I've mentioned here before, and I went on at some length in GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, about how the Pretenders' first album helped get me through 1980 alive, about what a stress-reducer it was for me at the end of what I thought then were some pretty stressful workdays.
I was an idiot about the stress -- I didn't even know what stress WAS, back then. But the Pretenders' album helped de-stress me. It worked every time.
I failed to mention that their follow-up singles were a pretty big deal to me, too.
I'd bought the imported picture-sleeve release of their gorgeous second single "Kid" while making my mind up to buy the album. And as the follow-up imported singles came out after the album, I bought them too: The gorgeous, dreamy "Talk of the Town"; the guitar brashness of "Message of Love," with that loud, trebly, immediate mix that jumped right out of the speakers at me. And Chrissie Hynde's whispery voice from the heavens at the end: "Talk to me, darlin'...."
Then those two singles appeared on EXTENDED PLAY, a stopgap while we all waited for their next album. I don't remember much about the other songs -- "Porcelain" might have been OK; "Cuban Slide" was some kind of dance number; wasn't there a live version of "Brass in Pocket"? Or was that "Precious"?
When the album finally arrived, it was a minor disappointment -- just because it didn't change my life like the first one had. Along with the earlier singles, PRETENDERS II included the gorgeous "Birds of Paradise" and the dreamy "I Go to Sleep," and the hilarious "Pack it Up." "The Adulteress" wasn't bad, neither was "Louie Louie" and "English Roses." But it was a step down from the first album.
Their later classic "Back on the Chain Gang" got me through the last days of Air Force basic training -- and then I heard "My City Was Gone" at journalism school. They still Had It. When LEARNING TO CRAWL finally showed up, it added "Time the Avenger" and "2000 Miles" and maybe "Middle of the Road" to my list of their unforgettables.
I cherry-picked their later stuff: "Don't Get Me Wrong," "Hymn to Her." I'm still doing it, after finally hearing "Human" off their GREATEST HITS -- I resisted it at first, but the verse-lyrics are too good. I don't play "I'll Stand by You" much, but I still find Chrissie's softer side to be pretty great.
Likewise, The Who was a big deal when I was at the record store. My Manager Gary was a HUGE Who fan, and we played all their releases to death -- THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, QUADROPHENIA soundtrack, FACE DANCES, HOOLIGANS best-of. KIDS had some OK oddities and live or rare cuts on it -- I just thought it was a great excuse to crank up "I Can See for Miles." The movie was even better.
I didn't need to be convinced to play the remixed songs on QUADROPHENIA -- I'd loved them since junior high school in late 1973. "Love, Reign O'er Me" and "Bell Boy" rocked my world back then, and I couldn't understand why they weren't bigger hits.
But "5:15" was all new to me, along with "Doctor Jimmy" and "I'm One." We ended up playing the entire album in-store.
FACE DANCES was a half-great comeback. It got played practically 24/7 in the store as soon as Gary pulled it out of the box. I loved the hit "You Better, You Bet" -- but after "The Quiet One" on Side 1, I thought it got kind of thin.
Side 2, though, should have been minted in gold. "How Can You Do it Alone?" was another of Pete Townshend's funny sex-as-physical-torment songs (like the underrated "Dreaming from the Waist" on WHO BY NUMBERS), "Daily Records" was a gorgeous, timeless reel that should have been a hit, "You" was an angry blaster from John Entwistle, and "Another Tricky Day" seemed to sum up the times. Except for the weak last half of Side 1, a triumph.
HOOLIGANS was one of MCA's 9-million Who best-of repackages, a 2-disc set of mostly pretty obvious stuff with a scattering of surprises. I think the high-tech-but-driving overlooked 1972 single "The Relay" might have been included here, but I didn't notice it at the time -- it would make a perfect release today, in these times of omnipresent government surveillance.
Basically, I thought HOOLIGANS was a really good excuse to crank-up a side of greats from WHO'S NEXT ... along with "Who Are You?," "Music Must Change," etc.
...I also failed to note in the book that my Manager Gary wasn't always lurking over my shoulder watching for me to mess up. He was also the first person I ever heard mention what a great memory-trigger the best music can be.
"Nothing else can rekindle a memory for you like music can," I once heard him tell a customer. "It can take you back to where you were, what you were doing, how old you were, where you were at, what you were feeling. And it can do it all instantly. There's nothing else like it to conjure up old memories."
He was right. Kind of a commonplace, now, but he was the first guy I ever heard express it. And I should have included this in my record-store book. But I didn't remember it until this past week.
Naturally, it was a piece of music I heard off the radio a few days ago that brought THIS memory back to me. And naturally, I can't remember what the song was....
97 crazy people took a chance and downloaded my newspaper-career memoir THE CONFESSOR when it was available for free at Amazon.com's Kindle Store a couple of weeks ago. Ghod bless you all, and I hope to hear what some of you thought of it. More giveaways of my e-books will be coming in the future -- I promise to keep you posted.
...I'm 25,000 words into THE GAS NAZI BOOK!, which is coming along MUCH easier and faster than anything else I've tried to write since Christmas. It should be done and available in a few weeks! In it, I promise you'll find WAY MORE unbelievable outrageous stories about dealing with The Public....
My memoir about growing up fast in Idaho, BROTHERS, is cooling off right now, because I'm disappointed with it. It definitely has all the teenage heartbreak and angst I expected, but it Needs Something. Perhaps a phonecall to my step-brother in Michigan -- who I haven't talked to since 1975 -- will help pull it all together. I'll keep you posted.
...And then there's LISTEN TO THIS!: TAD'S GUIDE TO STRANGE MUSIC, which remains on hold while I get this other stuff done. Hey, I gotta write the stuff that WANTS to come out.
...And if all else fails, there's always that Rock Group Novel....