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Song of the day – 401: Elvis Costello & The Attractions

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Elvis Costello - Vincent Vanoli

One more in my series for my friend Vincent Vanoli‘s forthcoming book. (You can find a blog entry about the series here.)

The caption above literally (Google) translates as, “It is safe to marry a professional career”.

My friend Stephen Sweet had a massive signed cardboard poster of Elvis Costello in his Finsbury Park flat. He swore by him. My friend Craig Montgomery had several Elvis Costello CDs in the basement of his Seattle house. He swore by him, reckons Costello was one of the few ways out of the mainstream in the U.S. back then, as way out as even Devo – the term ‘devo’ was used as a term of abuse towards weird-looking American kids. I’ve seen Elvis Costello perform on several occasions: once memorably during a trip to LA to interview Metallica, where he was playing with Burt Bacharach and we sang drunkenly and lustily and (what must have been) incredibly annoyingly along with every song we knew (and that was a fair few): once memorably in Brighton when Charlotte was pregnant with Isaac and Costello was in blistering, belligerent form, tore apart my preconceptions of rock stars when they get older: once memorably in Brisbane where he was mellow and solo and … supine isn’t the right word … charming, but still found time to entirely rework ‘Watching The Detectives’. But the song that’s here today I loved mainly because it reached #2 in the U.K. charts (my people represent!), for its glorious melody and for the packaging …

Armed Forces was packaged so brilliantly. All those flaps you unfolded, and the profusion of colours, and the printing on the inside of the sleeve to ‘Accidents Will Happen’, and the bonus single …

Elvis Costello is one of those singers whose work I return to constantly, particularly the first eight or nine albums (up to King Of America), and in recent years I’ve even taken to listening to later work. Love the original demos, just adore the first two LPs (particularly for the sound quality and the sarcasm), used to reckon Get Happy!! was just about one the greatest records ever (still do, some days), can’t stop myself from listening to all the reissued outtakes … I always thought Stephen and Craig were a little over-the-top in their appreciation of him (I mean, damn, he’s released a lot of shit as well: unlike that other overtly prolific male artist Tom Waits, he seems to have little quality control) but, really, I have to admit …

No. Damn it. I won’t.

Excuse me. Just away to listen to Get Happy!! again. Now, where’s my version with the 30 extra tracks?

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