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Remembering Milt Jackson.

Vibraphonist Milt Jackson died from liver cancer. He played with Earl Hine's big band, and Dizzy Gillespie's. He took his style not from another vibraphonist but from Charlie Parker, and was the first bona fide bebop musician on the vibraphone. Jackson also recorded music with Thelonious Monk. And in 1952 he co-founded the Modern Jazz Quartet, pulled from Gillespie's rhythm section, which stayed together for over 20 years. (REBROADCAST from 1983)




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Other segments from the episode on October 12, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 12, 1999: Interview with Rick Whitaker; Review of Marshall Crenshaw's album "Number 447"; Obituary for Milt Jackson.


Date: OCTOBER 12, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101201np.217
Head: "Memoir of Hustling": An Interview with Rick Whitaker
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: From WHYY in Philadelphia, I'm Terry Gross with FRESH AIR.

Rick Whitaker was a prostitute in New York for two years, a period in which he felt wildly alive and nearly dead at the same time. Hustling was hardly his only option. Whitaker has a college degree in philosophy. He's worked in the publishing industry and has served as assistant to the New York City Opera. So why did he do it and how did it change him? We'll talk with him, and he'll read from his new book, "Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling."

Also rock critic Ken Tucker reviews Marshall Crenshaw's new CD, and we remember vibraphonist Milt Jackson, a founding member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. He died Saturday at the age of 76 from liver cancer.

That's all coming up on FRESH AIR.

First the news.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

You learn a lot about sex when you work as a prostitute, but you also learn a lot about human nature and about yourself. Rick Whitaker's new memoir, "Assuming the Position," covers all that territory. He worked as a hustler in New York for nearly three years. The rest of his resume won't fit your expectations of a hustler. He has a degree in philosophy from Hunter College. He's the former managing editor of "The Philosophical Forum," is former assistant to the general director of the New York City Opera and has worked in publishing.

Whitaker moved to New York from Ohio in 1988 and started hustling in '95. Let's start with a reading from his memoir.

RICK WHITAKER, AUTHOR, "ASSUMING THE POSITION": "My dictionary defines prostitution as, quote, `the act or practice of indulging in promiscuous sexual relations, especially for money,' and, quote, `the state of being prostituted, debasement.'

"As an ex-prostitute, I find this definition a little troubling. I had thought it would emphasize money rather than debasement, a word I find outdated almost to the point of meaninglessness. Getting debased is what young women do in Thomas Hardy novels, and Antonio Portia (ph) says `He who remains with himself a great deal becomes debased.'

But though I have sometimes felt anxiety about being and feeling apart from other people, I have not often been reclusive. Though I have isolated myself sometimes, I was never alone for long. It's not that I don't concern myself with my social status and the quality of my character. I do. But hustling, at least at the time I began doing it full-time, seemed more like an effective way to earn money than a spiritual or moral dilemma.

I do not believe prostitution is particularly objectionable or necessarily depressing for everyone. But the truth is there is more to hustling than sex, and writing this book is my attempt to come to terms with what is a more insidious habit and a more complicated psychological situation than I originally believed."

GROSS: That's Rick Whitaker reading from his new memoir, "Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling."

Well, let's start with the basics, Rick. How long did you hustle, and how long ago did you stop?

WHITAKER: Well, I started hustling in 1995, and I stopped hustling at the beginning of 1998.

GROSS: What made you think of hustling as a way to make money, you know, better than, say, being a waiter or working at a publishing company?

WHITAKER: Well, I started hustling for reasons other than simply making money, and it became clear to me very quickly that hustling was a way to make a lot of money, tax-free, fast. And I was writing. I was thinking of myself as a writer, and it was a way to have a lot of free time, which I thought I would use to write.

GROSS: But it sounds like you didn't really use it to write.


WHITAKER: No, I didn't spend much of it writing because I had a drug problem that escalated. And it sort of went hand in hand with hustling. The more money I made hustling, the more drugs I could buy. And it was a sort of trajectory that sort of shot me onto this path of abuse, self-abuse.

GROSS: Now, you say you didn't start hustling to make money, although it turned out to be a good way of making money for you. Why did you start, then? What were the other reasons?

