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 

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