Both Sides, Together At Last

One of the things we’ve done for family time over the last four months is working on jigsaw puzzles, preferably of the 1000+ piece variety. We have a couple of tables set up in the basement; the smaller of the two often winds up being a base for one of us to work on a specific section of the puzzle after collecting pieces likely to comprise it. You might be able to guess who’s been (self-)appointed to assemble the playlist each time we gather.

Earlier this week I pulled out Kirsty MacColl’s 1991 album Electric Landlady (yes, I know). Kite, her previous release, was my favorite album of 1990 (I still have plans to write about it someday), so any follow-up was bound to be somewhat of a letdown. Consequently, I probably haven’t given Electric Landlady the attention over the years it merits.

Landlady‘s best-known song (deservedly so) is the opening “Walking Down Madison,” but it wasn’t long after I brought the disk home that my attention wandered to the writing credit for the disk’s second track, “All I Ever Wanted.”

Here it is; the single mix is somewhat different from that on the album.

I’ve wondered off and on over the years how Kirsty and Marshall got together to trade thoughts about a tune. Years ago, I found an interview online with Crenshaw that mentioned the collaboration, and yesterday I went looking again. I couldn’t relocate what I’d seen before, but I did come across something from 2008, one of those articles that papers do when an artist is soon to make a local appearance, usually including bits from a phone interview (this one was in The Morning Call, a Lehigh Valley affair). The thrust of the piece concerns Crenshaw’s recent success writing the title song for the movie Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (it nabbed a Golden Globe nomination). But Marshall goes on about a missed opportunity:

Crenshaw’s diligence was motivated partly by the regret he still feels at not trying harder when asked to contribute a song to the winsome 1996 Tom Hanks-directed cult fave “That Thing You Do!”

“I pulled something I had written with Kirsty MacColl off the shelf and sent it in…(t)he song, ‘All I Ever Wanted,’ was a single in England [in 1991]. I wrote the music, she wrote the lyrics. Later, when the film [about an Erie band that scores a hit in 1964] came out and I saw how good it was, I thought, “I could have gotten a song in this movie.”‘

Len Righi (& Marshall Crenshaw), The Morning Call, 1/17/08

I was not surprised at all to learn that Crenshaw’s contribution to “All I Ever Wanted” was the music, but the notion that he hadn’t tried to use the tune himself until That Thing You Do! didn’t sound right to me.

“(We’re Gonna) Shake Up Their Minds” is track 7 on Downtown, Crenshaw’s stellar 1985 album. I’ve been holding back on you, as I’ve actually long been hoping to unearth confirmation for a connection between it and “All I Ever Wanted,” something I sensed almost immediately way back in the summer of 1991.

Hear me out: Steve Lillywhite was married to Kirsty for about a decade beginning in 1984, and he produced Crenshaw’s 1983 album Field Day. It’s not a huge stretch to imagine MacColl hanging around during the Field Day sessions. (I also ran into a message board post yesterday claiming Lillywhite had introduced the two.) KM and MC talk shop some nights, maybe after he’s finished laying down tracks for “Monday Morning Rock” or “All I Know Right Now,” they work on a song together…a couple years later, he fashions some new lyrics for that tune as he sorts out material for his third album.

It’s not that implausible, right? Can you hear what I do?

2 thoughts on “Both Sides, Together At Last”

  1. I spent five years working for that Lehigh Valley affair … alas, Len Righi (a good guy now gone) did not let slip any off-the-record learnings about the Crenshaw-MacColl collaboration.
    Your theory seems perfectly plausible to me; I suspect you are on the right track.

    The best improbable songwriting collaboration story I can remember was told by George Harrison during his late ’80s comeback.
    George, who performed or recorded with a couple of his boyhood heroes around that time, was working in the studio with Duane Eddy. George played him an unfinished bit of music written by Ravi Shankar, which Eddy liked and built into a complete song.
    So the finished song, called “The Trembler,” is (accurately) credited to Duane Eddy-Ravi Shankar.


    1. I wondered if you had a connection to the Morning Call (one reason I made sure to check the byline); sorry about your former colleague’s passing.

      I now have to find “The Trembler.”

      Liked by 1 person

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