Featured Album – Tuesday Night Music Club – Sheryl Crow

The music industry is a funny beast. One day nobody’s ever heard of you and you don’t know whether or not to give up your day job. The next day you have a hot album or single and suddenly you’re everywhere. Thus, Sheryl Crow.

Sheryl Crow is from Missouri, a state that by turns could be considered both Southern and Midwestern. Her parents weren’t professional musicians but did play instruments. Like Chris Isaak who I mentioned in my previous post, she was popular in high school and joined all the right groups.

After college, she worked (appropriately enough) as a music teacher, singing and playing music on nights and weekends. Through a contact, she started singing jingles for commercials. I recall reading that she said she made more money from one advert than in her entire year of teaching music to kids. Thus, the handwriting was on the wall for her teaching vs. playing decision.

She moved to LA and while on a backup date for Johnny Mathis (!), she heard some singers talking about an open audition for Michael Jackson. She got the gig and was one his backup singers on his late ’80’s Bad tour. She routinely did a duet with him and if you think of Sheryl as some latter-day hippie chick, you gotta see this. She goes full-on glam! Check it out here: (1:24)

After that tour, there was some industry interest in her and whether she’d go on to record a Paula Abdul-like dance record. But that wasn’t really her thing as, despite the MJ sojourn, she was much more influenced by the rock and blues of her generation. (I remember once watching a clearly intimidated Crow doing “Midnight Rider” with the Allmans.)

Crow struck out on her own, recording a debut album that she didn’t care for. (“It’s a giant snore,” she says. “You can get it for a hundred bucks on eBay.”)* But by then she had also started writing songs, some of which were covered by Celine Dion and Tina Turner.

Through her then-boyfriend, she joined in an ad hoc group of musicians calling themselves the Tuesday Music Club. After Crow’s arrival, the group began to shift increasingly towards a focus on Sheryl and her songs.

It’s pretty clear on listening to this album that while she could and would sing Michael Jackson-type songs, they were by no means her favored style. This album is rock and pop and in its own way soulful. (It would have been fun if MJ had sung backup on one of the tunes.) She said that she and other female performers of the era (Lauryn Hill, Alanis Morissette) were the “stepchildren of Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde.”

Released in August of 1993, right around the time the so-called grunge dudes were popular (“everybody in bands looked like a roadie,” Crow says), the single “All I Wanna Do” was a smash. It’s actually based on a poem called “Fun” by a writer named Wyn Cooper. Not just based on it but in some cases, used word-for-word. Crow and company came up with the music and chorus, Cooper got full credit for lyrics and made some good money.

Anyway, here’s “All I Wanna Do.” It’s catchy as hell and it’s … fun! Hit it.

Spotify link

That song won the then (old for pop) thirty-year old Crow the 1995 Grammy Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. It was nominated for Song of the Year but lost to some dude named Springsteen for “Streets of Philadelphia.”

Next tune is “Leaving Las Vegas,” which shares a title with the book and movie of the same name. There was some controversy around this tune as to whether or not some of the writers knew the author of the book or whether – as Crow claimed – it was autobiographical.** Either way, it’s a good slinky tune.

Used to be I could drive up to Barstow for the night
Find some cross-road trucker
Demonstrate his might
But these days it seems
Nowhere is far enough away
So I’m leaving Las Vegas today

Spotify link

Last tune I’ll feature is “Strong Enough,” which is the third song on the album. A nice acoustic number whose gentle sound belies its tough interior. Beyonce covered this and Travis Tritt did an answer song called, what else, “Strong Enough To Be Your Man.”

Spotify link

I saw Sheryl open for the Stones on their Steel Wheels tour a few years after this album came out. Good performer. I’m pretty sure she did a song with the boys, either “Honky Tonk Women” or “Live With Me.”

Tuesday Night Music Club is listed as one of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and also ranked at number 94 on the list for the 150 greatest female albums of all time by National Public Radio. 

*OR, just listen to it on YouTube.

