1986, Blood and Chocolate sleevenote

Pretty self-explanatory
johnfoyle
Posts: 14072
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2003 4:37 pm
Location: Dublin , Ireland

1986, Blood and Chocolate sleevenote

Postby johnfoyle » Mon Mar 07, 2005 5:01 pm

Thanks to mcramahamasham for posting this , along with all the other 'notes , in another thread here - I'm posting them individually for easier access.


BLOOD & CHOCOLATE

The Milanese audience did not respond to my enthusiastic introduction quite as expected. They caught sight of our "Special Guest" and collectively uttered a sigh of "Oh no, not her again"... only in Italian. Our promoter had sold us the idea that she was the "Princess of Italian Pop". She looked vaguely familiar. It was only later I remembered where I had seen her before. She had been one of the transparently attired models, obviously hired at short notice, to dance vacantly while inaccurately mouthing backing vocals for the immense Greek love-God, Demis Roussos. That was during one of our early '80s excursions into the wasteland of European pop television. Now here she was, blowing kisses to the crowd Zsa-Zsa Gabor-style at just another fabulous showbiz event. So, this is how it ends.
We were in the final weeks of the "Spinning Songbook" tour. What had started as a flip suggestion for solving the problem of deciding which songs to perform was now a towering, illuminated piece of carnival apparatus. The game-show wheel could be arranged with a rotating choice of song titles. Victims (or "members of the audience", as we preferred to think of them) were led to the stage by the looming presence of "Mr. Xavier Valentine"--"your guide from your place in the stalls to your place in the stars". Once in the spotlight they would be met by an unpleasant M.C., "Napoleon Dynamite", in whose guise I was able to leer at young women and insult their dates. Once they had spun the big wheel and chosen the next song, contestants could retire to a part of the stage called "The Society Lounge", where they might enjoy a refreshing alcohol-free cocktail. Alternatively, those who were not already on drugs and attempting to take off their clothes had the opportunity to enter a go-go cage for the duration of the chosen song. Our experience suggests that the world is full of frustrated go-go dancers.
Occasionally, "the house" had to fix the selection, if the hour was getting late and an audience favourite still hadn't come up. But on the whole it made for an interestingly random evening. It also gave us the opportunity to occasionally delight audiences with such unexpected selections as "Ferry across the Mersey", Prince's "Pop Life", Tom Petty's "American Girl", and the great ABBA tune, "Knowing me, knowing you".
We were assisted in this endeavour by a series of guest M.C.s, the finest of which by far was Tom Waits. He had both the animal magnetism and the lion-tamer's charm to entice and corral our most outstanding contestants. Others, including Buster Poindexter, Penn and Teller, and members of the Chicago Bears football team tried gamely to match the opening night mayhem, but it was not until the final night of the tour in Rome that the proceedings approached that same surreal edge. Our guest M.C. that evening was the actor Roberto Benigni, who deliberately translated my announcements into utter nonsense. In a few other European countries the idea of the show lost a little in translation, but on no other occasion did it gain quite so much.
The Spinning Songbook had been just one element of the "Costello Sings Again" tour of America. Having released two albums in quick succession and touring with two bands, I had also invited guest artists such as Tom Petty, The Bangles, and Aimee Mann to join us onstage. I was either going to make a success of this or go bankrupt, whichever came first.
The tour culminated in a five-night stand on Broadway. On successive evenings, we presented: an Attractions concert based on our back catalogue, a solo concert, a set featuring The Confederates playing the songs from King of America, the Spinning Songbook, and another show with The Attractions presenting the songs from the new album, Blood and Chocolate.
This is a record of people beating and twanging things with a fair amount of yelling. It was recorded just over six months after the Hollywood sessions for King of America. The Attractions sole contribution to that album, "Suit of Lights", had been made during our least successful and most bad-tempered days in the studio. The air of suspicion and resentment still lingered as King of America was released and we entered Olympic Studios, London, to make what proved to be our last record together for eight years.
