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Blondie’s exciting first flip side discussed by Hayley Cain of Hayley and the Crushers

Hayley and the Crushers’ new album “Modern Adult Kicks” on Josie Cotton’s Kitten Robot Records is reminiscent of early Blondie

Blondie and other music on vinyl and CD at the Goldmine shop

From Kitten Robot Records on translucent blue raspberry vinyl, CD and digital formats, photo order: top Action Ben Cabrena, bottom left Hayley Crusher Cain, bottom right Dr. Cain ESQ

From Kitten Robot Records on translucent blue raspberry vinyl, CD and digital formats, photo order: top Action Ben Cabrena, bottom left Hayley Crusher Cain, bottom right Dr. Cain ESQ

Hayley and the Crushers are comprised of Hayley Crusher Cain on guitar and vocals, her husband Dr. Cain ESQ on bass and Action Ben Cabrena on drums.

GOLDMINE: Welcome to Goldmine and congratulations on your fun new album which looks so good on colored vinyl. Since many of the songs remind me of early Blondie, let’s start there. In the mid-1970s my friend Mark and I saw Blondie in Cleveland at The Agora, our main rock club, after their debut album had been released. They were opening for Iggy Pop who had a rumored special guest of David Bowie as his keyboardist, so the place was sold out. It was a great show and we got to meet Blondie too before Iggy and Bowie entered the stage. Mark was playing pool with the guys while I was talking with Deborah Harry, thanking her for the show. I knew most of the songs as I had gone to a punk rock record store to pick up their debut album and I loved it, beginning with the opening song “X Offender.”

HAYLEY CAIN: I feel that Blondie hav been omnipresent in my life and for many females in rock. I came to hearing Blondie with songs like “Call Me” on the radio and through my mom who in the late 1970s was in New York, so she had punk and new wave records lying around the house. I read Debbie Harry’s beautiful memoir Face It and I thank her for all she went through with not that many prototypes for her to latch onto back when she was starting out. I heard the big Blondie hits first. With an early artifact like Blondie’s “X Offender,” it shows that Debbie Harry was an already fully formed creature with beauty, power and fun. I draw from Debbie Harry as an amazing inspiration. “X Offender” is a dark subject that sounds so fun, so that definitely sounds like Crushers territory. 

GM: The flip side of the “X Offender” single was also from the first side of Blondie’s debut album, the fun “In the Sun.”

HC: I think there is something both fun and dangerous about bringing back these squeaky clean ideals. The way that Debbie screams “Surf’s up!” is an aggressive opening but then she sings about a pineapple sky. I love how she put the oldies radio vibe of the 1960s into this 1970s punk sound. That contrast is something that I also like to play with.

Hayley Blondie flip side

Blondie

Fabulous Flip Side: In the Sun

A side: X Offender

Released: June 1976

Private Stock PS 45,097

GM: When I heard your new song “Cul-de-sac,” with its early Blondie sound, I knew it would be a great fit for this series. I lived in a cul-de-sac, which we thought was a peaceful choice for a street with kids on bicycles. You philosophically sing, “You tell him cul-de-sac is French for dead end” which is something I didn’t know.

HC: In a general term, it does mean that. Dr. Cain and I wrote that when we were living on a cul-de-sac in San Luis Obispo, California. During the lockdown we had been dreaming about touring. He sold his comic book store, which he had for ten years, so that we could buy a van and tour. Right after we bought the van, everything shut down. Although the lyrics are heavily influenced by Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, it does also harken back to that time of feeling trapped and having our dreams taken away, with the clock ticking as we are not spring chickens. There is a bit of darkness and brightness mixed in this song. 

GM: If you think about the Crushers now, Josie Cotton in the 1980s, and Deborah Harry in the 1970s, in all of these cases, I feel it has given me another chance to hear new music that reminds me of the 1960s when I was very young and discovering pop and rock music. I think Paul Roesser’s production on your album helps to bring out that sound too.

HC: Yes, I think his keyboard lines bring such huge strengths to these songs.

GM: The next three songs after “Cul-de-sac” continue with that early Blondie sound. On “She Drives,” who is doing the male harmony vocal?

