Real Life Rock Top 10 (09/89)

1. Don Henley, The End of the Innocence (Geffen)
THIS ALBUM I really do wish Don Henley would stop addressing all his songs to the same hapless frail Cat Stevens so gently sneered at in “Wild World.” If you listen to the title tune more than once (and if you listen to the radio for more than 10 minutes you will), you might catch just a hint of rape IS SO GOOD or anyway a theft of virginity, in “Offer up your best defense,” even though the line is likely to sound, not mean IT’S RIDICULOUS.

2. Priscilla Harris, in Great Balls of Fire!, Jim McBride (Orion)
I think she’s the one who does the shimmy when Dennis Quaid plays “Whole Lotta Shak­in'” behind the chicken wire—whoever it is, she burns a hole in the screen. On the other hand, the short fat fanny who kicks off the bop, on-camera for about a second, isn’t exactly waiting in line at the bank.

3. Diamonds, “Think About It,” on Lee “Scratch” Perry and Friends’ Open the Gate (Trojan 3-LP box reissue, mid-’70s)
Trojan’s current 30-album-plus reissue series forces you to buy nearly blind, so you keep the records playing until they give up their many ghosts. With a feeling close to any cut on the Melo­dians’ unsurpassed pre-meditation, this is one, a very quiet heartbreaker stepping up to the ineffable on a melody that’s a surprise every time it lifts.

4. Don Henley: “I Will Not Go Quietly,” on The End of the Innocence (Geffen)
The title phrase promises a track as clunky as “Dirty Laundry.” How’s he going to make those stiff words swing? Pump up the volume, rock the house.

5. Gina Arnold, “Fools Rush In” (Express, P.O. Box 3198, Berkeley, CA 94703)
No more appalled or less snotty work on the Who’s $2000-a-seat Tommy revivals has appeared than in Arnold’s weekly column: a few phone calls produced the interesting fact that the shows were announced as “benefits” well before anyone had troubled to figure out who’d get the money. Polling her readers on what concert might be worth such a tab, she got a more or less final answer from Martin Buonochristiani: “the Clash, circa 1977, the Rolling Stones (`before they got bored, say around ’68, ’69’), and Bob Dylan (`before he got born, say 1966…’) all on the same bill and all opening for Robert Johnson.”

6. Gentlemen, “Baby Don’t Go,” on The Golden Groups, Vol. 48 (Relic reissue, 1954)
What sets this otherwise merely fine piece of black vocal music apart is the graceful, deepening blues guitar bridge. Why wasn’t there more of this in doo-wop? It’s too late to know.

7. Don Henley, “How Bad Do You Want It?” on The End of the Innocence (Geffen)
Not bad enough, he says convincingly—she’ll never learn.

8. Rolling Stones, Get Satisfaction… If You Want! Best of BBC Radio Recordings 1963-65 (Swingin’ Pig bootleg CD)
Eighteen shots from the stage and the studio, highlighted by Bo Diddley’s “Cops and Rob­bers,” Buster Brown’s “Fannie May,” and a snatch of ancient interview: “Mick, you’ve achieved so very much on the international scene. What is there left to make you want to go on?”

9. Beijing University, “First Student Protest” (San Francisco Chronicle, July 26)
“In the first known revival of student protests here since the army crushed a pro-democracy movement last month, about 300 Beijing University students gathered Sunday night at a campus courtyard and sang Communist songs… ‘We are forced to endure hours of political study every day, telling us that the soldiers killing our classmates was a glorious victory,’ [one student said]. ‘Sarcasm is our only means of dissent.’ ”

10. Don Henley, “The End of the Innocence” (Gef­fen)
“This titled man that we elected king,” he says, and you can hear how plainly felt the idea was, how carefully he constructed the line, and how contrived it seems. But the way he sings the word “king,” letting it break, is like the way Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash sing the last “remember” in the Nashville Skyline version of “Girl From the North Country,” 20 years gone.

Village Voice, September 1989

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