Chart Week: August 14, 1982
Song: “Someday, Someway” – Marshall Crenshaw
Chart Position: #40, 6th week on the chart. Peaked at #36 for two weeks in August/September.
Some one-hit wonders are easy to explain. There are the accidental hits, songs by unknown artists that get tied to popular movies or TV shows. There are novelty hits that piggyback on some cultural fad and ride its popularity to chart success. And there are the dozens and dozens of artists who capitalize on some musical trend – disco, new wave, etc. – to earn their brief moment of glory.
Others defy explanation, at least to me. These are the artists who make great, timeless music that should seemingly appeal across genres and audiences but can never leverage that brilliance into sustained popularity. To me, Marshall Crenshaw is the ultimate example of these artists.
Crenshaw has been making magical pop music for nearly 40 years now. The ultimate example is “Someday, Someway,” which just barely cracked the Top 40 for a few weeks in the summer of 1982. To me, this is one of the most perfect pop-rock songs ever made. It’s simple and to the point, without a wasted second, yet is also intelligent and extraordinarily well-crafted. That little hint of rockabilly harkens to rock ’n’ roll’s earliest days. It is one of those songs that when I hear it, I want to listen to it again and again.
Crenshaw released at least two more singles that, while not as perfect as “Someday, Someway,” should have still made noise on the charts. “Cynical Girl,” also off his debut, self-titled album, did not hit at all. 1983’s “Whenever You’re On My Mind,” a song so good it makes me dizzy when I listen to it, peaked at #103.
Perhaps that pop perfection is why Crenshaw was not more successful. His music had no rough edges, it wasn’t confrontational, it didn’t cause the listener any distress. It didn’t rail against injustice. It was completely unoffensive music that you can play, feel good while listening to, but can also easily slip into the background. Unless you really lock in and focus on it, you can miss the easy brilliance that filled his songs.
Marshall reminds me a little of one of my all-time favorite artists, Neil Finn. Both were/are absolute geniuses at crafting pop songs that had a touch of rock and a touch of college/indie/alternative to balance their mainstream base.
A lot of folks have no idea who Neil Finn is, but if you mention Crowded House, they will nod their heads. Mention Marshall Crenshaw to most people my age and you’ll get blank stares. The difference is that Crowded House had one massive, unforgettable song that was followed by several minor hits. Crenshaw never had that one big hit, and unless you’ve dug into his albums, you likely have never heard anything beyond “Someday, Someway.”
I would say it is a travesty that Crenshaw didn’t have more pop chart success. Truth is, though, he’s had a pretty good career. He got his start playing John Lennon’s role in Beatlemania. He’s been in movies, including playing his hero Buddy Holly in La Bamba. He’s written music for films, hosted a radio show, has been a guest vocalist for the Smithereens since Pat DiNizio’s death, and still puts out the occasional album and performs a few dozen concerts every year. Not a bad career, to be sure. But it feels like he could have been bigger had the listening public been more open to the music he released in the early ‘80s
Another similarity between Crenshaw and Finn: you can draw direct lines from John Lennon’s music to theirs. Finn has claimed he was approached by the surviving Beatles in the late 80s/early 90s to join them in a Beatles revival tour. ↩