The Legends of Laurel Canyon
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best
Transfiguration of Vincent
Christmas in the Heart
Glitter and Doom Live
Let It Roll: The Best of George Harrison
Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
Playing for Change
Now, I’m as big a fan of Robyn Hitchcock as anyone. I’ve seen him perform a few times, and I’ve purchased nearly everything that he has recorded. I was fan of his first band, the Soft Boys, and I’ve followed his career ever since. Because of these qualifications, I think I’d be able to assemble a pretty darn good ‘best of’ collection if anyone bothered to ask. Alas, nobody has. So, instead, we’re stuck with this strange little misnamed morsel. It should be understood that anything calling itself “Greatest Hits” ought to consist of at least a hit or two - probably more like four or five, but the only song on this collection that can even begin to lay claim to the description ‘hit’ is his leftfield alternative radio tune, “Balloon Man.” Other than that, it consists of little more than obscure album tracks and the occasional outtake. It’s also pretty darn good, considering its limited scope.
A&M signed Hitchcock in 1988 and held onto to him for five years. This collection is culled entirely from his work during this period. It was not the strongest work of his career, nor was it his worst. During this period, he tooled around with pop song structures and ruminations on existence, a strange mix that he combined with humor and pathos. Bits are exquisite, like his paean to forbidden desire in “So you Think You’re In Love” (“Well you probably are. But you want to be straight about it…”) and “Wax Doll” (containing the most surreal of sexual innuendoes, with “If I were man enough, I’d come on your stump”, repeated twice just to be sure you got it). That’s a tough lot to beat, but Hitchcock’s catologue is too varied to be wrapped inside a five-year bodice. Why is his acoustic version of Bryan Ferry’s “More Than This” a ‘greatest hit’, or his admirable but conventional cover of the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”?
Anything bearing his name and the phrase ‘Greatest Hits’ would naturally have to include “Brenda’s Iron Sledge’ “Acid Bird”, “Queen of Eyes”, “Man With the Lightbulb Head”, “Heaven” and probably a half-dozen others. Record company politics made that illegal, so using the term “Greatest Hits” is as bizarre as some of Hitchcock’s own imagery. Here’s hoping that a label like Rhino Records will one day be able to pull the various parties together and release a Robyn Hitchcock collection that genuinely deserves the title.