Joan Armatrading: Me Myself I
I got my dream job in 1980: public relations/public affairs director at WRAS, the campus radio station at Georgia State. I coordinated public service announcements and on-air concert and album giveaways. It was an exciting time to be in college radio, as new wave and post-punk and local bands ruled those airwaves. I was born obsessed with music, but my taste was pretty pedestrian when I joined WRAS. I wish I could say I was one of those cool high-school kids who obsessed over The Ramones and Patti Smith and Iggy Pop, but I wasn’t. I listened to Boz Scaggs, Boston, and the Marshall Tucker Band; I even owned a (gasp!) Leo Sayer album. Nothing wrong with them, of course (well, except for Leo Sayer), but I was ready to expand my musical horizons and record collection.
My first three album giveaways changed my music life: The B-52’s Wild Planet, The English Beat’s I Just Can’t Stop It, and Joan Armatrading’s Me Myself I. I got a copy of each record we gave away, and those three opened up my world. I couldn’t stop playing them. They were different than anything I’d heard on WQXI, 96 Rock, or 94 FM. Me Myself I introduced me to singer-songwriters, and Joan Armatrading remains at the top of that genre in my CD closet.
For the seven or eight of you out there who owned LPs, don’t you miss them? I loved everything about them — ripping off the cellophane as soon as I got in the car, soaking up the artwork, studying the liner notes (back when I didn’t need a magnifying glass to read the 3-point type used on CDs), eager to get home and drop the needle in the groove. I enjoyed the hiss just before the first song began, the pops and occasional skips that personalized my albums. I like the convenience of the CD and I’m addicted to MP3s, but I miss the thrill of opening a new LP.
Me Myself I is an empowering album about a personally and sexually confident woman. Every song, every lyric struck my proverbial chord — heartfelt, compassionate, honest tunes about love and friendship and self. This album is more upbeat, cheerier than her previous albums, but not to the point of poppiness.
The title track, the first song on the album, became an anthem for me on the first listen. I’d always enjoyed being alone, and here was a song that declared that love of singleness.
I sit here by myself
And you know I love it
You know I don’t want someone
To come pay a visit
I wanna be by myself
I came in this world alone
Me myself I
Joan let me know that the desire to be alone didn’t mean I was weird.
“Friends” always makes me think of Janice, my best friend in high school — that longing for a friend you haven’t seen in a long time, that remembrance of having to do the breakup dance your friend.
“I Need You” captures that loneliness and sadness of being with someone other than the one you want. Her voice and the strings break my heart.
I’m on my third listen of Me Myself I as I write this. In this world of MP3s and the shuffle option, I rarely listen to an entire album anymore. I’d forgotten how free these ten songs make me feel, how I must sing along with every one, how well this album works. It’s a perfect disc.
The studio musicians on Me Myself I include The World’s Most Dangerous Band: Paul Shaffer on piano, Will Lee on bass, Hiram Bullock on guitar, and Anton Fig on drums. The album was recorded in March 1980, a few months before Letterman’s short-lived, ill-fated morning show and two years before “Late Night.”
I’ve seen Joan Armatrading in concert three or four times. She was touring in 1986, but didn’t have Atlanta on her tour sheet. Creative Loafing, our local alternative paper, started a petition to get her to town. It worked. And it was one of the most stirring shows I’ve seen. Every person in the Roxy really wanted her there. When she stepped on the stage, we stood, cheering and clapping and stomping. And it fed Joan. She stood there on stage and warned us, “Don’t make me cry, now.” Joan’s a tough cookie onstage, so seeing her get emotional sent us higher. Amazing show, one of the best I’ve seen. Sang myself hoarse that night. When she performed “Willow,’ we all threw our arms around each other, swaying and singing from the heart.
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Labels: My Soundtrack