Nick Lowe was producing us for the first time in five years and together with engineer Colin Fairley, agreed to an approach that would get the music recorded before the band and I fell out completely. Olympic's control room still contained some of the Bakelite switches and other arcane features left over from the days when it had hosted sessions by Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. The live room was big enough for a full orchestra, so we filled it with our live monitor system and played at something approaching stage volume. Although it commonly thought that high volume in the studio creates an uncontrollable sonic picture this, approach seemed to suit the material entirely.
I had written most of the songs very quickly using a 1930s' Gibson Century acoustic guitar that had an attractively clanky sound but provided little invitation to intricate harmony or melody. You can hear what it sounds like in the introduction of "Crimes of Paris". When "Honey, are you straight or are you blind?" came to me in a dream, I had to capture it on a cassette player with just the accompaniment of my slapping on the kitchen counter, as there was no guitar to hand. These were not songs that you had to worry about.
Nick Lowe took hold of my willfully "stupid" rhythmic ideas and drove them to extremes on "Uncomplicated". He even joined us in the studio to keep a steady acoustic rhythm guitar running through several tracks. Consequently, we rarely cut more than three takes of any tune. The longest performances, "Tokyo Storm Warning" and "I want you", were both captured on "Take One". All vocal fixes and most of the overdubs were added immediately after we had decided on a master take.
The events of "Tokyo Storm Warning" travel from Narita to Heysel via Pompeii, Port Stanley, Paris, and London. Tokyo is just the place where these things begin and end. It is a city for which I am never prepared. Each arrival is shocking and slightly alienating-- particularly if you land there in a late-summer storm when the cloud cover is below the top of the skyscrapers. It is only when you are about to leave that the rhythm of the place starts to make sense and you wish you had more time. It's then that crazy little purchases like the "God-Jesus Robot" seem strangely comforting. What should one take home from this extraordinary place? What else but a fortune-telling sci-fi droid that is supposed to "answer" the romantic questions of Japanese teenagers with a wave of a plastic cross? Two thousand years of theology reduced to a battery-operated toy. The song continues in this vein for six minutes or more, alighting on the absurd details that can accumulate during ten years of world travel and how little we know. It arrives at the conclusion that there is precious little that one can do about it.
"They say gold paint on the palace gates comes from the teeth of pensioners They're so tired of shooting protest singers that they hardly mention us".
"Home is anywhere you hang your head" was the tale of a man driven insane by love. It originally had a bright pop melody, but for this version I pitched in an almost impossibly low key, so I sounded as if I was either seething or gasping for breath. I suppose you might call it "Method Singing". "Poor Napoleon" is about a very raw affair. At one point, this track was rather perversely obscured by sheets of white noise and guitar feedback, but I later stripped them away to reveal the vocal performance and an acting cameo by Cait O'Riordan as "The Voice of Pity".
I played a Fender Telecaster on most of the cuts. This lent a harsher edge to the guitar parts as the intro figure of "Uncomplicated" demonstrates. When the spill from bass channel bled onto the drum microphones, we simply turned down the direct signal in order to rebalance. This accounted for both the murky, booming sound of some tracks and our inability to play at a very low dynamic throughout this record. In fact it often made us sound as if we were playing wearing boxing gloves. But somehow this also became a virtue. The intimate final bars of "I want you" were achieved by switching off each of the instrumental tracks until all that can be heard is the sound of the band's performance bleeding into my vocal mike.
A few of the songs required a little more finesse or ingenuity. "Blue Chair" had failed to make the grade at the King of America sessions but was now successfully arranged around Steve Nieve's keyboard part. The more sarcastic tone of "Next Time Round" had also not found a place on the previous record, but it now provided a rave-up finale for an album that stays mostly in the dark.
