Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Who can forget the great comedy duo from the 1940s, Elvis and Costello? Who's on first? Elvis and Costello Meet Frankenstein? Here the comedy duo perform "This Year's Girl," "No Action" and "(I Don't Want to Go To) Chelsea." I don't know who's on first, but the second album was even better. Remember buying this? Remember keyboard neckties?

Okay, it's not Elvis AND Costello--it's simply Elvis Costello (real name Declan MacManus)--a bug-eyed, pigeon-toed geek who came out of the London pub scene and got popular in the punk/new wave era of the late seventies with his sneering and clever lyrics, his relentless rock and his Buddy Holly glasses. After punk rock set the odometer back to Year Zero, promising to jettison that past completely and toss out the stadium rock of the hippie era that had by then ossified, a few hearty souls began to slip cleverness back into the mix. Punk was raw and simple, for the most part, and New Wave was more complex (there was no other way to go) and Costello and Crew retained a nasty intelligence that might have (God forbid) hearkened back to Dylan at his most electric and sneering "Don't Look Back" persona. But different. "My Aim is True" (1977) was a bold debut, but the next album, "This Year's Girl" (1978), was even better--and probably still his best. This clip is from that era, recorded live at the Rockpalast on June 15th, 1978.

As you know if you've read "All The Way to Memphis," the lean mean Elvis was never the same after joining the Army. He came back from the Falklands a different man. The sneer was gone and the frenetic guitars were replaced with orchestral arrangements, the rage and fury replaced by nods to Burt Bacharach and chamber pot music, and all those gawky fans were left standing in the rain on streetcorners queuing up for the dole and trying to score a ticket. The new Elvis was fat and sassy and wore a white sequined cape in Las Vegas and ate too many fried banana sandwiches and stayed up too late at Graceland cleaning his weapons and watching TV and cursing the day he was born. The magic was gone. The gods had turned him from a charro into a churro. He still did some good stuff now and then--not counting those terrible Hollywood movies--but old friends scarcely recognized him. Maybe I'm confusing him with the other Elvis but the story is basically the same so I'm not apologizing. After a couple of decades in a daze, Elvis awakened under an old oak tree with leaves in his hair and a chill wind rustling his whiskers. He struggled to his feet and shook his fist at the sky. Then he cleaned up his act and went on the road. It wasn't quite like old times but he recaptured some of that rebel spirit.

This clip is from an in-store appearance at Amoeba in 2009. Yup, he's gotten older but haven't we all?

No comments: