Song of the Week – When Things Go Wrong, Robin Lane & the Chartbusters


Today’s SotW is “When Things Go Wrong” from the eponymous debut album by Robin Lane & the Chartbusters.

Although this album didn’t come out until 1980, Lane already had an established pedigree in the music business. The daughter of Ken Lane (Dean Martin’s pianist on The Dean Martin Show) and wife (for a couple of years) to The Police’s lead guitarist Andy Summers, Lane performed folk rock around LA in the late 60s and early 70s. She caught the attention of Neil Young who brought her in to contribute that haunting harmony vocal on “Round & Round (It Won’t Be Long)” from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.

Somewhere around the mid/late 70s Lane moved to the east coast and ended up in Cambridge, MA where she hooked up with the Chartbusters — Asa Brebner and Leroy Radcliffe (who had been with Jonathan Richman and the post “Roadrunner” Modern Lovers), Scott Baerenwald and Tim Jackson.

With the Chartbusters she played a brand of harder rock that often led to comparisons with Pat Benatar and Heart. But she always seemed to me to be closer to Chrissie Hynde.

I saw them perform live in Boston a few times and remember that their three guitar attack was exhilarating.

When their album came out, I remember being very confused by the cover art. It didn’t seem to fit the band I had seen live. Warner Brothers seemed to try to soften their street cred by putting her in spandex (Pat Benatar again) and a stupid stripped sweater. I read an interview with Brebner and he seemed to agree.

“I still cringe at that album cover, which I think largely sunk us as a candy-ass major label contrivance to those uninitiated to our music. The music itself was watered down enough so it could not overcome that basically cosmetic impression that the casual record store [browser] would garner on seeing it in the bins. It didn’t represent us, and I felt cheated.”

Lane & the Chartbusters went on to put out a fine 5 song, live EP and a second album, Imitation Life (1981), but they never garnered the acclaim that they deserved. Damn that album cover!

In 2014 her drummer bandmate Tim Jackson, produced, directed and premiered a film called When Things Go Wrong – Robin Lane’s Story that documented her work. Hopefully it will receive a general release sometime soon.

Enjoy… until next week.

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