"Battered Old Bird" was a song about the tenants of the house in which my family had a small basement flat until I was five years old. I only altered a few of the details. Our landlady actually taught me to swear in Welsh rather than French, but "Welsh" didn't rhyme. However, the "old maids" on the first floor, the suicide who danced in the bonfire, the scriptwriter who drank burgundy for breakfast, and the eccentric man who kept a Christmas tree in a cupboard by the stairs "in case of emergencies" were all real people.
We attempted three different arrangements of this song until Nick Lowe arrived at the idea of joining two contrasting performances together with a combination of vari- speeding and bold editing using a smear of harmonium in the way a scene might dissolve in the movies. An earlier attempt to play the song in the style of Johnny Allen can be
heard on CD 2.
"I hope you're happy now" was another song being cut for the third time. Having recorded it as a possible single with The Attractions in 1984, I attempted to rework it without much success at the final King of America sessions. Time had lent the song a little humour to lighten its originally murderous intent. Now it almost sounded like pop music.
When it comes to the other tracks on CD 2, I am glad to report that our take on Little Willie John's "Leave my Kitten Alone " has finally been located. It probably should have made the album.
I have no memory at all of recording "New Rhythm Method ". I do recall writing a song of this title in 1977, so this may be a reworking, but what I am actually singing remains something of a mystery.
There are three different recordings of "Forgive Her Anything " in existence. It seems I was never totally satisfied with the way this song worked out. This newly discovered version replaces the one issued on the last edition of Blood and Chocolate, as I believe that it is the best of the three.
"Seven Day Weekend " was written and recorded with Jimmy Cliff and The Attractions (!) for a film called Club Paradise, starring Peter O'Toole, Robin Williams, and Twiggy. Oh, the horror. I don't suppose either the film or the song will go down in history, but Jimmy is a great man, and I did get to play a lot of very loud guitar.
"Blue Chair " was a complete reworking of a King of America outtake which was released as a single in the U.K. after the two Blood and Chocolate singles ("Tokyo Storm Warning" and "I want you") unsurprisingly failed to trouble the charts. "Baby's got a brand new hairdo " was the only other Attractions cut from those unhappy Hollywood sessions. It later escaped on a B-side.
"American without Tears No. 2 (Twilight Version) " is a sequel to the song recorded on King of America.
The final sequence of cover songs may well be one long take. I know I performed most of these tunes on solo tours after 1984, and this was probably a vocal warm-up session where the tape just happened to be rolling. I first heard "All these things " by the Louisiana group The Uniques, while "Tell me right now" was originally cut by Joe Tex. "Lonely Blue Boy " was an early Conway Twitty side. I learned "Running out of fools " from Aretha Franklin's Columbia recording, and James Carr's version of "Pouring water on a drowning man " was one of my favourite songs at the time. I would return to these last two songs at the Kojak Variety sessions in 1990.
The album title and Eamonn Singer's crude cover painting reflected some intense and uncertain sensations. The record might as well have been a blurred polaroid: a smashed-up room, a squashed box of chocolates, some broken glass, and a little blood smeared on the wall. These were just a few of the images I had in mind.
The intimate, if not almost pornographic, tone of "Crimes of Paris", "Poor Napoleon", and "I Want You" were typical of my mood at this time. The album was a pissed-off 32- year-old divorcé's version of the musical blueprint with which I had begun my recording career with The Attractions.
My relationship with the band had now soured almost beyond repair. We would soon be playing our last concert together for a great number of years. The final song we performed was an improvised take on "Instant Karma". I'm sure it was supposed to mean something at the time.
Having said all of this, the year I made this record was also the year of my marriage to Cait O'Riordan. There were a lot of things that I wouldn't have to do again. Like messing up my life just so I could write stupid little songs about it.
--Elvis Costello

