40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Pretty self-explanatory
cwr
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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby cwr » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:51 am

Yeah, I forgot to mention what a deliberate exclusion that was! A compilation of his songs from movies and he omits a TITLE TRACK that was released as a single (but finds room for several blink-and-you'll-miss it songs that are already widely available elsewhere!)

I have always suspected that it's not so much that he hates that song but that he likes having a "worst" song to treat that way for fun...

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby cwr » Sat Aug 17, 2013 6:12 am


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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sat Aug 17, 2013 7:23 am

If there is a guilty pleasure in his catalog it is this album- and it does not deserve to be treated so. It is flat out fun and one can dance to it. My life was in full bloom when this album came out and I was newly ensconced with my soon to be wife. This album was our soundtrack. As CWR says it is the flip side to IB- insouciant and bouncy and another example of how this unit could function as a power house band with the added pleasure of horns. It runs the gamut from sublime pop confections like "Mouth Almighty and "The Element Within Her" to perhaps the most scalding political comment of the latter twentieth century. It also features his sweetest pop confection- "Everyday I Write the Book", The shows surrounding this record were the best of his I have ever seen. All seemed to be right with the world at this time in my life and I can remember being seated in the stands at several of those shows with Alexv and his wife to be and mine and just being transported to heaven. To this day when I am downcast I can pop this album into the player and I am readily transported back to a very good place. It is nice to have a performer and album that accomplishes that feat. This is the one that does it for me. I still envy Alexv's life size poster, so beautifully framed, of that album cover. I have just the wall on a stairway in my home where it would fit nicely. 8)
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby docinwestchester » Sat Aug 17, 2013 8:48 am

These are great. Thanks again.

I'll put in a plug for Alison Moyet's recent cover of Shipbuilding:


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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Poor Deportee » Sat Aug 17, 2013 10:33 am

Not his finest hour, but still fairly fine! The link to IB is well-made, as this album makes optimal sense when received as a deliberately "light" follow-up to a record of unusual sophistication and complexity. EC has, as this entry points out, been hard on this record and this hasn't done it any favours in the eye of posterity. Personally, I draw attention to the bookends. "Let Them All Talk" is a fabulous exercise in horn-driven freneticism (possibly his most demented chorus), while to this day I think that

The little girl you dangled on your knee without mishap
Stirs something in your memory, and something in your LAP
:shock:

is one EC's most appallingly funny lines. Indeed, "The World and His Wife" remains one of his most hilarious, and therefore regrettably overlooked, songs. Inimitable stuff.

What stops me from absolutely loving the album is not the production (myth aside, it's really not that bad at all - the drums are a bit loud, but the 80s saw infinitely worse sonic havoc wreaked upon hapless songs), it's the handful of mediocre compositions on here. "Love Went Mad" always struck me as meaningless, self-indulgent gibberish; "The Element Within Her" has an elegant melody but lyrically seems to me an early instance of Elvis uninspiredly writing to "formula;" "King of Thieves," lively but melodically confused (akin to "Science Fiction Twin" in this respect); and I never quite got "TKO" either. My final reservation concerns "The Greatest Thing" - a neat and unusually bubbly song from our man, yet something about it remains unconvincing. Perhaps if the vocal were higher in the mix, the desired ebullience would be more successfully conveyed. Or maybe the fundamental problem is that the lyric is wishful thinking.

"Every Day I Write The Book" - has anyone ever taken the time to trace every single instance of EC re-writing a Nick Lowe song? It's happened at least a half-dozen times. What's impressive is how reliably EC ups the ante on his mentor! (c.f. "Two Little Hitlers" :mrgreen: Lowe must have found all this slightly humbling yet delightful).

