If “Better Back Off” set a tougher tone for Marshall Crenshaw’s 1991 Life’s Too Short album, then then second song, “Don’t Disappear Now,” was the indicator that was going to be the direction that permeated the whole record.
Opening with a long, snaking Crenshaw guitar line over a Lou Reed-y rhythm as set by drummer Kenny Aronoff and bassist Fernando Saunders, “Better Back Off” is the story of a relationship that burnt hard and bright abd begins with one of my favorite opening lines to any song.
“There is a certain appeal to danger and pain”
When she whispered those words, I said
“What’s your name?”
After that steller opening line, in between the guitar riffs and the cowbell, somebody off-mic, probably Crenshaw, but maybe one of the other musicians taken aback by that line, says “yeah.” And at that point, I’m ready to follow this song where ever it wants to go, just like Crenshaw is going to follow the woman in the song, even though all of his common sense was telling him not to.
And for awhile, it turns out to be a very good plan. For awhile, anyways.
So we got into her car
And drove to her place
We didn’t stop making love
For thirty long days
Until the telephone rang
My very soul she did command
All it took was her smile
The wink of her eye
The wave of her hand
What was on the other end of that phone call? Marshall doesn’t know, or if he does, he’s not saying. But whatever it was, it was like a spell was broken. Or at least broken for her. What’s broken for him is his heart.
So just imagine how I’m feeling right now
No word from her again today
Did she follow that dream like a flaming star
I hope she hasn’t gone to stay
I just wish that I could find a way
To make her hear these words somehow
I need you bad
Don’t disappear now
Aronoff double-times halfway through the chorus over a descending guitar line, emphasizing the aching and hopelessness at the center of the wish. You know that Crenshaw knows that she’s gone for good, not matter how many times he repeats “don’t disappear now” for the rest of the song.
For over a quarter-century, I could never figure out if this was my favorite Marshall Crenshaw or if “Better Back Off” was my favorite Marshall Crenshaw song, which is why I knew I wanted to write about of both of them, and while the rest of Life’s Too Short didn’t quite match the one-two punch that opened it, it’s still highly recommended.
“Don’t Disappear Now”
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