________________________________________

Rykodisk Liner Notes

There is not an awful lot that needs explaining about this record. It's a rock'n'roll record with a couple of weird ballads and few pop songs thrown in. by the time we started recording it, "King Of America" was just about to be released, having been completed less than six months previously. The terrible experience of The Attractions' Hollywood sessions was far from forgotten. There was a good chance that this was going to be our last work together. For the first time in five years our producer was Nick Lowe. The engineer was Colin Fairley. He had worked with both Nick and myself on a variety of productions. The venue was Olympic Studios, London.
Although it was a 24-track studio I liked the arcane look of the control room. In my memory I see Bakelite switches and knobs although I am sure I must be romancing this. Certainly, the recording room couldn't have looked much different when Jimi Hendrix or the Rolling Stones were recording there in the sixties. The songs were extremely simple to learn. I wrote most of them very quickly on an old 1930's Gibson Century guitar. It had a suitably clanky sound (that's it at the beginning of "Crimes of Paris"). When a guitar was not on hand I found the rhythm I needed by slapping the kitchen counter as I pieced together "Honey Are You Straight (Or Are You Blind?)" from a very confusing dream. "Uncomplicated" was my latest failed attempt to write a song based on one chord. We set up in the studio as we would in rehearsals, using monitor speakers rather than headphones. We also played a lot closer to "stage" volume so that there was little or no separation. If there was too much bass "spill" on the drum mikes we simply turned down the direct bass channel. This made for a booming, murky sound that made subtly impossible. If we tried anything fancy it sounded like we were playing wearing boxing gloves. This suited most of the songs perfectly.
Nearly all of the songs were cut entirely "live." Any vocal repairs and harmonies were dubbed on as soon as we had called a "master take." Because of the volatile nature of both the method and the musicians many of the tracks were either first takes or took no more than three or four attempts. On several cuts Nick Lowe joined us in the studio to lay down a steady acoustic rhythm guitar track.
I played Telecaster for much of this album, giving my parts a very harsh edge. The intro of "Uncomplicated" will give you the idea. from then it all hangs on the "stupid" beat that Nick suggested until we finally get off the one chord and Steve brings in the chorus. Nick also borrowed the guitar figure and accent that drives "Honey Are You Straight?", although it is anybody's guess where from. We also finally got a take on "I Hope You're Happy Now" that had a little more humour to it than its originally murderous intent. It almost sounded like pop music.
"Tokyo Storm Warning" is a thug's nightmare travelogue from Narita to Heysel. From Pompeii to Port Stanley, Paris and London. It was cut on "take one." I then added the background vocals, distorted guitar figure and backwards solo. In case you were wondering, a "Japanese God-Jesus Robot" is a little electric fortune-telling toy that waves a cross to indicate whether your boyfriend or girlfriend loves you. The first verse of "I Want You" borrows a Japanese folk song tune and then goes somewhere very dark. As far as I can recall we only played this once. Our "sound" meant that no matter how quietly the band had played there still seemed to be too much accompaniment in the last verse during playback. We fixed this by switching off the band, track by track, until all you can hear at the end is what was bleeding onto my vocal mike.
The final song of our first burst of recording was the tale of a man driven mad by love, "Home is Anywhere You Hang Your Head." The music had started out as a bright pop melody but now I placed it in an almost impossibly low register which made me sound as if I was either seething or gasping for breath. "Method Singing," I suppose. This was backed by a droning accompaniment and features some fine bass playing from Bruce in the coda as accordions and spoons fly past his window. Next come three fairly straight pop tunes rescued from the "King Of America" sessions. "Blue Chair" was given a treatment borrowed from the Prince songs "Manic Monday" and "Raspberry Beret." "Crimes of Paris" quotes my own "Suffering Face," bits of the Kinks, Slade and slivers of "Wild Mountain Thyme." It features Cait O'Riordan on harmony vocals. Little Willie John's "Leave My Kitten Alone" also gets name-checked and I'm pretty certain we recorded a version of it during these sessions but it seems to have gone missing.
