The LP from Drag City / Yoga Records is currently out of print, but can probably still be found at the usual disros for now. The CD from Riverman / Yoga was 24-bit transferred from the original master tapes and you can order it here, or for instant gratification download it out at Other Music Digital, Amazon, or iTunes.
Many thanks to Rich Haupt, John Wyatt, and Jae-Soo Yi, and the many good folks at Drag City, without whom these releases would not have been possible.
"I have to admit that when I first held Eubank in my hands and gazed upon the flimsy, ugly cover I felt dread deep in the pit of my stomach. I played it once and was all like ughhh whatever... but then almost immediately I wanted to play it again... and again..." -- Jeff Hassett, founder of Waxidermy.com
If you want to skip the following commentary and just go download this album (recommended), go to Other Music Digital. Although a great wave of 80s nostalgia has been upon us for nearly ten years now, and is actually giving way to an inevitable 90s revival, the record collecting world has been relatively slow to sift through that decade's private press dividends. There are many reasons for this, but foremost among them is the indisputable fact that popular music was in steep decline since around the time of Watergate, and sucked hard in the 80s.
There's a joke-that's-not-a-joke in the funk and soul collecting world that when you're on the fence about whether or not to buy a record, best to look and see if it's from before 1974 or after. If it's before, buy it; if it's after, it's probably disco. For rock, folk, new wave, punk, and other predominantly white musical forms, 1983 seems to me the last year of a certain golden era. By this time it was clear that the Reagan Revolution was no joke, and that any attempt to celebrate or extend the creative and social ideals of the 60s would be met with indifference or worse. (Paul Slansky's "The Clothes Have No Emperor" is a fun and indispensable guide to understanding what was lost for good during the Reagan years, and is highly recommended for anyone in their 20s wishing to better understand the decade they came from.)
Around this time, after years of decline, there was a brief surge of serious singer-songwriter albums. Of course, Reagan was reelected by a landslide in 1984, winning 49 states, and when you scour the bins these days the chilling effect is clear. At least on record, personal music, the tradition that started with Bob Dylan, or whoever, was over. (It's truly debatable whether or not examination of the thousands of privately-recorded cassettes created in these years will reveal heretofore unknown riches. I'm leaning towards no.) In possibly unrelated news, this is around when they started selling CDs.
So let's rewind back to 1983. Enter Jeff Eubank, who in that year pressed up 500 copies of A Street Called Straight in St. Louis, Missouri.
The first thing you notice when you look at this album is the indistinct jungle and the elegant, anachronistic lettering -- within chaos a bit of order. Flip it over, and one sees a boyish man in a what appears to be a Member's Only jacket, leaning against a brick wall in an alleyway. Immediately this has the makings of, what is called in the collecting world, a 'boner' -- any record, usually by a man, featuring an artist photo reflecting a certain lack of self-awareness which in turn reflects a certain lack of quality in the musical work contained therin. Here are some examples (scans courtesy Dante Carfagna). You can see a mindbending gallery of them here.
Jeff Eubank is not a boner. A cursory read of the lyrics, printed in full in the space surrounding Mr. Eubank, more or less confirms this. They are literate and poetical without giving the reader anything to laugh at. At this point, any smart record digger will pull this particular title. A cursory needle drop may or may not reveal the album's potential. Depending on where the needle lands, it may sound like Crosby, Stills and Nash, or it may sound like the music we have come to know as "yacht rock," the smooth-sailing sounds of Christopher Cross, Hall and Oates, The Doobie Brothers, or Kenny Loggins. In fact, the truth is somewhere in between. There is an undeniably dated aspect to this music, an over-emphasis or over-reliance on being smooth. Eubank's voice is smooth as silk, and there is no attack in his delivery. He appears to be going with the flow. What a relief, then, to get the album home alone, and listen more closely as the conflict and rough edges of this music begins to reveal itself. As with the best yacht rock, there is indeed an undercurrent of conflict in these tunes.
The title of the album is best explained by Eubank. He wrote me the following in an email:
Though I don't consider myself very religious (at least in the sense of organized religion), I do find many stories in the Bible notable. This particular verse ("rise and go to a street called straight" from Acts 9:10-19) finds Ananias being directed to risk harm and perhaps his life to help a man he knows to be dangerous. The implication of the fact that the name of the street was (and is) Straight (like straight and narrow) shouldn't be lost on someone who is reading carefully. As this relates to the lyrics of the song, we all have had to, at some time (or many times), move on in courage and leave the past behind (good or bad). In the case of these lyrics, there is hope: "there is an end to this endless night... after all."
The album doesn't answer the question of what "endless night" Eubank left behind in order to create this addictive piece of art, and it's a question I'll leave for others to attempt to pry from this remarkably cagey artist, whose reluctance to engage in controversy of any sort is best illustrated by a story told to me by his wife Barbara. It seems that they dated for a time, and then were married. Coming out of the courthouse, Barbara read their marriage certificate and said, "look Jeff, they made a mistake and left the "s" off of "Eubanks."
"No," he replied, correcting her for the first time, it's "Eubank."
It seems a lifetime ago that I was writing the music that later became the album. A different lifetime. I was influenced by the groups and individuals I listened to growing up --The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Sam Cooke, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Joni Mitchell, The Moody Blues, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Lawrence Welk, Soupy Sales, The Turtles, Peter and Gordon, Leslie Gore, Leonard Bernstein, The Mills Brothers, The Classics Four, The Kingsmen, Petula Clark, Tom Jones, The Mamas and the Papas, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Association, The Young Rascals, Marvin Gaye, Buffalo Springfield, Sergio Mendez, Johnnie Rivers, Donovan, Bobby Hebb, The Zombies, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Boxtops, The Ventures, Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young), Santana, Aorta, Led Zepplin, Bread, Sly and the Family Stone, America, The Byrds, Traffic, Montovani, King Crimson, The Fifth Dimension, Sonny and Cher, Marianne Faithful, The Platters, The Mystic Moods Orchestra, The Troggs, "early" Elton John, James Taylor, The Doors, Thunderclap Newman, It's A Beautiful Day, Nino Tempo and April Stevens, The Drifters, Alan Sherman, Frank Sanatra, Perry Como, Louis Prima, Bob Dylan, The Guess Who, The Animals, Three Dog Night, Jose Feliciano, Al Stewart, The Doobie Brothers, Booker T. and the MGs, and many, many others.