WHITAKER: Well, the boyfriend I had at the time, with whom I was madly in love -- rather neurotically in love, I think -- was leaving me, and I knew that he had hustled a couple of times. And there was just this strange impulse to do this thing that he had done, knowing that he would understand that it was -- that it was painful and difficult and that it was somehow related to him. It was somehow a gesture toward him, a gesture of -- of desperation.

GROSS: Now, you used an agency most of the time...

WHITAKER: Well, I started at this bar, which -- which I was anyway sort of curious to visit because it sounded like a sexy place. And it was.

GROSS: What was sexy about it?

WHITAKER: Well, it was sexy because you walk into this place, and there are people selling sex and people buying sex and people just there who are curious about what's going on. But sex is -- is sort of what is traded there. And when sex is being bought and sold, it's -- it's very sexy.

GROSS: But you didn't stick with that route for long.

WHITAKER: Well, the bar was closed down by our current mayor, and I did discover early on that there were these agencies that made the work much easier and much more lucrative.

GROSS: How did you find an agency?

WHITAKER: Through an ad, an ad, a printed advertisement, which are still everywhere in gay magazines.

GROSS: What were the ground rules they told you when you first went to work for them?

WHITAKER: (laughs) Well, it was -- the interview was quite bizarre, actually. They explained to me that I would not necessarily be required to work when they called, but it would behoove me to go when they asked me to go. And when I did do a job, they explained that I would be required to take their cut of the money directly to them after the job, even if it was in the middle of the night, which I found a little bizarre, but--

But the ground rules, interestingly enough, for a session with a client was simply that I spend an hour of my time with them, which I found very strange for an agent to tell me. He really said -- you know, I said something to the effect, "Well, I'm -- I can't promise that I can," you know, "get an erection on demand." And the agent said, "Well, your job is to spend an hour with the client, and the two of you reach an agreement about what will come to pass in this hour, and that's it. And that -- and you get paid, and you leave."

GROSS: What type of man seemed to use the agency?

WHITAKER: Well, there was a variety, but -- but most of the men are middle-aged guys with a good job, who, you know, make quite a lot of money. They mostly live alone. Some of them are travelers and have families elsewhere. And those are the guys in hotels, who are in New York on business. But mostly it's -- it's homosexual middle-aged guys with enough money to spend a few hundred dollars on an evening for something that, you know, is gone as soon as I walk out the door.

GROSS: What kind of emotional needs did they have that they needed to hire someone, or sexual needs? Were these people who were lonely, who didn't have boyfriends or who maybe weren't out and weren't comfortable with their own homosexuality, so tried to kind of do it in a -- in a more illicit way on the side?

WHITAKER: Well, certainly, all of those things were covered by the variety of men I saw. But I would say the majority of the men were not just horny guys looking for sex. I sort of wished at the time that they had been because it would have been simpler that way because what I ended up being asked to give them was a kind of emotional attachment, however temporary it was. They often wanted a friend, a kind of companion for the -- for the amount of time that we were together.

GROSS: So was...

WHITAKER: Which I found -- which I found difficult.

GROSS: So was part of your job not only to give your clients sexual pleasure, but also to, you know, try to play the part of the smart, interesting, interested good friend?

WHITAKER: Sometimes it was, and especially with regular clients, who -- who came to really like me, and often I liked them. But a lot of the time it was -- the thing that really bothered me about it, finally, was the mendacity of it because they -- they didn't really care who I was. They just wanted me to pretend that I loved them. And that was a real drain on me.

GROSS: What do you mean?

WHITAKER: Well, it's -- you know, you walk into an apartment, and you meet this stranger, and it becomes clear right away that he wants to propagate this fantasy that he -- that he and I are lovers and that we're going to have an intimate moment of sort of sexual, emotional bliss. But that wasn't really what was going on. What was really happening was I was this -- this body prepared to -- to have sex with the guy, and that was it. I wasn't -- you know, I couldn't really care about these people because I didn't know them.

GROSS: Well...

WHITAKER: And I was being paid to be there, and it was all very confusing to me at the time, that they wanted more than just sex.

GROSS: What you found most exhausting about this was the fact that you were lying and putting on a show for them or was it more the sadness underneath all of this, that people who were your clients were so emotionally needy...

WHITAKER: Well, that's some of the...

GROSS: ... that they could be satisfied...

WHITAKER: ... background.

GROSS: ... by this show?