The comical tone of "Next Time Round" was overlooked in Hollywood but provided a pretty good rave-up finale for an album that stays mostly in the dark. In fact, there is a hint of the California sound in the background voices and on the subsequent "Spinning Wheel" tour (see below) we took the song back where it belonged. Among our many concert guests were members of The Bangles who improvised a sort of Mamas (and Papas) vocal arrangement. The remaining two cuts were the product of some extreme studio experiments. We seemed unable to agree about anything to do with "Battered Old Bird." We tried it in faster tempi, different keys and vocal deliveries but nothing could be sustained for the entire song. It is a very long song based on the tenants of the house in which my family had the basement flat until he was five years old. Of course I changed some of the details. I was actually taught to swear in Welsh by our landlady but it doesn't rhyme. Some of the more nightmarish characters have been distorted by time but others, like the "old maids," the scriptwriter who drank burgundy for breakfast and the fellow who always kept an old plastic Christmas tree in the cupboard by the stairs in case of emergencies, were real enough. Because the song contained those childhood memories I found it hard to make any cuts. One night, during mixing Nick hit on the solution. By a combination of vari-speeding and bold editing, two separate versions were spliced into one (a lesson learned from "Strawberry Fields Forever"). A growling harmonium was dubbed onto the cracks and while the hybrid isn't perfect, I'm glad we didn't simply scrap the song entirely.
"Poor Napoleon" was originally completely covered up in the sheets of white noise and feedback that can be heard briefly before the band's entrance. Little by little I pulled it out in order to reveal the song in which a proud and vain character finds his love fatally compromised. Cait has a speaking role as the "voice of pity" and I dubbed on the instrumental duel between Hofner bass-guitar and tambourine. My only other unusual contribution was to add a very simple Vox Continental part to "Honey Are You Straight?" or I should say "Vox Kontinenta" as all of the album credits were written in Esperanto for reasons I can no longer remember.
(Our American record company had always seemed to want us to return to the sound that we had started out with, even though it had been more famous than successful. When we gave them something close to what they wanted: A pissed off thirty-two year old, divorcee's version of "This Year's Model," they hated it and buried it under a stone somewhere in Utah. I proudly walked away from the end of my Columbia contract owing them a million dollars. They had their chance and they blew it.
In saying this it shouldn't be forgotten that my relationship with the Attractions was now such that we were about to take an eight year holiday from each other's company.)
The following tour, "Costello Sings Again," was a bold, if financially suicidal, affair in which we played between three and five nights in each small-city theatre presenting a different show every evening. In various combinations these included: an Attractions set that drew on our back catalogue, a solo concert, a show with "...his Confederates" (James Burton, Jerry Scheff, Jim Keltner, and Mitchell Froom) featuring material from "King Of America," another Attractions set debuting the "Blood and Chocolate" songs and the "Spinning Songbook" concert.
I had often finished a long set only to be confronted with the obvious question "why didn't you play....?" Fill in the song of your choice. Now this seemed the perfect solution. Song titles would be printed on sections of a game-show wheel and a member of the audience would be invited to the stage by Mr. Xavier Valentine ("your guide from your place in the stalls to your place in the stars") in order to spin the wheel. The wheel would decide what we played next. We included what we though were audience's favourites but also slipped in a few unexpected choices like Tom Petty's "American Girl," Prince's "Pop Life" and Gerry and the Pacemakers' "Ferry Across the Mersey".
(We even tried a "Request" spot but the first time I switched on the big red sign the entire front row was transformed into figure-skating judges holding up neatly printed signs demanding the most obscure songs in our catalogue).
If a song came up twice you were allowed to spin again. If it came up three times...well...the rules got a bit vague then and "the house" was known to lean on the wheel on a few occasions if the hour was getting late and the wrong songs kept coming up. Our contestants were questioned by an unpleasant M.C. called "Napoleon Dynamite" in whose guise I was able to leer at the young women and insult the men. We were also joined -- "for one night only" -- by various "guest" M.C.'s. The finest was, unquestionably, Tom Waits who had both the animal magnetism and a lion-tamer's command to entice and corral our most outlandish and outstanding contestants.
(Other nights were joined by members of the Chicago Bears, Penn and Teller, Buster Poindexter and "The Princess of Italian Pop" (or so we were told). In Rome, where the whole enterprise took on a surreal edge, our M.C. was Roberto Bernini. He translated my remarks with all the conviction and accuracy of the character that he plays in the film "Down By Law").
After spinning the wheel our victims, surprisingly few of whom were actually on drugs and attempting to take their clothes off, were offered a choice of beverages (soft drinks only for legal reasons) at the Society Lounge Bar or a turn in the Go-Go cage. Our experience suggests that the world is full of frustrated Go-Go Dancers.

