Sunday, March 13, 2016

Whenever You're on My Mind

For someone whose datebook has entries as far ahead as September, tonight's page was conspicuously blank.

Oh, sure, I knew of a few music shows and there's always comedy on a Saturday night, but nothing I'd committed to to the point of writing it in my book. Apparently I was still open to suggestion.

It arrived via bike on Park Avenue.

Walking back from getting a hot fudge sundae at Bev's in Carytown late this afternoon (if you walk six miles to get it, the calories don't count, right?), I spotted a friend pedaling by and called out his name.

He made an immediate U-turn and stopped to chat. Seems he'd just come from WRIR where Marshall Crenshaw had stopped by in advance of his show at the Tin Pan tonight. I'd forgotten about that show, but the moment he mentioned it, "Whenever You're on My Mind" began playing in my head.

When he asked if I was going to the show, I said something about having seen him already at Ashland Coffee and Tea. He had, too, so he was considering other possibilities. We went over them before going our separate ways, not sure if we'd run into each other again tonight. "I hope so!" he said as he pedaled away.

I think about you and I'm weak though I'm in my prime
Set my watch and still lose the track of time

By the time I got home, the song was still playing and I knew I was going to the show, so I called to procure a ticket (for a bar seat with a primo view, I was told), and get ready.

Sometimes you just need a walk to tell you what to do.

Walking in, I was surprised to see that the restaurant had been reconfigured since my last visit, the patio now the entrance way and the space itself now able to accommodate 200 music lovers.

My seat was indeed an excellent one at the corner of the bar with an unobstructed view, and, just as lucky, there was a guy sitting alone at the next stool. We started chatting almost at once about music.

His first show had been Billy Joel on "The Stranger" tour in '77, he'd seen Springsteen multiple times, including once at Wildwood, the convention hall on the boardwalk, and the Clash four times, including once during the Falklands War, which caused Joe Strummer to do a lot of ranting about the subject between songs.

Now he sees almost all the shows at Tin Pan because his wife owns it, so he regaled me with stories about various shows, including Leon Russell's  where he had to be driven from the tour bus in the parking lot to the venue, mere yards away. Also, he travels with his own grand piano, FYI.

But of course, he's Leon Russell.

We were still gabbing when Marshall Crenshaw walked out and took the stage, starting with a new song and explaining, "I played this at WRIR this afternoon on the wrong guitar and sang it in the wrong key. Everything was wrong. This is a make-up, I hope." It was.

I've been an unabashed fan of Marshall Crenshaw's for 30 years, so I was totally digging watching him in a small room with an adoring audience singing his brilliant songs with lines like, "There's no such thing as being who we were."

Oh, yes, I can attest to that being true.

He did a Buddy Holly cover, natch ("Cryin', Waitin', Hopin") and told us, "Let's see if we can remember this one, and by we, I mean me" and then did a flawless "There She Goes Again," along with another fave from his oldies bag, "Cynical Girl."

Well, I hate TV
There's got to be somebody other than me
Who's ready to write it off immediately
I'm looking for a cynical girl

For a Valentine's Day show last month, he'd unearthed some of his love songs such as "Long, Hard Road," which he said he'd only then learned was his 17-year old son's favorite of all his songs.

When a server brought out a piece of cake with a lit candle, he responded by singing a quick "Happy Birthday" and commenting on what a big piece of cake it was making for one hell of a memory for the birthday girl, I'd say.

Making my night with his next song choice by saying, "I've been staring at the chalkboard over there," pointing behind me, "with one of my song titles on it, so I'm just going to sing it." He was referring to tonight's specialty cocktail, the Mary Ann, a libation of gin, St. Germaine, pomegranate and grapefruit juice, but all I cared about was hearing that perfect pop gem.

Go on and have a laugh
Go have a laugh on me
Go on and have a laugh
At how bad it could be

In honor of George Martin's recent death (and reminding us that without him, there would have been no Beatles such as we know them), he played "I'm Only Sleeping," which he characterized as "Sung from the point of view of a stoned rich person."

And speaking of stoned, he played a newer song for which he wrote the music and Dan Bern wrote the lyrics, but he admitted that upon re-listening to the music, he realized he'd ripped off America's "Horse With No Name," a song he'd first heard while tooling around in his VW Bug smoking hash.

Years later when he met the songwriter, Dewey Bunnel, he found out that he'd written the song stoned, so there was some sort of symmetry there.

The man has such a deep catalog, he could have played all night, but I was just glad he included some of my favorites, including the pointed "Not For Me."

So I know what not to do
Cause I learned that from you
Now I feel sorry for you
And I hope that someday I can thank you

"This song was used a couple years ago in a breakfast cereal commercial in France. I was really happy about that," he says and plays "You're My Favorite Waste of Time" and then cleverly says, "Let's flip the 45 over for a song I wrote under the influence of a couple of chocolate brownies and coffee," and sings "Someday, Some Way," which got the room so amped they began clapping in time, which delighted him ("I like the clapping, that was cool!").

Waving goodbye, he said, "I'll be at the swag table and you can come attempt to have a conversation with me and see how that goes," and headed to the back.

But the crowd kept on clapping until he returned to do three more, including one request, "Stranger and Stranger," before heading to the swag table.

And my chatty seatmate? He told me next time I call for tickets, tell them to put me next to him at the bar so we can talk music some more.

Someday, some way
Someday, some way, yeah now
Someday, some way
Maybe you'll understand me

Doubtful, but maybe. And I will always hate TV.

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