Now I’m feeling guilty.
I’d asked Marshall Crenshaw to meet me at Greenwich Village’s Second Hand Rose record shop. Since he was in the city anyway — to play a set that night at downtown’s City Winery — we were going to talk about his upcoming project to release six vinyl singles over the next two years. The prospect of more new Marshall Crenshaw music, so soon after 2009’s critically acclaimed album Jaggedland, seemed noteworthy indeed.
Where better to speak than a vintage vinyl store?
Looking around the narrow, crowded storefront, jazz playing softly in the background, Marshall looks at home – a guy who has spent more than a few hours of his life in record stores. But he insists that he’s got a pile of about 20 new albums he hasn’t even listened to, and today he’s “just browsing” — like most people really do. “Whenever I go into a record store, I always look at the register to see if anybody’s actually paying for anything,” he notes with a grin.
But those floor-to-ceiling shelves, loaded with vintage LPs, are too tempting. Crenshaw’s eclectic tastes draw him to one section after another. He pulls out 101 Strings Play the Blues. He snags a Vladimir Horowitz classical piano sampler, The Sounds of Horowitz. He’s delighted to find a rare early 1970s radio-promo LP by Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band. Deftly sliding the disc out of the sleeve, he tilts it to the light, to inspect the grooves. “Dennis Coffey — he was like the effects guy, on the guitar, at Motown — you know on all those Norman Whitfield records, the fuzztone, wah-wah pedal? That’s him,” Marshall explains, riding a crest of music geek enthusiasm. (Anyone who’s listened to Marshall’s weekly radio show – streamed live Wednesday nights on upstate’s WKZE-FM — knows what a trove of pop music history he stores in his brain.) “I met him last summer for the first time – he and I have the same birthday, November 11.” Clearly he’s found a kindred spirit.
And in no time at all, Marshall’s heading up the narrow stairs – “Now you’re going into the inner sanctum,” quips Gene, the store’s owner – to hit a mother lode of hi-fi studio orchestra easy-listening albums, where he excavates Al Caiola’s 1958 LP Music for Space Squirrels. Another great studio guitarist, from another end of the pop spectrum – it’s all fodder for Crenshaw’s restless musical curiosity, which has so deeply informed his own guitar expertise over the years.