EXTENDED PLAY
"SEVEN DAY WEEKEND":
was co-written and recorded with Jimmy Cliff for a film in which he co-starred with Robin Williams and Peter O'Toole called "Club Paradise." I don't suppose either the film or the song will go down in film history. It always seemed a little odd to me that the film's producers requested that I write a rock'n'roll song with Jimmy Cliff. Anyway, Jimmy was a great man and I got to play a lot of loud guitar on the record. There are worse ways to spend a weekend.
"FORGIVE HER ANYTHING":
This is one of the very few outtakes from "Blood And Chocolate." I re-worked it a couple of times for inclusion on later albums but it always seemed to get lost. This very rough version is all that remains and may well confim what I said about "wearing boxing gloves."
"BLUE CHAIR":
After the unsurprising commercial failures of both the six minute-plus "Blood and Chocolate" singles ("Tokyo Storm Warning" and "I Want You"), I decided to look again at the "Blue Chair" backing track scrapped during the "King Of America" sessions. Truning up Mitchell Froom's organ and T-Bone Wolk's overdubbed Telecaster part we filled out some of the space above T-Bone and Mickey Curry's bass and drums. I then re-cut the lead vocal and added a vocal arrangement that took a very distant cue from Sly's "Everyday People".
"BABY'S GOT A BRAND NEW HAIRDO":
This Attractions outtake from "King Of America" snuck out on the B-side of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood". Groovy title. Shame about the song. The one redeeming moment is after the lines "She looks like Billy Boy Arnold saying "I wish you would" when Bruce quotes the riff.
"AMERICAN WITHOUT TEARS NO. 2 (TWILIGHT VERSION)":
This track, which was the B-side of the "Blue Chair" single, fulfilled a small ambition. When 12" singles had been all the rage during the mid-80's I had thought it was a pity to simply repeat and extend the existing song. What if there were extra verses? A continuation of the story or even a sequel? I never actually got round to it until this cut. The new edition of the story is told from the perspective of the vanished husband of one of the women in the King Of America version of the song.
He tries to pluck up courage to return from his South American exile but in the end he becomes cynical and loses his nerve. Some of the locations have also slipped in a "Twilight Zone" way. This is alluded to in the sub-title and the electric guitar part. The rest of the instrumentation, all of which I played, is: acoustic six-string and bass guitars, piano, celesta, organ, harmonica, marimba and timbale.
"A TOWN CALLED BIG NOTHING":
Is a piece that was written in America, Spain during the shooting of Alex Cox's movie "Straight To Hell." This pastiche of a Spaghetti Western (which, I suppose, means it was a pastiche of a parody) starred The Pogues as a family of teetotal, non-smoking, coffee-addicted desperados. Ah! Typecast again. The flick also featured Joe Strummer, Ed Harris, Kathy Burke, Dick Rude, Xander Schloss, Courtney Love and rather briefly, John Cusack, Grace Jones and Dennis Hopper to list a few names one night recognize.
I only went along to visit Cait and found myself playing the family butler "Hives," and toting a pump-action shotgun. Another friend of mine came to take some on-set photographs and quickly found himself stripped to the waist and strapped to a wagon wheel in the noonday sun. So, I suppose two weeks of Andalusion desert heat without a change of costume was getting off lightly.
An instrumental version of the track "A Town Called Big Nothing" Actually appears briefly in the film but as it is currently out of circulation, even on video, I include the full version here.
The narration is spoken by actor Sy Richardson, who played one of the rival desperados in the film. The story that he tells has nothing to do with the movie, in fact it probably has more plot than "Straight To Hell!" On the other hand I would not say that I wrote this with an entirely straight face. The musicians were as follows: I played the Spanish, electric and acoustic-bass guitars. Obviously, I did the "Big Nothing" whispers while Cait and I did the fairground voices. Pete Thomas turned on the drum machine and then added any tambourines and percussion. My father, Ross MacManus played the trumpet part and did the Flamenco clapping.

