Monday, June 15, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 42)

42. "What Do You Dream Of?"
Artist: Marshall Crenshaw
Year: 1996

Marshall Crenshaw will always be remembered for a stunning self-titled debut and, in my humble opinion, an even better followup. ('Field Day' is probably in my all-time top 10. Voice your displeasure below. I can take it.) Many of us didn't make it much past 1983. I ought to know because, for the longest time, I was one of them. 'Downtown,' in 1985, was the last album I bought as a new release, that is, until 'Miracle of Science' in 1996.

From late '95 through late '96 was a very tough year. You won't find an abundance of songs from 1996 on this list. I was consumed with a trying job in a new city. There were family issues, not the least of which was the shocking death of my father at the same age I am now. I think the way I came about buying this album perfectly illustrates my life at that time. I noticed it while browsing at a Borders, a cold mega retailer of books and music within the confines of a joyless mall. Just the kind of place I couldn't have ever imagined fulfilling my musical needs, but the Mrs. needed something at one of the stores. So, I stole a minute because, well, I could. At that time I didn't know where the indie shops were anyway, and I didn't have a moment for that kind of exploration. This is becoming a real downer. Let's move on to some better news.

I don't know what possessed me to buy it after an absence of more than a decade, but 'Miracle of Science' was a revelation... the kind of album that made me go back and discover all of Crenshaw's music that I had missed. I have no idea where this album ranks with others, but I assume my opinion that it's his third best album (behind the first two) is probably out of sync with most fans. Thing is, there were quite a few songs on 'Miracle of Science' that reminded me of those salad days. Actually, one, "Starless Summer Sky," was a proper recording of a demo from 1979. "Theme From 'Flaregun'" is quite possibly the best instrumental in my entire collection. Album closer "There and Back Again" was another strong contender for this list. The production was sparse, and Crenshaw played most of the instruments, giving the entire album an intimate feel. Ultimately, I chose "What Do You Dream Of?" for its pop sensibility and message. It just sounds like a single. Perhaps you have thought about this while attempting to slumber next to the love of your life. Here are a few of the insightful lyrics:

Just last night when we were in bed
This thought came into my head
I would give anything, girl
If I could steal a look into your secret world

What do you dream of?
Oh, what do you dream of?
I'll never know what really lies
Behind your sleeping eyes

What do you dream of?
Oh, what do you dream of?
Can you leave your worldly cares behind
Or do they rule your mind?

When I see you smile
I've got a reason to smile
Oh, what do you dream of?
I wonder once in a while

I have always imagined Crenshaw jumping up in bed and reaching for his glasses and a scrap of paper to scribble down this idea. 'Miracle of Science' brought me back into the fold, and I have stayed ever since.


The Swede said...

What I know about Marshall Crenshaw can be written on the head of a pin, but, judging by 'What Do You Dream Of', I really should have made his acquaintance a long long time ago. The sound reminds me of Squeeze for some reason, though I'm not quite sure why.
I'm glad that you reconnected with this old favourite of yours in 1996, but sorry that it was during such unhappy circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note to say that I'm really enjoying your countdown. Giving "Miracle of Science" a spin again now. It's been a while. Cheers.

Brian said...

Swede, The first two albums are perfection. I think you would really take to them.

Anonymous, Thanks for taking the time to write. It's nice to have a little encouragement. Hope you enjoyed listening to Miracle of Science again.

McPop said...

Sorry I'm a little behind on your best of the 90's posts. I'm so glad Marshall made the countdown with a song from the underrated 'Miracle of Science' LP! Good timing too because I just got the latest EP 'Grab the Next Train' in the mail. I'm not sure but I believe this may be the last installment of the EP series. I don't know if he plans on more EPs or hopefully a full length album in the future?

On an unrelated note, I just recently purchased and currently listening to the McCarthy CD Box Set on Cherry Red. I had limited familiarity with this band so it's been fun digging into their catalog. Believe it or not I think disc 4 the BBC sessions may be my favorite of the lot! I have you and your blog to thank for first learning that this box set exists. Cheers!

Brian said...

Hey McPop. Thought I might hear from you on this one. I think you're right about Crenshaw's 10" series. I managed to get them all without subscribing. I have my local shop to thank for that. I really enjoyed it. He has said in interviews he prefers the single route to doing albums at this point. So, I think we will get more of that... but maybe not in series form. That's cool that you got McCarthy. It's on my list, but I have much of it already. So, it keeps getting pushed down. Happy to hear it went over well. Keeping an eye out for a date on Lolita Nation. As you have mentioned, Omnivore is doing such a job with the Game Theory reissues.

Brian said...

Oh, and Happy Father's Day to you.