Part of the job of the Music Director at the college radio station during my days as a student was providing brief reviews of all the new releases. These upper left hand were handwritten onto little labels, approximately three inches by half-an-inch, that were then affixed to the upper left corner of the album cover. The limited space necessitated extreme brevity in the reviews (except for a couple of Music Directors I can think of who had remarkably compact handwriting that was also so legible it looked like it was produced by a special typewriter) making it sort of the Twitter equivalent of its day. Actually, 140 characters sounds about right for the reviews. Those of us who were a little sloppier with a pen may not have even had that luxury.
Given that, those of us who got to take a turn or two scratching out those reviews took understandable pride when we came up with an especially pithy condensation of an album’s charms or affronts. In another era, we might have found other avenues for these efforts, but then we settled for affirmation from one another. I’m sure I’m not the only one who praised a certain Music Director’s assessment on R.E.M.’s Green, comprised entirely of the bittersweet shrug “At least something good happened on November 7, 1988…” referencing a particularly dismaying presidential election. (That presidency may look positively Trumanesque in its integrity given the unexpected legacy echo that reared its ugly, empty head a decade or so later, but believe me that it was plainly awful at the time.) That remains one of the only little write-ups I remember verbatim. Another is one of my own, and it only sticks because that self-same individual who conceived the Green review once cited mine as one of his favorites. It was stuck onto, of all things, the Pretty Woman soundtrack, and it read “Maybe you should look for the Married to the Mob soundtrack instead.”
I don’t necessarily think the Married to the Mob soundtrack is some paragon of that odd duck subset of music releases, but it sure is cool. That comes in large part from Jonathan Demme, who cemented his smart music fan status forever by directing the greatest concert film of all time and only compounded it by later championing The Feelies (and directing the music video to one of their finest songs). The soundtrack to his splendid 1988 comedy is diverse, jubilant and marked by his exemplary taste. If nothing else, the release merits special attention for the inclusion of Sinéad O’Connor’s phenomenal “Jump in the River” two years before it landed on her true masterpiece of an album.
Much as I played that song, I think it was a different track that I gravitated to more. After an unimpeachable career as the lead singer of Blondie, during which she became perhaps the consensus pick for most photogenic rock ‘n’ roll performer ever, Debbie Harry had a fairly difficult time building a solo career. Even the peaks register more as guilty pleasures than anything remotely approaching the brilliant pop created by her former band. But I always had a soft spot for those solo efforts, and even found those vocal performances, in the ultimate heresy, sexier that her work with Blondie. So I naturally wound up often spinning her cover of “Liar Liar” by the Castaways. So much great material on the Married to the Mob soundtrack, and yet when I urged DJs to seek it out, this is the song I secretly hoped would cross the airwaves. It may not be the best song on the album, but it’s probably still my favorite.
(Disclaimer: By all indicators, the Married to the Mob soundtrack is out of print, and the sole Deborah Harry “best of” album that my admittedly cursory search turned up doesn’t seem to include the track. I don’t believe the song is available for purchase through a means that will provide due compensation to the artist, the songwriter and the proprietor of your preferred local, independently-owned record store. The song is posted here with that understanding. If I’m contacted by someone with due authority to request its removal, I will rapidly acquiesce. To provide due credit, I should note that I’m in possession of the song in the first place because of the efforts of a blogger whose corner of the Web occupied an awful lot of my time recently. I am indebted. It’s also noticeably pulled from a vinyl copy. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.)