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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > John Eddie

MUSIC REVIEWS

John Eddie-Who the Hell is John Eddie? (Lost Highway)

In the early to mid 80s, Philadelphia had possibly the best untapped music scene in the country.  It started out with The A's wondrous single "A Woman's Got the Power," which sold like hotcakes in the Liberty City, but it never quite caught on nationally.  They were followed up by Robert Hazard & the Heroes, who sold hundreds of thousands of local copies of a self-titled, self-recorded EP, but when the EP was remixed and released nationally (just as Robert Hazard) the hits "Escalator of Life" and "Change Reaction" barely caused a blip, though Hazard made a mint when Cyndi Lauper covered one of his old singles called "Girls Just Want To Have Fun."  The Vels also barely charted with "Look My Way" and Separate Checks didn't even come close to charting with a fun punky cover of "To Sir With Love."  Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers had two minor hits with "I'm Not Your Man" and "If We Never Meet Again" even though Rolling Stone did a big story on the band calling it one of two bands to watch become huge (the other band was Jane's Addiction.)  Occasional bands would take off for a little while; the Hooters, Pretty Poison, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Cinderella... but they all ended up back in the bars eventually. 

Another big cog of that scene was John Eddie.  Eddie and his band The Front Street Runners took the scene by storm with a huge local hit with a bratty rock track called "Jungle Boy."  When Eddie was signed up to Columbia, the song became a minor national hit in 1986, but the follow-up single "Stranded" and second album disappeared without a trace.  Eddie moved from Columbia to Elektra and recorded two more albums that were never released, in fact the only evidence of his Elektra years released was a cover of the Cure's "In Between Days" on a label anniversary tribute album called Rubaiyat.  One thing that Eddie has always had going for him is a very famous fan.  As Eddie gravitated back to the bar scene, Bruce Springsteen regularly showed up at and joined in on Eddie's gigs at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park and other area clubs. 

Now after almost a decade out of the public eye, adventurous roots label Lost Highway gave Eddie another chance, and boy does he live up to it.  The strutting leather kid of "Jungle Boy" is long gone, in his place is a fortyish guy who's lived through the bar battles and come out all the stronger.  His music has more of a country feel than before, but he has put together a terrific set of story songs that let you know why the Boss is such a fan.  The retro folk-rock vibe of "Jesus Is Coming" marries a Chris Isaak retro-Sun Studios tune to a wonderfully nuanced lyric of life's losers.  He also hits hard on the acoustic sort-of-love-song "Let Me Down Hard." 

The years of bar band playing show up in the marvelously realistic and surprisingly touching lament "Play Some Skynyrd," which portrays the dangers of doing original material in some Jersey bars.  His rocking "Low Life" shows an ability to examine repugnant characters on a par of Randy Newman circa Sail Away, and the tune really rocks.  "Forty" is a hilarious rant against old age, with the hysterically cranky line "I guess I'm fucking forty, that's what my mamma said; but Bruce Springsteen's fucking 53 and the Stones are almost dead."  "Shithole Bar" is a touching look at a the life of a little girl who grows into a loveless relationship before finally breaking free.  These lyrics have the resonance of a short story and the musicianship is stellar.  I'm glad that John Eddie is getting another chance.  But I'm even more glad that this album is fully worth the shot.  (6/03)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 12, 2003.

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Copyright 2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 12, 2003.