One more handful of 45s from the Christopher Arnott basement stash. Perhaps the finest random assortment of this whole ongoing series.
Huey Lewis & The News, Four Chords and Several Years Ago
The best trick in my journalistic repertoire is to take whoever I’m writing about seriously. I interviewed big rock lug Huey Lewis in 1994, a fallow period when he was rich, still recording new records, but had lost relevance. I suspected unplumbed depths in this ‘80s pop hitmaker, and let him ramble. Our long discussion covered his favorite makes of harmonica, his frame of mind while songwriting, and what he did in the mid-‘70s while his band Clover was in the studio backing Elvis Costello on My Aim is True—went sightseeing around Europe, since he wasn’t needed on the sessions.
There was no hope that such a long, sensitive interview, with a pop star clearly on his way down, would ever see print in its entirety. But what did make the paper must have pleased someone, since this snazzy promo package arrived in the mail a week or two after the article ran—and after Huey Lewis & The News had already played town. It’s one of the coolest CD packages ever: an album of ‘60s covers masquerading as one of those stiff cardboard “books” of 45 singles, complete with metal screws in the binding and a faded-looking orange and brown cover. The various 7-inch sleeves contain a CD, liner notes, and an actual 45rpm vinyl record, of Some Kind of Wonderful backed with Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. The market for Huey Lewis collectibles has never been strong, but this item is the exception. I just checked a few places, and it’ll set you back around 30 bucks.
The Furors, I Went Out at Night/Over You in Seconds. A 1981 single from the idiosyncratic New Haven pop duo, back when they were still a trio. The label is immaculately designed to resemble a ‘50s rock record—bright yellow, with “Sunsessional records” emblazoned on it, alongside images of all three bandmates.
Blast 3: The Maker of the Sound by K. R. Campbell. When Black Sparrow Press released their own third issue of Blast, continuing the monolithic art/lit journal beyond the two issues released by Wyndham Lewis during the First World War, they enclosed this single. I’d discovered Lewis and his British Futurist beliefs long before, independently and also through another cultural obsession of mine, Marshall McLuhan, who did his own updating of Blast through the journal Counterblast. I can’t remember ever playing this single—as much as I was enthralled by the very concept of a Blast 3, I also feared that it overacademicize or otherwise misinterpret the stridently accessible Lewis.
Smack Tan Blue, Jenni Lee/Heroin for Breakfast. My allegiance to Willie Alexander, “godfather of Boston rock,” is total, as this bit of ephemera would suggest. Alexander produced and is credited with “additional vocals” on this single issued through the Arf! Arf! label run by frequent Willie Alexander collaborator Erik Lindgren. The band is negligible. I bought it for Willie Alexander’s name on the sleeve.
Janice Harper, “Cry Me a River.” On a train en route to Boston in the late 1980s, I was able to tune in a community jazz station on my Walkman for a few minutes and heard a wispy, eerie, deeply haunting version of “Cry Me a River.” I’ve been trying to track down that version for decades. After hearing me describe it, a record-store clerk once even convinced me to buy an Enya record. This is not it (nor was that horrible Enya album). In fact, it’s a peppy, brassy, showtuney, version that makes the title seems like a hyperbolic joke rather than the trenchant torchsong most singers make of it. (There are big band versions of Hoagy Carmichael’s heartbreaking self-denial song “I Get Along Without You Very Well” which are equally spectacularly misguided.)