My personal verdict: a good pop album that would have been a great pop album with a bit strong writing. The horns are a terrific addition to the sonic palette. Definitely a welcome presence in his catalogue.
When man has destroyed what he thinks he owns
I hope no living thing cries over his bones

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby VoiceInTheDark » Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:24 pm

Poor Deportee wrote:Is there any reason - apart from being a completist - that one would need to own this album? I always felt that if I wanted these songs, I'd get them in the original; and the cuts from this album that I have heard don't seem to add enough to motivate me to seek it out. It seems a pleasant enough album but, in effect, a curio.


I love Almost Blue but I think I may be somewhat biased, if you were already familiar with the originals upon hearing the covers on this album I can understand why it wouldn't resonate with you as much as it did with someone like me, who prior to hearing this album, purported to hate all country music with the exception of Johnny Cash. Almost Blue essentially introduced me to the genre, leading me to seek out the music of guys like Hank Williams, George Jones Melre Haggard and Gram Parsons.

That said, the album is still more than just a country primer or a collectors item. I think it deserves a place in every Elvis fan’s music library. There a are quite a few cuts that do add something to the originals. The rockin’ version of ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’, is a lot of fun and quite a departure from the Hank Williams' version. While I wouldn't say ‘Good Year for the Roses’ surpasses the original it’s just as good and it's different enough to be worthwhile. Sweet Dreams and Tonight The Bottle Let Me down are also great. The bonus disc alone is enough incentive, it includes a bunch of great live recordings and obscurities. Psycho, for example, is absolutely brilliant and I’d argue that EC’s vocals give it a weird sort of demented childlike quality that make it even creepier than Jack Kittel’s original version.

As for Punch The Clock, cwr makes some good points and I can definitely see the appeal but I just can’t get past the tacky 80’s production. PTC is one of the only two or three EC albums that I genuinely dislike to the point that I find it almost unlistenable (with the exception of Pills & Soap and Shipbuilding which I know is such a predictable opinion that it was even pointed out in the blog post). In the liner notes of one of the reissues Elvis alludes to his dissatisfaction with the album so I’ve never understood why he returned to the same producers for Goodbye Cruel World, it seems akin to a battered spouse returning to an abusive relationship, convinced things will be different. All that aside, like GCW, the stripped down demo and live versions of these songs are a lot more appealing to me, if I substitute the reissue bonus discs for the first discs I thoroughly enjoy both albums.

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby grantprobst » Sat Aug 17, 2013 9:30 pm

Is there a way to download that alternate "Merseybeat" version of "Everyday I Write The Book"?
Love that version!


Also, thanks to Connor for writing up all of this 40 day countdown!

...I have really been enjoying all the trivia, and tidbits.
That documentary on the making of "Almost Blue" was hilarious!

As someone who has only been listening (heavily) to Elvis Costello for the last several years or so, I don't really know all of these behind the scenes stories, and am intrigued by them... For, Elvis Costello very quickly became my favorite song writer over the past few years of my exploring his catalogue.

And as a songwriter myself, whenever I need something to stimulate the creative juices, there is nothing better than plopping on a different sounding Costello album, and exploring all the ways one can manipulate even THE EXACT SAME SONG, into entirely different soundscapes. (ie... the different versions of "Tears Before Bedtime")

The vocal ranges are amazing too. How he can go from that deep crooner sound (ie... National Ransom's "You Hung The Moon"), to that punkish early Attractions style, Well... Not many artists can pull off that sort of vocal diversity while still sounding so sincere and authentic.

(but yeah, sorry if that was too much ramble-y fanboyism, but I spend most my time just as a lurker on these forums. lol.)

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby docinwestchester » Sat Aug 17, 2013 9:40 pm

Also, while we’re having fun: why not sing along to The Attractions’ instrumental backing track for “Boy With A Problem”?

I did and it sounded so bloody awful! The man can sing...

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby VoiceInTheDark » Sun Aug 18, 2013 4:24 am

grantprobst wrote:Is there a way to download that alternate "Merseybeat" version of "Everyday I Write The Book"?
Love that version!


It's on the bonus disc of the 2003 Rhino reissue.

