Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Great Albums 41: Suzanne Vega (Suzanne Vega, 1985)

It's no surprise that a lot of these albums are from the mid-80s, a period when I was obsessively listening to music and where every spare penny went on buying albums, and a lot of spare minutes on watching music on telly (there was a show on on a Saturday on, I think, Channel 4, which did an Indie Chart Top Ten, which was particulalry good). 

I first heard Suzanne Vega on The Tube, standing all alone on a wee stage, dressed entirely in black, playing a semi-acoustic guitar.  She was doing her new single, 'Marlene on the Wall' and I was, in memory at least, sitting in the rocking horse in my brilliantly pink carpeted, black walled bedroom waiting, as ever, for the Smiths to come on.  So Suzanne Vega came as a bit of a surprise - the song was full of intricate word play, layered over a sweet melody, with Vega constantly glancing off to the side, singing live with no real expression on her face.  You can visibly see her growing in confidence as the song goes on, though - at the end she gives a huge sigh of relief and a smile as the small crowd begins to clap.  It helped that she was cute, obviously, but the song was fantastic, especially in those days when I'd only just heard Joni Mitchell for the first time and was looking for more female singers who sounded like her.

I bought the album next day, and it was in no way a diappointment.  'Marlene' is the most accomplished song on there, but there's not a weak track to be found (and some of the guitar, particularly on songs like 'Small Blue Thing' could have come straight from my other obsession of the time, Billy Bragg) - for this sort of pop folk, it doesn't get much better.

Suzanne Vega on Spotify
Marlene on the Wall on the Tube

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