HC: That is Paul. On this album I feel that we were trying to capture the Phil Spector Wall of Sound style. Dr. Cain added a glockenspiel on that song and his bass comes through nicely, too. The resonant repeating drums at the end feel boundless like you are running towards a sunset. It was really Dr. Cain hitting the metal desk in our office. He recorded that, sampled it, and sent it to Paul. The mad scientist creation between Paul and Dr. Cain was kind of crazy. I wanted this song to sound like an old radio song you might have heard in the 1960s and even the 1980s that are iconic, large and unafraid to be sunny. If you listen to the lyrics, I wrote it about a friend whose marriage was deteriorating and a theme that you can’t run away from your problems, but sometimes it just feels good to try.

GM: With “Broken Window,” what is the broken window theory?

HC: It is a culturally controversial idea, that if there is a community with broken windows it means that other crimes may be in that area which led to a surge of stop and frisk and profiling, which is not good. The song is about codependency and is a cry for help and wondering if you are seeing the signs of a downfall and a crack in the façade.

GM: Side one of the vinyl version of the album ends with “I Fall.” I love the nostalgic imagery of the couplet: “Keep thinking about the night we met, the songs you played for me on that old cassette.”

HC: How about that? It is a couplet! You know your poetry! When Dr. Cain gave me his lyrics, I added that section. I am pleased on how it turned out to be so relatable. I don’t know where I pulled that from, but I know there is a touch of Blondie in all of these songs. It is about someone wanting to be in love again and feeling that need.

GM: In the 1970s, The Carpenters had a single called “I Need to Be in Love” on AM radio that I enjoyed so much, a softer song, but the message was certainly similar. Now let’s go back to 1980. You mentioned Blondie’s “Call Me” from that year. A month before that song entered the Top 40, I heard another song from the same record label as Blondie at that time, Pat Benatar’s debut of “Heartbreaker,” on my car radio during my lunch hour. I remember coming home that evening and telling my wife Donna, “I think someone new is out Blondie-ing Blondie.” Your album begins with “Taboo,” and I not only hear Pat Benatar in your delivery but also a touch of another 1980s singer, Martha Davis from The Motels on some of the notes that you hold with exaggeration which adds emphasis.

HC: I appreciate that. It delightful to hear your perspective on this. I love how both Debbie Harry and Pat Benatar can be so domineering in their deliveries.

GM: The album is filled with originals except “No Substitute,” originally done by The Shivvers.

HC: Yes. They were a Milwaukee power-pop band from the late 1970s and early 1980s with 1960s influences. “Teen Line” was their most popular song but “No Substitute” comes close to that in popularity for Shivvers fans. That was an instance where I didn’t think that I could hit those notes, so I talked with Jill Kossoris from The Shivvers about doing the song and she told me, “There are so many young ladies who try singing this song. They think it is going to be easy, but it is not.” She gave me her blessing and said, “Let’s see what happens.” When she heard our version, she was very complimentary about it, which was a really good feeling. 

GM: Action Ben’s drums really come through on the final track, “Overexposed.”

HC: He is amazing. He got into a skateboarding accident in the middle of recording this album. Considering that, we were so impressed that he brought his agility, athleticism, precision and enthusiasm to the table while he was dealing with a very intense knee injury. I am glad you hear him in this song. He so much a part of this album. Without Action Ben the album wouldn’t have a backbone. Dr. Cain and I are songwriters, and we certainly need rock stars to bring our songs to life.

GM: You have concerts coming up soon in California. Where is San Pedro?

HC: That is in the Los Angeles area, a port city across the Vincent Thomas bridge from Long Beach. It a working class city with a long history with punk rock and is almost like the edge of the world. We like playing there. The venue, The Sardine, also doubles as the headquarters for Recess Records owned by Todd C. from the band Toys That Kill. It is a little club in an interesting coastal borough of Los Angeles. I’m glad I could teach you that. You have such a wide breadth of musical knowledge and are such a keen listener. It is so refreshing and really fun for me to talk with you. Thank you so much for having me be a part of your Goldmine weekly series. I am excited to be part of this legacy with so many fun artists who you have interviewed. 

Hayley vinyl

Related Links:

hayleyandthecrushers.com

kittenrobot.com/releases

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