WHITAKER: That's the -- that's -- that was certainly the background that came to be so troubling to me, so upsetting to me. It was that one after another of these guys was in a situation in his life in which he had to pay to have company. And I did find that very sad and -- and disturbing.

GROSS: So you found your clients' position sad and disturbing. What about your own position? Did that leave you sad and depressed, disturbed?

WHITAKER: Actually, no. I -- I -- right until the very end, I considered myself to be living a life that was a lot of fun, and I was doing what I wanted to do.

GROSS: Were you deluding yourself or do you think you were really having fun and doing what you wanted to do?

WHITAKER: Well, I think early on, I really was having a pretty good time. I was making good money, and I wasn't being too damaged because it was -- it was fresh enough, it was -- I was fresh enough to withstand all of this stuff without much damage being done to me. But it's the accumulation of experiences that sort of wears one down, and the fact that I was a drug addict and was sort of killing myself with drugs.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Rick Whitaker. He's the author of the new memoir "Assuming the Position," and it's about the couple of years that he spent as a prostitute in New York City.

Let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Rick Whitaker, and he's written a memoir about his years as a hustler, and it's called "Assuming the Position."

You write that you worked for a number of famous men. Why did they need your services?

WHITAKER: Well, famous men can't really go to a gay bar and pick somebody up the way unknown people can do. You know, they're easily recognized, and I think they find it convenient to be able to just call someone on the phone and have that person come over to their apartment, and they don't even have to leave the house.

GROSS: Are they worried about being outed or being blackmailed?

WHITAKER: They don't seem to be. They don't -- I mean, I think that they -- for one thing, I mean, most hustlers aren't exactly the most credible people in the world, you know? I mean, just because some hustler says a guy is gay doesn't -- (laughs) doesn't really matter much to them, I'm sure.

GROSS: When you were hired by a famous man, did the famous man want you to recognize him, or did he usually prefer at least have the illusion of anonymity?

WHITAKER: I don't really know. It seemed very obvious to me that he would be recognizable.

GROSS: That famous?



WHITAKER: Plus, the agent would tell me ahead of time who it was, and he must have known that the agent would do that.

GROSS: Right. You know, you've talked about how the pay was pretty good. What was the pay? What would you make for a typical hour session when you were with the agency?

WHITAKER: Well, I never worked for less than $150 an hour. The rate when I worked for an agency was $250 an hour, and the agency would get $100 of it.

GROSS: And did that seem -- I mean, I don't know how many clients you could see in a day, but...

WHITAKER: Well, I tended only to see one most days because I just -- I didn't want to get worn out. (laughs) I just -- I really wanted to have -- have fun more than -- more than work. And I really did it most of the time for the money, so that I could have fun with the money.

GROSS: I'm sure you had a lot of information about safe sex by the time you became a hustler. How careful were you about protecting yourself and protecting your client?

WHITAKER: Well, I knew -- and I've always kept careful track -- that I was HIV-negative. I've always been tested twice or three times a year. So I didn't have to worry much about protecting the clients. I worried much more about protecting myself, which actually wasn't very difficult, just because of the nature of the sex. I know what safe sex is, and that's what I had with clients. Practicing safe sex was much more of a challenge to me elsewhere than with clients, at times.

GROSS: In your personal sexual life.

WHITAKER: Exactly. Because at the time, the -- I was just living a life of a lot -- having a lot of promiscuous sex, and not all of it was safe.

GROSS: Help me out here because that's something I've never really understood, why somebody would risk their life for good sex -- you know, why you would take that chance and have unprotected sex.

WHITAKER: Well, I think I would only have done it, or I only did do it under the influence of chemicals and things like that. Lots of drugs.

GROSS: Where things like health and death...

WHITAKER: Crystal meth.

GROSS: ... don't seem to matter that much because you're not -- you're not thinking practically, under the influence.

WHITAKER: Exactly. Exactly. You're not -- you're not thinking of it as risking your life. You're thinking of it as having good sex, going a little crazy.

GROSS: So you remained HIV-negative during that period?

WHITAKER: Yes. I still am, thank God.

GROSS: Yeah. That's really lucky.


GROSS: I'm wondering about how being a hustler affected your desire for sex or your tastes in sex. I mean, it sounds like a lot of the experiences were fairly depressing. Did that make you want to have more sex, or did it leave you feeling kind of depressed about sexuality?

