Playboy, April 1980

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Readers' Poll


With a few exceptions, it was business as usual across the board, with most of last year's winners right back on top.

In pop/rock. several newcomers turned up in the female-vocalist category — Deborah Harry at number three, Rickie Lee Jones at number five, Nicolette Larson at number eight and Karla Bonoff at number 14. Paul McCartney took over top-composer slot from Billy Joel and Led Zeppelin deposed Steely Dan as the favorite group — both up from number eight last year. Also in the group voting, Supertramp soared to number two from nowhere last year; ditto the Doobie Brothers to number three and Bruce Springsteen to number seven. Other notable new entries were The Cars, Blondie and Dire Straits. Intrusion of New Wave came from Elvis Costello in the male-vocalist and composer categories and Joe Jackson on keyboards.

Linda Ronstadt interview

Jean Vallely


She has sung almost every form of music except, perhaps. hard-core disco — and succeeded. She reaches way back for standards such as "Old Paint" and "I Never Will Marry" and sings them with innocence. She lunges ahead into the risky territory of punk and knocks out a haunting version of Elvis Costello's "Alison." She belts out love songs like "Loose Again" and "Down So Low" with the authority of someone who has seen and done it all. She sings Mexican, Motown, reggae — and the girl can rock 'n' roll. And when she sings a country tune such as "I Can't Help It (if I'm Still in Love with You)," there is no doubt that Ronstadt has something for everyone.

Living in the U.S.A. hit the stores in 1978 with an initial shipment of more than 2,000,000 copies. That album further demonstrated Ronstadt's versatility and growth. She sang the Hammerstein/ Romberg tune "When I Grow Too Old to Dream," covered Smokey Robinson's "Ooo, Baby, Baby." Chuck Berry's "Back in the U.S.A.," as well as Warren Zevon's "Mohammed's Radio" and Elvis Costello's "Alison." By that time, she had appeared on the covers of many major periodicals, from Redbook to Rolling Stone to Time. Her fans couldn't get enough information about her.

PLAYBOY: How does the new album Mad Love, reflect your recent experiences and changes?

RONSTADT: There is almost no overdubbing. This album doesn't follow what seems to be my prescribed pattern: a J.D. Souther song, a Lowell George song. a couple of oldies, kick in the ass and put it out there. In this album. almost all the songs are new. It's much more rock 'n' roll, more raw, more basic.

How did you get the new tunes?

Elvis Costello, who I think is writing the best new stuff around, wrote three of the songs.

What did Costello think of your cover of his song "Alison"?

I've never communicated with him directly, but I heard that someone asked him what he thought and he said he'd never heard it but that he'd be glad to get the money. So I sent him a message. "Send me some more songs, just keep thinking about the money." And he sent me the song "Talking in the Dark," which has not been released here, and I love it. I also recorded "Party Girl" and "Girl Talk."

You also have three songs from Mark Goldenberg. Who's he?

Next to Elvis Costello, he's writing my favorite new rock 'n' roll. He's part of a group called the Cretones. He's great. I don't know how this album will sell. I'm sure I'll be attacked: "Linda's sold out, trying to be trendy, gotten away from her roots." But, well, can't worry about what the critics say.

Before we get to the year 2000, what about the music just ahead — in the Eighties?

The Eighties is a season of change, kind of like the Sixties just before rock 'n' roll exploded. A lot of us are kind of walking around wringing our hands and wondering what the music will be like. The most interesting things seem to be coming out of England again. At least my favorite things: Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Rockpile. L.A. looks like it has dried up as far as ideas are concerned. Right now there is a real vacuum. I keep turning the radio dial a lot.

You feel the changes were positive?

Yeah. The stretch seems completely natural. A lot of the avant-garde stuff isn't the standard form — verse, chorus, verse, chorus. Groups like the Talking Heads are doing real interesting stuff, but for me, I still need a song that works in a verse, chorus, verse, chorus format — like the stuff the Cretones and Elvis Costello do. To adopt a new musical style just for the sake of it is like putting on a chicken suit — it looks ridiculous. At the same time, I wanted to change, yet the the thoughts of changing producer and engineer made me sweaty under the armpits. We had worked together for so long. But we all wanted to flex our musical muscles on this one. It feels good.


Playboy, April 1980

Elvis Costello is voted 19th best Pop / Rock Male Vocalist and 18th best Pop / Rock Composer in the 1980 Readers' Poll (covering 1979).

The Linda Ronstadt interview includes several mentions of EC.


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Page scans.

1980 Playboy Music Poll Results



Pop / Rock

Male Vocalist

  1. Billy Joel
  2. Paul McCartney
  3. Bruce Springsteen
  4. Barry Manilow
  5. Robert Plant
  6. Neil Diamond
  7. Neil Young
  8. Jackson Browne
  9. Jimmy Buffett
  10. Rod Stewart
  11. James Taylor
  12. Kenny Loggins
  13. Mick Jagger
  14. Bob Dylan
  15. Roger Daltrey
  16. Gerry Rafferty
  17. Elton John
  18. Robert Palmer
  19. Elvis Costello
  20. Eddie Money


  1. Paul McCartney
  2. Billy Joel
  3. Bruce Springsteen
  4. Becker/Fagen
  5. Bob Dylan
  6. Neil Young
  7. Stevie Wonder
  8. Frank Zappa
  9. Neil Diamond
  10. Jackson Browne
  11. Bob Seger
  12. Barry Gibb
  13. Ian Anderson
  14. Jimmy Buffett
  15. Michael McDonald
  16. Peter Townshend
  17. James Taylor
  18. Elvis Costello
  19. Kenny Loggins
  20. Karla Bonoff

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Cover and page scan.


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