Today’s Top 5: A “Mad Love” Milieu

As I said in a recent post, the first Linda Ronstadt album I added to my collection was Mad Love, which I picked up within a few weeks of its February 1980 release. What led me to buy it – no clue. The likely reason, however: radio. “How Do I Make You,” the Billy Steinberg-penned lead single, features a drum-roll intro, upbeat melody and brash vocals. What wasn’t to like?

I was 14, and deep into the discovery of all things pop and rock ’n’ roll. Buying an album, however, was a Big Deal, a major expense; five bucks a week, i.e. my allowance, only went so far. Nowadays, YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music make music discovery an OnDemand activity. Back then? There wasn’t even MTV. Aside from friends, old-fashioned radio was the lone source for hearing new (and new-to-you) songs and artists. It took patience and discipline. You saved, and you often weighed one potential purchase against the other.

For research purposes, plus enjoyment, I flipped between WIFI-92, which featured a Top 40 format, and WMMR and WYSP, both rock-oriented; all three rested near one another on the FM dial (92.5, 93.3 and 94.1, respectively), so it took a simple twist of the wrist to change stations. On occasion, I tuned up the dial to 102.1FM, WIOQ, but the softer singer-songwriter sounds I heard there were, to my young ears, wimpy. (The irony, of course, is that within a few years I’d become much more of a singer-songwriter guy.)

Oh – there was The Midnight Special on NBC, too. It followed The Tonight Show most Fridays. I sometimes caught The Kenny Everett Video Show, a syndicated offering from the U.K., and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, as well, but odd time slots often kept me from them. Saturday Night Live, of course, spotlighted one act per week, but if you didn’t like the act – well, there was always “Weekend Update.”

Back to the point: Mad Love was billed as Linda’s entry into New Wave. She cut her hair and spiced-up her sound, especially on “How Do I Make You” and three compositions each from Elvis Costello and Mark Goldenberg of the Cretones. She also covered tunes by the Hollies, Little Anthony & the Imperials and Neil Young – yep, a New Wave album with non-New Wave material. Similar, in a sense, to Back to the Egg, the Paul McCartney & Wings LP from the previous spring that also sported some New Wave stylings.

The old guard was embracing (some might say “co-opting”) the new yet, for me, it mattered not. I liked “How Do I Make You” enough to buy the LP; and thought Mad Love as a whole was great. Thirty-five years later, I think it’s good. A strong outing. Not five-star caliber, but one that’s well worth picking up. It’s home to some of Linda’s finest songs and vocals.

So, without further adieu, today’s second Top 5, A Mad Love Milieu.

1) “Mad Love” –

2) “I Can’t Let Go” –

3) “Hurt So Bad” –

4) “Look Out for My Love” –

5) “Cost of Love” –

And this, the best of the Costello covers –

6) “Girls Talk” –

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