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Neil. » Sun Aug 18, 2013 4:34 am

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Last edited by Neil. on Sun Aug 18, 2013 4:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Neil. » Sun Aug 18, 2013 4:40 am

grantprobst wrote:(but yeah, sorry if that was too much ramble-y fanboyism, but I spend most my time just as a lurker on these forums. lol.)


Welcome, Grant! There's nowt wrong with being a fanboy! Glad you've got into Elvis - I pity those who spend their entire lives not knowing his stuff!

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby cwr » Sun Aug 18, 2013 9:04 am

As a rambling fanboy myself, I'd like to also say "welcome, Grant!"

I agree-- nothing at all wrong with coming here and talking about how great Elvis Costello is! I always enjoy reading people's posts about how much Costello's work means to them.

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby cwr » Sun Aug 18, 2013 9:05 am

Oh, also...

DAY ELEVEN: GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD

http://connorratliff.tumblr.com/post/58 ... 84-i-think

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Aug 18, 2013 9:49 am

Thank you, CWR, for yet again reminding me of how much fun that video is for "Only Flame" and you are absolutely correct about the quality of the word play[only to be taken to a higher incendiary level in a year's time by another song on the next record]. High quality 'pop' art with heart and humor and I throw in the duet with Hiatt there, as well. Many a late night at my wife to be's apt in Chelsea watching MTV in hope of a chance to see it yet again. It has always been an album that spawned effective covers by other artists for me and you highlight two. I am also reminded by your piece of how thankful I have been that this album taught him he could stand on his own and jettison a functioning band[though perhaps it was on shaky ground at the time of this record]-strike out solo and within a year release a record that would be at the top of someone else's writing and performing skills if it were from another songwriter, but given his overall catalog comfortably rests in my imagined top 5 of his records.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby grantprobst » Sun Aug 18, 2013 12:41 pm

Thanks for the greetings neil and cwr!
You Elvis Costello people are always so friendly around here... all except the "This Years Model" fans.
Something is wrong with those people... in the head, I mean... ;) j/k

Also, thank you for the info on where to find that version of "Every Day I Write The Book", sir VoiceInTheDark.
I'll have to look that up sometime!

But, back on track, bring on Day 12 of this little countdown!
((p.s. I love "This Years Model..."))

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby cwr » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:10 am


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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Jack of All Parades » Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:37 am

This one has grown steadily over the years for me as a listener to the point where it is firmly in my top 5 of all of his records. For the most part, exquisite songcraft, and as PD has noted elsewhere its final four or five songs are quite possibly the best sustained succession of songs ever recorded on one of his albums. It is also 'proudly' the source of my avatar 8)
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Poor Deportee » Mon Aug 19, 2013 10:22 am

What can you say? A great record - popular songwriting of the highest order, delivered with passion. "Suit of Lights" is my default answer to the "Favourite Costello Song" question. And yes, the soldier does indeed end up erect at pinup image of his own sister, in one of the most cringe-induing lines in the canon, contained in one of its most poignant songs.

"The Big Light" seems underrated to me. Songs with a light touch are often passed over, but it's perfect for what it is.

Always loved the cover, too. That grand crown on that bagged-out face - typical EC wit.
When man has destroyed what he thinks he owns

I hope no living thing cries over his bones

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Dr. Luther » Mon Aug 19, 2013 10:40 am

Poor Deportee wrote:...And yes, the soldier does indeed end up erect at pinup image of his own sister, in one of the most cringe-induing lines in the canon...



I disagree.

I've always taken the "family pride" phrase as literal.
Wishful thinking, perhaps -- as the alternative is quite unpalatable.

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Poor Deportee » Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:15 am

Dr. Luther wrote:
Poor Deportee wrote:...And yes, the soldier does indeed end up erect at pinup image of his own sister, in one of the most cringe-induing lines in the canon...



I disagree.

