Ten Fingerprints On My Imagination

31 10 2016
elvisme

EC, and some bald guy…

I’m always eager to offer opinions on my likes or dislikes in any conversation about music. If you are familiar with me at all, you know that I willing and ready to offer opinions on everything!

My range of musical preferences is wide. I’m a rock guy, especially the 80’s… but I like a lot of different genres from classical to some jazz to oldies to… whatever! But I do draw the line at country music… ugh.

But if asked about my favorite artist, the sun rises and sets on Elvis Costello.

I first heard his music in 1979 when my friend’s sister played the “This Year’s Model” cassette in her car, and I’ve been hooked ever since. No artist speaks to me with a clearer voice. I’ve purchased every record, and have searched and downloaded dozens of rare and live performances over the years. I have seen him live about thirty times, and met him in person at a book signing last year. THAT was a great night…

I love his music and songs, but not every one of them. I don’t think it possible to like everything someone produces over such a long career. I always say that while Elvis has taken his fans on a very varied musical journey for close to forty years, he’s really not concerned much whether we are enjoying the ride. But without exception, every record has some gem that keeps me coming back.

nashville

October 17, 2016 – Nashville

Elvis has been on my mind more than usual. I was on a business trip to Nashville recently, and was surprised to find out he was playing at the Ryman Auditorium that very night. All other planned activities ceased, and I was witness to a fabulous night of music. Completely unexpected, completely enjoyable.

Inspired by that night – and just for fun – I thought I would list my Top Ten Elvis Costello songs. I’ve attempted a similar list on this blog, so I will state the same caveat: The criteria is completely subjective. This is MY list. I’d love to hear your comments, and I hope you like my choices. If you don’t, go make your own… So there!

A quick message to fellow EC fanatics… I’m sure you will have additions and subtractions, and hopefully an appreciation of the difficulty producing a top ten list from the roughly one thousand songs that I have on my iPod.

My Top Ten Elvis Costello Songs (So Far):

10. Mystery Dance from My Aim Is True – I’ve attended several shows where this was the opening song. It starts with drums in concert, and guitar on the record. Would any other artist write and perform a song about sexual inexperience with such raw, frenetic energy

9. She from Notting Hill Soundtrack – Yeah, it not written by Elvis so quit yer bitchin’! Costello sometimes tries to round out his sharp edges by slowing things down and speaking with a softer tone. He doesn’t succeed very often, but he does with this beautiful love song. Strong lyrics that he makes his own, sung with so much heart.

8. Man Out Of Time from Imperial Bedroom – I remember Rolling Stone called this record a “masterpiece”. And at that point of his career it was exactly that, but just a small peek into how he would expand his musical reach. This is the best song of the fantastic bunch.

7. Shot With His Own Gun from Trust – In 1980 I traveled to Toronto for the New Wave Festival “Heatwave”. After a long day of great music, I got my first ever live glimpse of Elvis Costello and the Attractions. I’ll never forget the lone spot on Steve Nieve, then the second light on Elvis, and his announcement “Good evening, we are the Clash.” (who had cancelled the week before). After that, the opening bars of this song… I was hooked.

heatwave

6. Deep Dark Truthful Mirror from Spike – This song is when I figured out that Elvis Costello was more than a singer-songwriter… he was a poet. “One day you’re going to have to face a deep dark truthful mirror. And it’s going to tell you things that I still love you too much to say.” I’m not sure how I missed it for so long… I think the awareness may have coincided with maturity. But that realization of caused me to go back and rediscover so much of the lyrical magic of his catalog.

5. Brilliant Mistake from King Of America – It could be argued that this record was Elvis’ second masterpiece… a great of example of his eagerness to change, to try new things with new musicians. This song always reminded me of his road traveled, and all of us. Beautiful music, heartfelt singing, and pure poetry.

4. Big Tears from This Year’s Model (Bonus), Taking Liberties – I loved this song immediately. The production and mix was so clean, separating the drums and guitar. I loved it even more when I heard that Mick Jones from the Clash played lead guitar. I would have loved to have heard those conversations…

3. I Stand Accused from Get Happy!!Get Happy!! was Elvis’ fourth album in his first three years and contained twenty high energy pop classics… TWENTY!! This became my favorite Costello record, and that ranking still remains. The story goes that the recording sessions were madcap, alcohol-fueled affairs, and this song clearly captures that raw energy and unabashed fun.

2. How To Be Dumb from Mighty Like A Rose – Supposedly this song is Costello’s final response to the very unflattering book written by Attraction’s bass player Bruce Thomas. Have you ever walked away from an argument thinking you could have done better.. should have accused him of “masquerading as a pale powdered genius”! Elvis was early typecast as the angry, young man… to me, this was only the only song where he deserved that description. Is there such a thing as hateful genius?

1. Peace, Love and Understanding (What’s So Funny’Bout) from Armed Forces – So many reasons why this epic song lands at the top of my list. Yes, it’s a cover of a brilliant lyric by Nick Lowe, but Elvis Costello and the Attractions made it their own and set the stage for their tenure as one of the best touring band in the business. The song is a timeless message of optimism that still works today. The casual fan knows that Elvis closes almost every show with this gem, and I’m sure he wants to leave us with that optimism.

PLU is not just my favorite Elvis Costello song, but my favorite song by any artist. I play it a couple of times a week, especially when I need a little pick-me-up. At a show I raise my arms and jump out of my seat when the opening notes begin, and I dance, sing and pump my fists. Then, toward the end, I get sad because I know it’s the last song of the night. And I’ve shed a tear or two, for the realization that I don’t know when I will get to experience an Elvis show again.