WHITAKER: Well, it sort of went up and down. It was -- it changed a lot. There were times when I -- when I felt that I didn't really need any sex because I was -- I got paid for sex, and I didn't really need to do it for free. But that was really, obviously, a delusion. And most of the time, while I was working as a hustler, I was just living a kind of life that involved a lot of sex. But it was mostly driven by drugs and habit. It was mostly not good sex, as I would think of good sex now.

GROSS: You describe it in your book as having been addicted to sex, yet I wonder if some of the experiences you have and some of what you observed during your years of hustling made you ever think that there was, like, an absurd aspect to sex.

WHITAKER: Definitely!


WHITAKER: Especially with certain clients, who were, I guess, perverse, to use a kind of old-fashioned word. It just seemed absurd that they needed to work so hard and to keep going at such lengths to pursue this thing that they -- it was -- it was kind of hopeless, you know, to -- it was just not going to happen. It was -- it was not possible for us to have anything like good sex together, but they would just pursue it madly, sometimes.

GROSS: And did some of your clients tastes and needs and demands seem absurd to you, too, games that they wanted to play, things they'd want you to say?

WHITAKER: Well, it wasn't very often that a client would surprise me. I understand why someone would want a kind of sex that is unusual. I understand what it is to need to be, say, treated roughly. That makes sense to me. I understand it. What my experience was as a hustler often was being humiliated by some of these things that they wanted me to participate in because I didn't need that kind of sex, they did. But because I was being paid by them, my job at the time was to cooperate, and that finally was really humiliating.

GROSS: Rick Whitaker is the author of "Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling." He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.



I'm Terry Gross, back with Rick Whitaker. His new memoir, "Assuming the Position," is about the nearly three years that he worked as a hustler in New York. Whitaker has a B.A. in philosophy. He's worked in publishing and is the former assistant to the director of the New York City Opera.

But for one period of his life, hustling was the quick way to make money, money he needed to support his drug habit.

Why did you give up hustling in 1998?

RICK WHITAKER, "ASSUMING THE POSITION": Well, things had just come to a real head for me at that time, because I was really addicted to drugs and addicted to promiscuous sex, and I was an alcoholic. And I just -- I couldn't even get through a single night without being high and drunk and having sex with a stranger.

And I found myself one night home on a, you know, Monday night, having done all the drugs I had with no prospects for work any time soon, and I was broke. And I just got very sad and was close to being prepared to kill myself.

GROSS: But instead you did what?

WHITAKER: Instead, I called a suicide hotline at 4:30 in the morning, and some very nice man got me on the phone and said, you know, "What's the problem?" (laughs) And I tried to tell him what the problems were. And he said, "Well, it sounds like you have a lot of problems." He said, "I think it's going to be a real challenge for you to get out of this situation, but I'm sure you can do it. And the first thing I think you need to do is just go to sleep and get up tomorrow and take some steps toward getting out of this quandary."

GROSS: Was that good advice?

WHITAKER: It was what I needed to hear at the time, and in fact, I do think it was good advice. I needed to hear somebody say, you know, Take a step in the right direction. You know, I didn't -- what I didn't need was for someone to say, Well, you know, you're in a real bad situation, and (INAUDIBLE)...

GROSS: And it's your own fault, and...

WHITAKER: And it's your -- you know, Why did you do this? And, you know, I just needed to hear somebody say, you know, One step at a time, and get back on track, and go to sleep tonight. And I just needed to cry, you know, I just needed to have somebody with me in some sense, even if it was just on the phone, with whom I could just cry and not feel that I had to hurry.

GROSS: So what was the first step that you took afterwards?

WHITAKER: Well, shortly after that phone call, I was with a good friend for dinner and told him that I was having a real problem with drugs. And he called a facility where they have counselors, and he sent me over to see this counselor. And so I went to see this drug counselor, and I only saw him once. But what he said to me was very important to me.

He said, he said, "Well, what's your problem?" He seemed very unimpressed by me. He said, "What's the problem?" And I said, "Well, I take crystal meth two or three times a day and I can't stop, and I'm an alcoholic, and I can't get through a single day, let alone a single night, without being totally wasted."

