Sunday, August 16, 2009

Willy DeVille 1950-2009... Teardrops Must Fall

Born of the New York class of ’77 punk scene, Mink DeVille stood apart from other CBGB acts by taking their cues from such varied influences as 50’s soul, New Orleans funk and Cajun music, rockabilly and especially gut-bucket rhythm and blues. They had filtered out the dissonance of what would become punk rock and created a rock and soul hybrid that seamlessly blended Ben E King’s Spanish Harlem, Van Morrison’s Gallic soul and the New York arrogance of the Velvet Underground. In short, they sounded like on else around.

They were bad-ass and sentimental, they were hard and tender, and in Willy DeVille they had one of rock’s all-time great frontmen, whose passionate, unmatched gritty delivery and shamanistic stage presence made them a riveting, not-to-be-missed live act. Their albums were full of lilting acoustic guitars and street corner castanets, fluttery accordions and subtle strings, stinging electric guitars and miles of attitude. The first time I saw them was at New York’s Palladium in 1978 in the middle of a bill featuring headliner Elvis Costello and The Attractions and show opener Rockpile. I won’t tell you Mink DeVille was the best of those three, but it was a photo finish. I saw them seven other times and they were never less than transcendent, even on Valentine’s Day 1986 when my sister and I forsake our gigging musician significant others to drive snow-blind in a raging blizzard to see the band at Asbury Park’s legendary Stone Pony. The police cleared the bar two songs into the show as they announced a “bomb threat” which turned out a back-taxes raid. Willy never missed a beat and even replayed show opener “This Must Be The Night”. Wotta night!

Willy DeVille is one of those artists (like Peter Case and Roddy Frame) that I never gave up on even when his records became harder and harder to find, many never even given a proper U.S. release. He was my little secret. His biggest brush with the mainstream in America were the critical acclaim and publicity that surrounded the first two Mink DeVille records, Cabretta and Return to Magenta. His best known song is most likely “Storybook Love” from the sublime The Princess Bride (I’ll spare you 800 words on why that’s the greatest movie ever made), which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1987 but lost to the goopy Dirty Dancing mutt, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”. (inconceivable!)

I feel the best way to remember Willy DeVille is to share his music. Enjoy!

Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl (from Cabretta - 1977)
Just Your Friends (from Return to Magenta - 1978)
Just to Walk That Little Girl Home (from Le Chat Bleu (live)- 1980)
This Must Be The Night (from Le Chat Bleu - 1980)
Love Me Like You Did Before (from Coup de Grace - 1981)
Each Word's A Beat of My Heart (from Where Angels Fear to Tread - 1983)
I Must Be Dreaming (from The Sportin' Life)
Storybook Love (from Miracle - 1987)
Key to My Heart (from Victory Mixture - 1990)
Even When I Sleep (from Backstreets of Desire - 1994)
No Such Pain As Love (from Loup Garou - 1996)
My Forever Came Today (from Crow Jane Alley - 2004)
When I Get Home (from Pistola - 2008)
Spanish Harlem (from Live in Berlin - 2003)


Anonymous said...

Great selection of DeVille tunes, covering his whole career. Thanks.

Unknown said...

1986? Geez, we are old....great write up! I was surprised at how sad I was when I heard this news...