“I never heard of Joan Armatrading,” the full-page ad from New York magazine reads, “but she knew me.” In the ad, a woman sits on an oriental rug, headphones off to the side. She sips tea and stares into the eyes of the Joan Armatrading pictured on her third self-titled LP from 1976, the one with her breakthrough songs “Down to Zero” and“Love and Affection.” “I discovered Joan Armatrading,” the ad continues. “An incredible artist who happens to be a woman. She’s been in the places I’ve been, felt the feelings I’ve felt.”
In 1984, there wasn’t that much difference between myself and the woman in the ad with the short Sandy Duncan haircut. I bought Track Record after a series of girls had turned down my offer of being their date to the junior prom. I now know that I first heard Joan Armatrading under ideal laboratory conditions: a rain-filled day, alone in a house, wearing headphones, drinking tea.