I had the same feeling recently in Nashville, but as always that optimism returned quickly. I hope to spend another night with the King very soon.

>> Check out another one of my Top Ten Lists 





Because Of Him, I’m With Her

22 10 2016

“What I’m saying is I’ll tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?” ~ Donald Trump’s response to a question at the third Presidential debate about accepting the election results.

Yep… that one put me over the edge.

Donald Trump believes that the only way he will be defeated in this election is that it will be rigged by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Add that idiocy to hundreds of his other idiocies, and I can only have one response:

Because of him, I’m with her.

Anyone who speaks with me, reads my blog posts, or follows me on social media knows how I feel about the 2016 Presidential election. My decision about who I was NOT going to vote for had been made over a year ago.

donald-trumpI first came out against Donald Trump’s candidacy in a November 2015 blog post – Trump America.  In that post I touched on a few key issues – his lack of discernible platform, his racism, his misogyny. You know… the hits! I also compared his early campaign to the rise of the Nazi Party in 1930’s. I’m somewhat proud of that post, because that association has been repeated by many others over the campaign.

Trump has spent the last eleven months proving I was correct. But I’m no soothsayer. No one could have predicted how low Trump would go… that pit seems to be bottomless.

By April of this year, I was absolutely done. So I wrote another anti-Trump post – Never Trump – My Reasons – outlining specifically why his mere presence in American politics is an embarrassment for our country. At the time I was speaking out to encourage my fellow Pennsylvanians, but my long goal was to deny him the Republican nomination. So it has been a severe blow to my ego that we are still having this conversation!

You can look at my detailed thoughts in the blog posts, but I summarized it all in these two paragraphs from the April post:

At the end of the day, I want my President to represent our country positively and professionally, and be committed to keeping my family safe. That is why a President Trump scares me to death. That is why I insist, “Never Trump.”

He may be rich, successful and a fantastic real estate entrepreneur, but Donald Trump is not qualified to be President of the United States. His attitudes and core beliefs will consistently make enemies around the world, and the indifference or loss of our allies. His hatred and policies will bring war to our country, and to our shores. And they will be fought by our children and grandchildren.

So because of him, I’m with her.

hillary_i_guess_bumper_sticker_10_pkBut its not as simple as that, is it? Yes, Hillary Clinton was going to get my vote on November 8th because I couldn’t invite even the slimmest chance of a Trump victory.

But I made a commitment not to support a candidate until after the debates were over. I wanted the process to run its course, but mostly I wanted to understand the issues to make an informed decision.

I defy anyone to find an example of a candidate who has been more investigated, scrutinized and vetted than Hillary Clinton. Has she made some questionable decisions in over thirty years of public life? Yes, we all have… including every politician who speaks out against her. Have those decisions endangered the safety of Americans? Despite what Trump and the Republicans say about Benghazi and classified emails… No.

The Republicans continue to accuse Clinton, but after multiple investigations and congressional hearings costing millions of taxpayer dollars – no charges have been brought. Clearly there is a conspiracy to protect the Democratic candidate!

redblueBut Trump and the rest of the GOP state that they want to uphold and defend the constitution. Ted Cruz ran his campaign “rising up to reclaim our country, to defend liberty and to restore the Constitution.” All Republicans (and Democrats, honestly) had nothing but praise for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, considered a constitutional scholar of unrivaled skill. And although it is not written specifically in our Constitution, our justice system is built around the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”. Unless you are Hillary Clinton.

I don’t agree with every Clinton position. But if you are thoughtful and really look into the specifics, no candidate is backed on all issues. I do agree with Hillary Clinton on the things that are important to me: climate change, gun control, human rights and gender equality, the economy, and finding peaceful foreign policy solutions.

I also concur with President Obama’s statement that “there has never been a man or a woman more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.” That is true, and not just in comparison to the Republican nominee.

So for these reasons, I’m with her.

I was a Republican for the last twenty-five years. As I grew older I became more concerned with the world around me, and a lot of the credit for that vision goes to my children. At the same time I became less conservative and, honestly, less religious. My switch to the Democratic Party coincided with Trump’s candidacy, but it had been in the works for several years. No politician or party has all the answers, and the whole system is becoming more ridiculous every day. So my decision process follows the path I’d like to set… paths that lead to solutions of peace, love and understanding.

Republicans cannot, or refuse to see that direction.

Trump and a lot of his followers are kings of the smear tactic. Their message is forged with lies told to garner support for their agenda. Now the rest of the party is jumping ship, but to me that is far too late. If a rube like myself saw his true lunacy, why didn’t the rest of you?

So my plan leading up to Election Day? I’m going to print out a copy of the ballot for my district, then circle all of the candidates who at any point supported Donald Trump. They will not get my vote. Even if you have recently jumped off the Donald ship, any past support of him goes straight to your character. Your opponent may or may not get my vote, but you never will.

blogger-image-1243186073Eight years ago, I voted for Barack Obama and then watched the election returns in awe. Apparently, I hadn’t given my country enough credit… I didn’t think I would see a person of color elected President. First thing in the morning on November 8th of this year, I will vote. Then I leave for a business trip to Boston. Later that night I will probably be at the hotel bar avidly watching election returns, proudly toasting the people of our country smashing another glass ceiling.

America is already great, and Hillary Clinton is getting my vote. I’m with her.