DEFENDING MY LIFE ONE ALBUM AT A TIME (#100 Rachel Sweet)

Introduction to the series:

Big doings here: My life in a hundred albums. No limits on what an “album” is as long as it’s a self-contained statement. Vinyl or CD. LP or (possibly) EP. Box set, large or small. 2, 3 or 4-record sets. Comps, Live, Various Artists. The only qualification necessary is it has to have been a big part of my life at some point and to still hold up.

That being the criteria means it will only consist of music I actually listen to. That means heavy on Rock and Roll, Country, early Jazz, post-war Blues, Reggae and Pop, with heavy emphasis on the Age of Rock and Roll America which stretched precisely from the day Fats Domino’s left hand, a piano and a recording mike first came together in the same room to the day Kurt Cobain blew his brains out . I don’t anticipate any Hip-Hop being included (though a few were considered). Punk either, though I’m still considering London Calling (which aficionados don’t consider Punk anyway). I also won’t limit the number of entries an artist can have. It’s my life. If I prefer defending it with a lot of Al Green and Patty Loveless, well, so be it.

That said, I promise there will be music representing every decade from the 1920’s through the 2000’s.

The rankings won’t mean much outside the top twenty or so. Beyond that they’ve been arranged to tell a story, partly mine, partly American Music’s, partly America’s period. I’m confidentĀ  that if I did this again in five years–or twenty–the albums would remain largely (though of course not entirely) the same.

Why such a list and why now?

Good question. The concept’s been brewing in my head for a while. It got a kick from Rolling Stone’s latest “greatest ever” list which ran to 500 and, in the usual manner of such lists, only more so, seemed to manage the impossible task of being at once paltry, obvious and arbitrary. I’ll try to do better than that. Feel free to let me know how I’m doing.

#100: Rachel Sweet Fool Around (1978–Stiff/Columbia)

Info: 11 Tracks.

My copy: Vinyl

When I acquired it: Early 80’s, by osmosis (a process all record collectors understand).

Why I acquired it: Aw, look at that cover, the face that launched a thousand Pop Tarts.

Other rankings: Christgau’s Consumer Guide B+

She was sixteen. The marketing made her look twelve. For the record itself, Stiff’s Liam Sternberg assembled a crack band and threw the history of rock and roll at her: Stax soul, Del Shannon (by was of the British Invasion), Elvis Costello, Dusty Springfield, a weird, country-ish item called “Wildwood Saloon” (where you shouldn’t go drinking–I told you to pay attention to that face).

She threw it all back without blinking. I didn’t catch her in the moment but even years later it seemed like we must have dreamed her up out of equal parts Tanya Tucker (to whom she bore an uncanny vocal resemblance) and Nabokov. The first true rock and roll Lolita.

It was all a bit of a sham. She’d been an ice-cold Show Biz pro from the age of three. Straight out of Akron, her first big gig was touring with Mickey Rooney.

To the heart–this heart anyway–it’s never mattered. It melts when the needle drops on any of her four excellent LPs but especially this one. Stardom eluded her, somewhat mysteriously. Her version of “Shadows of the Night” (from her third LP…and Then He Kissed Me) preceded the mighty Pat Benetar’s hit…and wasted it. The Show Biz Kid had the rare gift of singing from inside a song, the gift that can’t be taught. She was out of the music business by 1984, just in time to watch Tiffany’s management copy her mall-kid persona and touring schedule and ride it to the big-time. After that, the Pop Tarts began raining down like hard-candy hailstones and didn’t stop until the culture had been beaten to the field of bloody pulp that surrounds us still.

Rachel did fine. She moved on to TV, made a fortune writing and producing (Dharma and Greg and George Lopez among many others), and eventually bought Madonna’s house, which she later sold for a cool 4.8 million.

I wonder, though, if she sometimes lies awake nights and wonders, like so many of us who know none of her successors can hold her coat, what might have been?

Next Up: Dave Dudley

5 thoughts on “DEFENDING MY LIFE ONE ALBUM AT A TIME (#100 Rachel Sweet)

  1. WOW.
    I’m really looking forward to THIS project!
    Great idea, Johnny (and high anticipation, including re: stuff to listen to that I haven’t heard)!
    Chris

    • Hey Chris keep the good vibes coming and spread the word! I’m excited about this myself….I’m wavering between “album-by-album” and “one album at a time.” Let me know if you like one better!

  2. Very cool #100–All I really know of her, I’m sorry to say, is Cuckoo Clock, a a new wavy power pop track I’m cranking as I type.

  3. I am the bearer of bad news: On February 9, 2021, John Ross passed away. I do not have any details as to the cause of death. I have published a tribute to John here: https://www.elvis-atouchofgold.com/john-walker-ross/

    I will post this comment on a few more of John’s recent articles here on The Round Place In The Middle but please pass the information on to his other readers in whatever manner you can . . .

  4. You are indeed saddled with the chore of bearing bad news. And this is the worst fucking news I’ve heard in a very long time.
    You wrote a great tribute to him, Neal. He’d be happy with it.
    I’m going to clock out, take a lunch break for the rest of the day, go home, listen to some of John’s favorite records, and read the myriad of articles from his web log that I’ve printed out over the years for my own enjoyment and edification.
    Thank you, Johnny. Thank you for breathing life back into so many beloved songs I thought I already knew well.
    And you were right.
    You were not disposable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.