johnfoyle
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Postby johnfoyle » Sat Feb 11, 2006 5:23 pm

Here's a promo item for this that I got recently -

Image

It's a one-sided 7" , with the first minute or so of the four tracks .

1. Blue Chair
2. Uncomplicated
3. Next Time Around
4. I Hope Your Happy Now

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Extreme Honey
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Location: toronto, canada

Postby Extreme Honey » Sat Feb 11, 2006 10:03 pm

All of that fits on a sleeve?
Preacher was a talkin' there's a sermon he gave,
He said every man's conscience is vile and depraved,
You cannot depend on it to be your guide
When it's you who must keep it satisfied

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verbal gymnastics
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Postby verbal gymnastics » Thu Feb 16, 2006 11:16 am

Yes - with pictures too. The CD comes in a 12ft box so there are no crease marks on the inner sleeve :)
international laughing stock...

johnfoyle
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Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2003 4:37 pm
Location: Dublin , Ireland

Postby johnfoyle » Fri Feb 24, 2006 4:26 pm

Thanks to Mikeh I now have this -

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

johnfoyle
Posts: 14072
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2003 4:37 pm
Location: Dublin , Ireland

Postby johnfoyle » Sun Sep 24, 2006 10:42 am

Nicole in Seattle blogs this extraordinary memory associated with B&C -



http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fusea ... =171908784


Sunday, September 24, 2006



When I was 16 my dad allowed me to go on a train trip to visit my aunt in Arizona over Christmas break. I took the train from Minnesota, across the Great Plains and down the west coast to L.A. where I was to change trains and cut eastward to Arizona. On the way home I was to travel east for some distance, then north along the Mississippi to Chicago, where I was to again change trains and back-track to Minneapolis and home.

I was an insufferable twit, being 16 and all. I thought I knew everything, I believed I was invulnerable and behaved in a deplorably selfish manner in retrospect. I impulsively jumped off the train mid-way through California when I realized the train stopped in the hometown of a friend. I grabbed my shit, exited the train at some ungodly pre-dawn hour and then called my friend's house to see if they wanted to "meet me for breakfast". They immediately freaked out because I was in a bad part of town and insisted that they pick me up right away. They put me up overnight without notice, treated me kindly, gently prodded me to call my aunt to tell her I would be a day late arriving, and got me back on the train when the next one rolled through 24 hours later.

When I was in Arizona I called my boyfriend long distance and talked for over an hour every night, about no goddamn thing at all, but I was convinced it was the end of the world if we couldn't speak to each other. I never even thought about the bill, being 16 and completely self-absorbed. My blessed aunt never said a word to me about it, then or at any time for the rest of her life. I'm still appalled at my behavior looking back on it.

When I hit Chicago I was immediately set upon by scam artists. The way the train connections worked out, I had a 23 hour layover and there was no way I was going to just sit in the train station for an entire day. I wandered around in downtown Chicago. I visited the Sears Tower. I went shopping for cassette tapes. At the music store, I was hit on by a "helpful" young clerk who, upon hearing that I was in town trying to kill 23 hours offered to take me back to his place. You know, just so I didn't have to wander around the city. Amazingly, I had enough of a weird vibe (and perhaps just enough basic sense) that I refused his offer and got the hell out of the store, but not before buying Elvis Costello's latest release, Blood and Chocolate. The friend I'd stopped to visit in California had been on and on about Elvis Costello and I decided to get myself some.

After leaving the record store I wandered around aimlessly for a long time. Finally I decided to treat myself to a movie. I had walked a good 12 or 20 blocks from the Sears Tower by that time and had nearly no idea where I was except that I hadn't strayed more than two blocks off whichever main street I'd been following. I found a theater showing an Eddie Murphy double feature. One of the movies was The Golden Child. The other was probably one of the Beverly Hills Cop movies, though I can't honestly remember. I was immediately being hit on my the ticket taker, who tried to get me to go up to the balcony with him before I'd even set foot inside the theater. I declined. He asked if he could come sit with me during the movie. I laughed, "As if you could find me!" He countered, "Honey, you're the only white girl in the place." God, I was stupid.