I've always taken the "family pride" phrase as literal.
Wishful thinking, perhaps -- as the alternative is quite unpalatable.


Well, it doesn't have to be read in the most sordid possible way. Maybe the soldier is just ashamed of the fact that his sister is being ogled by his colleagues. EC being EC, though, the phrase "family pride" cannot possibly be heard without a full awareness of its other meaning. The way he delivers the line "his family pride was rising up" - as though the singer himself is horrified by what he's reporting - further reinforces the darker implication. I don't think we can escape the "unpalatable" ramifications very easily.
When man has destroyed what he thinks he owns

I hope no living thing cries over his bones

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Dr. Luther » Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:05 pm

Poor Deportee wrote:
Dr. Luther wrote:
Poor Deportee wrote:...And yes, the soldier does indeed end up erect at pinup image of his own sister, in one of the most cringe-induing lines in the canon...


I disagree.

I've always taken the "family pride" phrase as literal.
Wishful thinking, perhaps -- as the alternative is quite unpalatable.


Well, it doesn't have to be read in the most sordid possible way. Maybe the soldier is just ashamed of the fact that his sister is being ogled by his colleagues. EC being EC, though, the phrase "family pride" cannot possibly be heard without a full awareness of its other meaning. The way he delivers the line "his family pride was rising up" - as though the singer himself is horrified by what he's reporting - further reinforces the darker implication. I don't think we can escape the "unpalatable" ramifications very easily.



Hard to say, I suppose.

He "casts his eyes down", however.
Suggesting, to me, that he's attempting to disacknowledge the shame inherent to his sister being on display.

Who knows.

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby cwr » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:02 pm

Costello is not above making a dick joke in his lyrics.

(I don't find it cringe-inducing in the sense of it being a bad lyric; maybe I do in the sense of it being an effective "revenge" on that soldier he quarreled with, but for me the fact that it is paired with such a tender and compassionate melody is what really makes it work.)

His debut album opens with a "picture in the paper being rhythmically admired" and from there we are off the races, all the way to the barrage of euphemisms that make up the core of "From Sulphur To Sugarcane"...

There's no shame in this; it's in the tradition of Shakespeare!

Denial of the shameful erection at the end of "Sleep Of The Just" is akin to imagining that the Sheriff of Nottingham is ACTUALLY introducing "Little John" to her in "American Without Tears"...

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Dr. Luther » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:41 pm

All valid points.

No siblings involved in those others, however.
Perhaps I'm in denial.
The chances of the domestically more-prurient interpretation has always made me uncomfortable, I must admit.

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby Neil. » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:46 pm

I have to admit, I'd taken the lyrics literally - I never for a moment thought it was meant to be a dick joke: the song is so heartfelt and touching that I don't think a double entendre was meant. And I've heard the phrase "family jewels" used as a euphemism, but never "family pride."

I think the only wordplay intended here is his family pride rising UP as he cast his eyes DOWN (because all the other squaddies are leering over the picture of his sister).

But, whatever, that's what great about art - you can put whatever meaning you want into it.

It's a great song, anyway! And thanks for these daily doses of Elvis, Connor!

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Re: 40 DAYS OF ELVIS COSTELLO: A Countdown To WISE UP GHOST

Postby docinwestchester » Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:01 pm

Another nice summary, Connor, and the links are so damn interesting, as usual. That Johnny Cash version of The Big Light is almost as cringe-inducing as the lyric in question above. While it must have been unbelievably cool and rewarding for EC to hear Johnny sing his song, that version is so cornball it hurts! In the Japanese TV clip of Brilliant Mistake, I noticed the alternate lyric to start the 3rd verse:

He thought he was the king of every compromise
But it was just another very brilliant disguise


In 2013 he does sort of a hybrid with the original:

He thought he was the King of America
But it was just another very brilliant disguise


I always liked the original lyric on the studio version:

He thought he was the King of America
But it was just a boulevard of broken dreams


There must be some history to this. Or not.
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