(note: I don’t wanna come off all professorial here and start handin’ out rock & roll homework assignments, but this blog entry is gonna make a whole lot more sense if you click on this link to read, “Lookin’ Back” on the Elliott Murphy.com website. Thanks in advance, and you won’t be sorry you read it.)
Let me try to be what passes for succinct for Ricki C.: Elliott Murphy is my favorite songwriter of all time in rock & roll. And since I could care less about the times before AND after rock & roll, that makes him my favorite songwriter of all time. (Eat your hearts out Harold Arlen, Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter, Marcus Mumford, et al.) Elliott isn’t necessarily my favorite rock & roll performer, that nod would go to Bruce Springsteen and Pete Townshend (although, in all honesty, Townshend’s live reign lasted only from 1965 to 1973, and he probably hasn’t written a truly great song since “Slit Skirts” in 1982).
But, as usual, I digress……
Elliott Murphy is my favorite rock & roll songwriter of all time.
Murphy started out in 1973 as one of “The New Dylan’s.” For a couple of years, he and Bruce Springsteen were neck & neck for that title, until “Born To Run” rocketed Bruce to the next level and Elliott’s “Drive All Night” faded his career to the rock & roll twilight.
Murphy never stopped playing, though. While Springsteen ascended to arenas & stadiums, Elliott was relegated to smaller venues, playing his music in clubs & bars, and releasing 35 albums to this point in 2016. (I most recently saw him play in Piermont, N.Y. in 2012 and he had a great what I term Elliott-Murphy-one-liner about the situation: "Bruce and I agreed years ago to divide up the venues, he took the 60,000 seat arenas and I chose the 90-seat clubs.") Elliott had been popular in France and on the European Continent from the early 1980’s on, and finally made the almost inevitable move to Paris in 1990. (Another prime Elliott-Murphy-one-liner: “New York was a great city to be young in; Paris is a wonderful city to grow old in.”)
So what is my point here, in this Open Letter to Elliott Murphy? My point is: Yes, Elliott, I am waiting with baited breath here in Columbus, Ohio for your next record. I’m waiting with baited breath because at 63 years old there are precious few rock & roll artists whose next recorded work I await AT ALL, let alone with baited breath. Off the top of my head I would include Ian Hunter, Alejandro Escovedo, and maybe Elvis Costello on that short list. (By the same token, I just got the new The Ties That Bind box set for Christmas from my lovely wife Debbie, but even I didn’t buy High Hopes, Springsteen’s last studio record, and I haven’t paid for a disc by Bob Dylan in years, so there ya go.)
It seems like more & more with each passing year that anybody can be Kanye West, or Miley Cyrus, or Justin Bieber; anybody can be Blake Shelton and/or Gwen Stefani and get their mugs splashed all over People magazine, Extra, Entertainment Tonight or one of the what-seems-like-weekly country music award shows I’m forced to avoid on my T.V. At the same time, as I sit typing this, Colin, Herb, & Biggie (along with Rick Kinsinger) of hometown boys Watershed are driving the 10 hours south to Joe Oestreich’s place in South Carolina to work up new material for upcoming recording sessions. There’s no good, sound reason for them to be doing this. Watershed have a solid body of work behind them: from 1995’s Twister to 2012’s Brick & Mortar, with the tremendous The More It Hurts, The More It Works and The Fifth Of July falling solidly in the middle, it’s a repertoire any sane rock & roll band would be proud of. But they’re driving 10 hours to work up more songs. Why? Because they are rockers, and that’s what rockers do.
Sometime this month Willie Phoenix and his mighty Soul Underground will play at a bar called Eldorado’s for an avid handful of diehard fans. Why? Because they are rockers, and that’s what rockers do. Somewhere this month, in every city & town in America, guys & girls will strap on a guitar or sit behind a drumkit and play their hearts out to strangers who couldn’t give a damn, or to a few people who like them, or both. Why? Because they are rockers, and that’s what rockers do.
An Open Letter to Elliott Murphy: Elliott, please make another record, because that's what rockers do. – Ricki C. / January 6th, 2016
TWO DECADES (OR CENTURIES, FOR THAT MATTER) OF ELLIOTT MURPHY