During the movie an "older guy" came and sat down right next to me, even though the theater was half empty. Between films he introduced himself and asked if I wanted to hear his poetry. Looking back, he was probably in his late twenties or early thirties at most. At the time, he might as well have been 50. He insisted on walking me back to the train when the movies let out because it was quite dark and late and, he insisted, not safe for me to be wandering alone. Then he led me off toward the L because he thought when I said I was taking the train I meant the elevated train, not the Amtrak. Finally, after quite the wrong detour, he kindly led me back to the Amtrak station (because after following him to the L, there's no way I would have gotten back myself). He, also, offered to let me stay the night at his house and (amazingly, since I apparently had brain damage on that trip to judge by my reckless behavior) I declined. I wasn't even trying to be outrageous or adventurous on this trip... I was merely young and ridiculously naive.

So, back to Elvis Costello. When I bought Blood and Chocolate, I was hoping to hear something like Alison, or Radio Radio, or Pump It Up. I was maybe pre-figuring a little (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding. What I got was bitter, divorced thirty-something Costello: Uncomplicated (Blood and Chocolate / I hope you're satisfied what you have done), Home is Where You Hang Your Head (But you know she doesn't want you / But you can't seem to get it in your head / Oh and you can't sleep at night / And she haunts you when you go to bed) and I Want You (Go on and hurt me then well let it drop / I want you / I'm afraid I won't know where to stop / I want you / I'm not ashamed to say I cried for you). To say I didn't "get it" would be an understatement. I owned it. I kept it and listened to it. I thought I "got it" a little, anyway. It's a gorgeous album but I didn't know the half of it at the time, just like I didn't know a thing about the rest of the world that I was blundering my way through.

We took Kate and her friend bowling this weekend. At 9:00pm they dimmed the lights, turned on the neon and the black light and the disco balls, lowered video screens and started blasting music and videos (from some dreadful Toby Keith American patriot garbage to Queen). Among their choices for the evening was Elvis Costello (doing Pump it Up). Since seeing that video, I've been craving Blood and Chocolate again. I no longer have the cassette. Rhino recently released a remastered CD (with a second CD of bonus material) but they don't offer it at the iTunes store or anywhere else as a MP3 download. I've tried listening to My Aim is True as a substitute but it's not the same. I love Mystery Dance in a very different way, but tonight, after the kids have finally ended their sleepover hijinx and with the full weight of my age and experience upon me, it's Blood and Chocolate that calls to me.

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bambooneedle
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Re: 1986, Blood and Chocolate sleevenote

Postby bambooneedle » Fri Oct 03, 2008 3:15 am

Ran across this in a book -

" 'I Want You' is one of Costello's most dramatic arrangements. It has a false intro long enough to be a section unto itself, played in a country style using I IV V in A Major. The second verse comes to an unexpected end on A G F#m. Appropriately for a song about emotional disjunctions, a sudden unrelated D#m chord on the electric hastens in the first verse proper in a new key. The main part of the song is built on a I III VI Vmaj turnaround in E minor: Em G C B7, occassionally interrupted by the D#m. The mix comprises a brittle spikey electric organ, sustained organ chords, an acoustic guitar, bass and drums. The playing gradually intensifies with the organ seeking higher voicings. At 3.21 there's a demented two-note guitar solo on two deliberately "wrong" notes. The music subsides, builds up, and subsides again atabout the five minute mark. The long coda gradually fades to nothing - a kind of anti-climax.

The lyrics obsessively alterates the lyrics with the other lines. Costello's theme is jealousy and its self-torturing focus on the imagined details of a lover's betrayal. 'I Want You' falls short of the last degree of greatness. There's something melodramatic about it, almost as if the songwriter enjoys the conceit and prolongs the song as a consequence. Would it be any less effective if it were a minute or 90 seconds shorter? The speaker seems all too willing to embrace the pain he suffers. His imagination is voyeuristic and the lyric (reinforced by Costello's close miked vocal presence) implicates us as voyeurs if we get any pleasure out of his pain. But it's rivetting theatre. "

How To Write Songs On Guitar, p. 167 - Rikky Rooksby

handwashings
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Re: 1986, Blood and Chocolate sleevenote

Postby handwashings » Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:16 am

I have a "Cadbury" cassette as well - would gladly sell or trade it to anyone interested since I am trying to reduce the size of my collection!


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