Back when the record company was planning its marketing strategy for Sheryl Crow's debut album, "Tuesday Night Music Club," there were several songs that seemed obvious singles. First was "Run, Baby, Run," which Crow thought really showed off her strengths as a songwriter; second in line was "Leaving Las Vegas," which showed how well she could convey character through her work.
One title that never came up, though, was "All I Wanna Do" -- the single that not only garnered Crow her first hit, but which wound up winning the Grammy for Record of the Year.
"It wasn't even a consideration for a single," Crow says with a laugh. "I think everybody just completely overlooked it. And when they came to me and said they wanted to release 'All I Wanna Do,' I said, 'Oh! Why?' I mean, it was kind of a throw-away."
At least, that's what she thought. But her little brother, back home in Missouri, saw things differently. "He said, 'My friends and I love "All I Wanna Do." That's going to be the big single on nTC your record. You should release that first.' I told him they're going to put out 'Run, Baby, Run' first, which I thought was the obvious one, and then 'Leaving Las Vegas.' But he kept saying, 'Oh, you've got to put out "All I Wanna Do." That's the one we always play.'
"Sure enough, he was right," she continues. "I went home at Christmas, and he said, 'You ought to put out "Can't Cry Anymore" next.' I immediately got on the phone, called [the label] and said, 'My little brother says . . .' "
Crow laughs, but having a little brother who can spot hits faster than the people at her record company is hardly the strangest thing that has happened to her since "All I Wanna Do" catapulted her to the top of the charts.
Take the way people have begun to draw conclusions about her personal life based on what she sings. "I read [strange] things about myself in the press," she says. "Like that I'm a party girl with a death wish, or that I throw up after every gig from drinking. I mean, the very first thing that was ever written about me was that I was born in November 1963."
Trouble is, that tidbit comes not from Crow's biography but the opening line to "Run, Baby, Run" -- something the singer finds hard to believe ever got elevated to the level of fact.
"I mean, they're just lyrics, and you don't think about it being taken so literally. But now, two years in a row, in November I'm getting flowers from strangers. My birthday's really in February, so . . ."
How does she deal with that kind of misunderstanding?
"I just kind of laugh about it," she says. "It's flattering that people would get into the lyric and believe it. I guess that means that you are successful conveying the emotion of it."
Crow, by the way, doesn't always feel flattered by the attention she has been getting. There's one aspect of her presumed persona that actively annoys her: The Rock Babe factor.
"I find it extremely irritating that in almost every article that's written about my live show, there is some commentary on what I'm wearing or how I look, or the writer's take on my sensuality, or whatever. One writer wrote an entire article from that angle. It always surprises me a little bit, because I think they miss the point of it. And you don't really read that about men. I don't, at least. I mean, I've never read anything, obviously, about Bob Dylan that way, or even a Tom Petty or a Don Henley."
Crow admits that there are some singers -- male singers, even -- for whom looking or acting sexy is an essential part of the show. "With Lenny Kravitz, with Terence Trent D'Arby, with Madonna, even with someone like Courtney Love, there is more of that persona," she says. "But I find that I'm sort of lacking in a persona, and that's why I find it interesting that people feel the need to write about it."
That's not to say she feels like an anonymous blob up there onstage, of course. But Crow sees her role as having more to do with playing music than visual dazzle or sex appeal.
"I pretty much just play the material and approach everything from being in a band," she says, adding that she began playing guitar specifically so she could have better onstage communication with the other musicians. "I've always been a keyboard player, and I picked up the guitar solely to facilitate leading a band," she says. "It's much easier to lead a band than from behind a Hammond [organ]. But I do find that I'm much more comfortable holding an instrument than just standing there."
CROW'S MUSIC CLUB
To hear selections from Sheryl Crow's "Tuesday Night Music Club," 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 6187 after you hear the greeting.