A Beginner’s Guide To Elvis Costello

A Beginner’s Guide To Elvis Costello.

This is an awesome start to one of my favorite artists of all time, but given that my own personal favorite songs are not represented on this list, I simply must take this opportunity to gush. I mean, add them to this list. Ahem.

In no particular order, I would make sure the following five tracks were added to any Elvis overview:

1)  Oliver’s Army (1979)

I mean, come on!  What scathing commentary on British colonialism and the poor young army! And I don’t care how many people cover the song, Elvis Costello is the only person who can get away with the phrase “white n—r.”

2) Shipbuilding (1982)

Another, sadder paean to the young men lost to the craft of war, this time the constant building of military ships to replace those sunk in the Falklands War. It features my absolute favorite jazz trumpeter, Chet Baker, which is an automatic win.

3) Every Day I Write the Book (1983)

Elvis at some of his sweetest-wittiest-snarkiest, on the one hand filled with innocent, unrequited love for someone, and on the other not so subtly calling that person out for pretending to ignore him. It has one of my favorite EC lines of all time: “Don’t tell me you don’t know what love is / when you’re old enough to know better / When you find strange hands in your sweater …” Come On!!  Pure gold.  (And the faux Charles and Di in the video? Priceless.)

4) I’ll Never Fall in Love Again

Okay, has there ever been a more perfect union than that between EC and Burt Bacharach? Super-smooth melodies and those superficially innocent, deeply pained lyrics –  trademarks of both artists. This ain’t just any ordinary cover – this is Elvis doing what he does best, a Janus face of the sting of puppy love and the bitterness of older loss.

5) Just a Memory

Sigh, no video available. This was the song that introduced me to Elvis, and I’ve been grateful ever since. Again, it’s that combination of innocent wistfulness and sounding on the verge of manic hysteria that endears him to me, and this song is no different. You can never take what he sings at face value, and for that I adore his work. “Losing you is just a memory / Memories don’t mean that much to me.”  Stab me in the heart, why dontcha?


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