And he said, "Well, what's your drug of choice?" And I said, "Crystal meth." And he said, "Well, it sounds like maybe it's not working for you any more." And I said, "Well, that's right, it's not." And that's really all I needed to hear. I just needed to realize that this thing that I had been relying on so much was not doing the job it used to do.

GROSS: So what's the point in continuing?

WHITAKER: Exactly. I just had to stop, which is what I did.

GROSS: And that kind of rational understanding that it wasn't working helped you stop? Because sometimes rational thought doesn't really help.

WHITAKER: Well, the other thing I needed to do was to relax, because I was very anxious, and, you know, I was a drug addict, and I needed to figure out a way to get through a night, one day at a time, as they say, without a drug. So I started -- I had studied yoga in the past, and so I started again to practice yoga, and I got involved with a meditation group. And these things helped enormously at the time, because I just needed to take deep breaths and relax my body so that my mind could relax.

GROSS: And how -- once you got over the hump of stopping drugs and drinking, and you were able to resume some sort of normal life again, how did you start thinking differently about what you were going to do to make a living?

WHITAKER: Well, I had had some experience with conventional jobs, and I had a prospect for a job. There was a possibility for a job that I had sort of been pursuing. And I sort of pressed them, and, you know, I just made it clear that I was interested in beginning work for them. And they hired me. And that was a very lucky break. I needed that job.

GROSS: What was the position?

WHITAKER: It was as an assistant to the general director of New York City Opera.

GROSS: Did they know that you had hustled?

WHITAKER: Not at the time.

GROSS: What was their reaction when they...

WHITAKER: I didn't think it was any of their business at the time. (laughs)

GROSS: What was their reaction when they did find out, like when you started writing the book, or when the book was published?

WHITAKER: Well, the book is actually dedicated to the general director of New York City Opera, Paul Kellogg, who at -- who now is one of my best friends, and he's been completely understanding, and he actually seems to really love my book. And he's quite amazing.

Of course there was some scandal at the company, and there were company people who came round to not speaking to me at all. I don't know why, particularly, but generally speaking, I think the City Opera was very understanding and supportive.

GROSS: You're no longer with them. Was -- did you jump, or were you pushed? (laughs)

WHITAKER: No, I jumped, I wasn't pushed. I was working for Paul in Cooperstown at Glimmerglass Opera this summer, as I have last summer. And I suddenly, as the summer was going on, I suddenly realized that I loved being up there, away from New York City. And I started wondering if I might actually move up there, which is what I've done.

GROSS: So you're living in the country.

WHITAKER: I live in the country, and I'm happy as a lark.

GROSS: Good.

Well, you have a job now in the country in upstate New York, or at least north of New York City, working for a children's home, a home for children who have -- who are mentally retarded, is that right?

WHITAKER: Yes, that's right.

GROSS: I'm wondering if you're getting any heat in that job because of this memoir.

WHITAKER: I'm not sure they're fully aware of this memoir. (laughs) Although they probably will be after this radio program. (laughs)

I think they seem to like me, and I like them, and I love my job, and I think I do it well, and I don't see why my past should have any bearing on my present job.

I love kids and I love doing what I am asked to do at this job, which is to try and make the lives of these children more comfortable and happier.

GROSS: You write in your memoir that you think that your hustling has something to do with the relationship that you had with your father, or the lack of a relationship that you had with your father. You say, "Perhaps what I really wanted was to settle the score with my father, who doesn't speak to me. I like the idea that my behavior might represent some kind of revenge against my father, even if he never finds out about it."

What's the score that you wanted to settle?

WHITAKER: Well, my father abandoned me, and I for a long time resented that. And maybe I still do. But there is a kind of score to settle in the sense that he's my father, and he's responsible, I think, for some aspect of my well-being, because he brought me into the world, he was one of the two people that is responsible for me.

And he has neglected me, and that has hurt me, a lot. And I don't understand it, and I don't like it. I've written to him recently and had no response. So I guess there's a kind of mean streak or some part of me that thinks, Well -- Not that I got into hustling for these reasons, but it's kind of satisfying somehow to know that this man who seems to -- seems unable to accept the fact that I'm gay...

