Lost in the ’70s: Joan Armatrading

Written by Lost in the '70s, Music, Popdose

Can you believe Joan Armatrading has been making music for nearly 40 years? Yeah, me neither. Did you know her first album came out all the way back in 1972? I knew of her mid-’70s output, but until recently, I had never heard of her debut album, 1972’s Whatever’s for Us.

Armatrading got her start in the London repertory for the musical Hair, alongside lyricist Pam Nestor. The duo began collaborating on original pieces and the result was Whatever’s, a definitely singer-songwriter-y work, produced by early Elton John helmer Gus Dudgeon. Dudgeon’s hand, along with a few other Elton sidemen playing on the record, account for Armatrading’s debut having a very Goodbye Yellow Brick Road feel, as evidenced on “City Girl.” (download)

Whatever’s didn’t make much noise on the charts, and while Nestor got her picture and a bio on the sleeve, the lack of notice and sales must have broken the partnership, because from this point forward it was simply the Joan Show. As Armatrading continued recording to varying success, her debut slipped out of print for years, and apart from the title track (download) being featured on a few compilations, it’s basically been an ignored portion of her canon. The album did come back into print a couple of times, for the first time on CD in 1987, and again in a remastered form with bonus tracks in 2002. Both those versions are out of print now, too, and command some collector’s prices — but honestly, unless you’re a hardcore fan, or you’ve got a weakness for ’70s acoustic rock, save your shekels.

No singles from this album charted.

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