my truck is my home," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6223 after you hear the greeting.
Fall Music Fest
The 2nd Annual Fall Music Fest, featuring Marshall Crenshaw, the Greenberry Woods, Ocean Blue, the Connells, Love Riot and Lotion
When: Saturday, Oct. 22, noon to 7 p.m. Gates open at 11:30
Where: Bohager's Bar & Grill, 515 S. Eden St., Fells Point.
Tickets: $15 general admission
Call: (410) 563-7220 for information. Call (410) 481-SEAT to charge tickets by phone