I was doing something at that time -- when I was hustling that was, I think, pretty intimately related to him, because it was about -- it was at least partly about seeking the approval of a man around my father's age. There was that aspect. I was a good hustler, in the sense that I wanted him to like me, and I wanted him to approve of me as a person, as a young man, as a man who could be his son in terms of age.

And for me, that can represent a kind of revenge against my dad because he's been so irresponsible.

GROSS: Do you think that this memoir's going to haunt you in any way? Because some people will be very moralistic about the fact that you were a hustler, and that might limit the type of people who want to associate with you or who want to hire you in a job or whatever. Are you concerned about that at all?

WHITAKER: I have been concerned about it, but I'm not very much concerned about it now, because people have proven to be incredibly supportive. I mean, the most amazing variety of people have read the book and admired the book, and I've encountered almost no resistance to the book, amazingly enough. Even my mother knows what the book is about, and she doesn't seem to have much problem with it.

GROSS: It sounds like she hasn't read it, though, right?

WHITAKER: She hasn't read it, and I've asked her not to. (laughs)

GROSS: (laughs) Why did you ask her not to?


GROSS: She doesn't have to know all of it, is that it?

WHITAKER: There are too many details in it for her, I think. I mean, she -- you know, when I told her I was gay about 15 years ago or something, she said, "Well, be careful not to get AIDS, and don't give me all the details." (laughs) And there are a lot of details in the book.

GROSS: Rick Whitaker, thank you very much for talking with us.

WHITAKER: Thank you very much.

GROSS: Rick Whitaker is the author of "Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling."

Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews Marshall Crenshaw's new CD.

This is FRESH AIR.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Rick Whitaker
High: Author Rick Whitaker has written a new memoir about the two years he spent as a male prostitute in New York City: "Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling." At that time Whitaker also was writing a novel, addicted to drugs, and indulging in his love of highbrow culture. Whitaker is a graduate of Hunter College, with a degree in philosophy.
Spec: Lifestyles; Sexuality; Literature

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: "Memoir of Hustling": An Interview with Rick Whitaker

Date: OCTOBER 13, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101202NP.217
Head: "Number 447": A Review
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:40

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

GROSS: Marshall Crenshaw has just released his eighth album, which is called "Number 447." Crenshaw began his career playing John Lennon in the Broadway hit "Beatlemania" and portrayed Buddy Holly in the movie "La Bamba." Known for his encyclopedia knowledge of rock, he's starting a biweekly column on the Web site about rock and roll movies.

Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of "Number 447."


KEN TUCKER, ROCK CRITIC: Marshall Crenshaw has been mining the same rock and roll mother lode of guitar chord progressions and lyric themes since his 1982 debut. But unlike most musicians who stay in the same groove, he hasn't run out of variations or inspiration. If anything, he's an inspiration to us all, demonstrating the way you can sustain an artistic career by turning obsession into healthy nourishment.


TUCKER: That's pretty classic Marshall Crenshaw, doing a song called "TMD," which stands for "Truly Madly Deeply." It's a good example of the way he can take a cliche and turn it into an expression that's explosive with dreams, hopes, and emotion, which, now that I think about it, could be an alternate title for the song.

But there are also tracks on this CD that I think are going to alienate fans of classic Crenshaw. In a couple of places, he experiments with straightforward instrumentals, as on the rather sentimental "Edie's Tune."


TUCKER: There's a precedent for what Crenshaw is doing on this new CD. It's his 1993 album, "Field Day," in which he employed the producer Steve Lilywhite (ph) to boost his sonic power with layered instrumentation and vocals and to generally bring what's considered Marshall's retro sound up to date. The album bombed.

It took me a while of listening, but I came to love "Field Day" because its songs were as strong as any he had written, and he really committed to the sound he was gambling on.

The same is true of the material on "Number 447," such as the Latin-inflected "Dime a Dozen Guy."


TUCKER: In the end, this is Marshall Crenshaw for the millennium, which means a summation of all his strengths and quirks and remarkably few weaknesses. He may not sell many records, but as far as I'm concerned, his CDs are money in the bank.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for "Entertainment Weekly."


GROSS: Coming up, we remember vibraphonist Milt Jackson. He died Saturday.

This is FRESH AIR.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Ken Tucker
High: Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews Marshall Crenshaw's eighth album, "Number 447."
Spec: Music Industry; Marshall Crenshaw; Entertainment

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: "Number 447": A Review
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