**Famously, much acrimony came about in the Tuesday Club as the result of the success of this album. The rest of the guys felt that Crow claimed too much credit for the songs and that they were written more collaboratively than she was letting on. It looks like they made their case successfully as a casual look at the writers’ credits shows no tune singularly credited to Crow. But then again, Crow has gone on to a very successful career. Those guys?

According to Crow, she had asked all of the players to go on the road but they had other gigs. (Nobody expected a smash record.) By the time she had a new band together, they had changed their tune and wanted to be part of her touring band.

But according to Crow, she felt loyal to her new bandmates and in her telling, the resentment was as much this as anything else. But those dudes say she got what she wanted and dumped them. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between.

Sources: Wikipedia, Sheryl Crow interview

 

 

24 thoughts on “Featured Album – Tuesday Night Music Club – Sheryl Crow

  1. Nice choice! Sheryl Crow is a great artist who has a good ear for catchy melodies. She’s written many songs over the years I dig. I also like the fact she’s a real musician!

    From this album, in addition to the three tunes you highlighted, I like “Run, Baby, Run” and “I Shall Believe” in particular.

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  2. An album I’m very fond of (as well as the two that followed it). She’s an interesting lady, is Ms Crow… backing singer for Wacko Jacko!? And I had no idea about the Tuesday Music Club shenanigans. I’m guessing perhaps there’s some lingering bad vibes given things took off for her in a big way and although credited, the focus was rightly on Crow.

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  3. Yeah, I recall this happening at the time. Even when I read about it now, there’s definitely some hard feelings. The guys make it sound like she was just some ambitious chick who used them and dumped them. But she says they weren’t interested in touring. And she kinda blurted out (on David Letterman’s show) that “Leaving Las Vegas” was autobiographical when in fact they said it was co-written. (One of these guys was her boyfriend). But I’ve never heard anyone say Crow is a jerk and she certainly has written songs since. So, I don’t know.

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  4. Nice piece, sir. Don’t see a lot of attention paid to Ms Crow these days but always enjoyed her first trio of albums. I always enjoyed ‘Can’t Cry Anymore’ (bit of a Stones influence on that one) and ‘No One Said It Would Be Easy’ on this one.
    As to how much of this one was down to Crow’s talents vs those of the Music Club… well I think her second album was her strongest and most of that was her alone

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    1. Yeah, in the pop world, relatively speaking, she’s yesterday’s news. Plus she’s had some bouts with breast cancer and then is raising two sons, i think by herself. (Takes them on the road.) So I think that sidelined her as well for a while. As to the Club, yeah, I think there was that bitterness and resentment that creeps in when they don’t establish who wrote what in advance. I’ve seen that in band after band after band once success happens.

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  5. Might be the best album Crow was ever apart of. Years ago I remember reading something that “her then boyfriend” that was a big part of this album ended up killing himself after Crow dumped him and moved on to bigger things. Don’t know if it’s true or not..

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    1. Yeah, he was a part of the album for sure. Unclear that she dumped him or if he was just pissed that she got the credit and he didn’t. But I’ve never heard of any cause and effect to her dumping/his death. In fact his Wikipedia page lists cause of death as, um, autoerotic asphyxiation. So, he had some weird shit goin’ on.

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    1. It’s pretty clear that she’s really the “Tuesday Club” performer and the other thing was just a gig. Hard to turn MJ down I suppose. That was her big break. Generally speaking I like her voice but sometimes she hits the top of her range (“If it makes you happy”) and it’s not pleasant.

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      1. That is exactly the song that gets to me. I’m not a musician and don’t have a great sense of pitch-you have to be pretty off for me to realize it-but particularly on that song she seems flat to me. The singer from the Cranberries always seemed flat to me as well.

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        1. Yea, i dunno if I’d take that as representative. Listen to some of the Tuesday club for example. As to Cranberries, geez, I kinda liked her voice. All I ever heard was that lilting Irish accent. 🙂

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      2. I do like the Cranberries and Delores’ voice actually; should’ve clarified that. And musically she’s probably not flat; there’s just a unique quality in her voice that seems just ever so slightly “off” but isn’t off-putting, if that makes sense.

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