I went with some friends from work to a restaurant in Sandy Springs, Georgia back in May of 1989 where 96 Rock was sponsoring a trivia contest. Our team won and we got a bunch of radio station swag and cassettes of the new album by a band I’d never heard of, Concrete Blonde. I have been a fan ever since that night.
Concrete Blonde is singer-songwriter/bassist Johnette Napolitano, guitarist James Mankey, drummer Michael Murphy, and bassist Alan Bloch. The addition of Bloch for the “Free” album gave Johnette more freedom to concentrate on her singing. There were three singles released from their second album “Free”.
“God is a Bullet” is the opening number and reached #15 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. It is a catchy, hard-rocking anti-gun song. The song’s music video was directed by Jane Simpson. It achieved breakout rotation on MTV but received later resistance. The European single has “Free” as the B-side. The US 12″ single has a B-side of “Free” and “Little Wing”.
This country has seen too many John Wayne movies. We were rehearsing one day and someone shot all the windows out of my car. Another day I was driving down the street to park it and I saw someone pull a gun on a guy. I had to keep on driving with my head under the dash hoping that he wouldn’t come after me because I saw him do it. You hear guns going off all the time. We’ve become used to it in L.A. which means it’s out of hand.Johnette Napolitano
The second single, and one of my all-time favorites by the band, was “Happy Birthday”. Napolitano is writing about spending the night of her own 30th birthday at home alone but making it not sad but a poppy, catchy, hummable tune. The European single has “Run, Run, Run” as the B-side.
- “God Is a Bullet” – James Mankey, Napolitano 4:23
- “Run Run Run” – Napolitano 4:00
- “It’s Only Money” – Phil Lynott 2:45
- “Help Me” – Napolitano 2:42
- “Sun” – Napolitano 2:36
- “Roses Grow” – Napolitano 3:15
- “Scene of a Perfect Crime” – Napolitano 4:42
- “Happy Birthday” – Napolitano 2:22
- “Little Conversations” – Napolitano 2:48
- “Carry Me Away” – Napolitano 3:42
“Scene Of A Perfect Crime” is the last and third single released from “Free”. It was released as a promo cd-single in a custom picture sleeve with tour dates included. I also really like “Roses Grow”, “It’s Only Money”, “Sun”, and “Little Conversations”.
The “Free” Tracks
The MTV Videos
- Alternative Airplay (formerly known as Modern Rock Tracks (1988–2009) and Alternative Songs (2009–2020)) is a music chart in the United States that has appeared in Billboard magazine since September 10, 1988. It ranks the 40 most-played songs on alternative and modern rock radio stations. Introduced as Modern Rock Tracks, the chart served as a companion to the Mainstream Rock chart (then called Album Rock Tracks), and its creation was prompted by the explosion of alternative music on American radio in the late 1980s.
- Jane Simpson directed MTVNVideos like Chaka Khan: I Feel for You and Electric Light Orchestra: Calling America.
- “Little Wing” is a song written by Jimi Hendrix and recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967. It is a slower tempo, rhythm, and blues-inspired ballad featuring Hendrix’s vocal and guitar with recording studio effects accompanied by bass, drums, and glockenspiel. Lyrically, it is one of several of his songs that reference an idealized feminine or guardian angel-like figure. Concrete Blonde’s cover is great.