What I said back then:
Way back then, when I started this exercise, I thought more of these would turn out to be like the Joni Mitchell one; lists of passing memories. Well, this one will be, because when it came down to it, I couldn’t single out one particular moment. So here, in rough chronological order, are the Costello moments:
Get Happy! – sitting on the stairs at 31 King St, marvelling at the number of tracks on one side of vinyl.
Bouncing around my parents’ living room, trying to figure out the words to ‘Oliver’s Army’
Pills and Soap – heard it first in my parents’ car, wondering if they were hearing this vitriol…
Driving my van along Auchmill Road, being overpowered by ‘Tokyo Storm Warning’
Hearing ‘Good Year for the Roses’ in Inverness – what on earth is this?
‘Spike’ – another Perth Library record – I listened to this on the way to every interview that summer when I was out of work.
‘Mighty Like a Rose’ – trekking the back roads home to Tring, yelling along to ‘The Other Side of Summer‘
‘Jacksons, Monk and Rowe’ – do you know, I think this string quartet thing might work…
Buying ‘The Juliet Letters’, and playing it obsessively for a month – this string quartet thing definitely does work, and remains my favourite Costello album. Finding out that I’m not the only person who feels this way. [Note: this is a reference to an article by the magician Teller, now disappeared from the web, if you can imagine such a thing] Quoting bits of lyric from it at odd times; being stared at.
In fact, although I am selective about which bits I listen to, Elvis Costello is as much the soundtrack to my life as Joni Mitchell is – the fact that I seem to like the bits that most people pass by just makes him all the more of a personal favourite – sometimes I think that he writes stuff purely for my enjoyment. I can’t imagine a time when I didn’t know the words to ‘New Amsterdam’ or was able to stop myself singing ‘my aim is true’ whenever I meet someone called Alison (I don’t usually sing it out loud, thankfully) – it’s sobering how someone you’re never likely to meet can take over parts of your life in such subtle ways.
But I’m glad it’s him, and I’ve never been disappointed by him.
What I think now:
The ‘way back then’ comment sticks out, because this was originally much later in the 40. I’ve gone slightly more chronological this time round, so it, and the passing reference to Perth Library will make more sense when you read later entries.
Elvis Costello continues to weave in and out of my soundscape; I have occasionally caught some of his marvellous TV show, and I still love to thrash out early Costello material on my guitar. I do believe that he was one of the most important musical voices of the last century, and I think he’s capable still of startling innovation and taking listeners down entirely unexpected roads.
A few iTunes purchases over the years have restored my vinyl collection and added some later stuff. I’m still most likely to listen to ‘Juliet Letters’ – I even wrote a short story based on one of those tracks.
And earlier this year, I stumbled upon this. One of his great songs and a truly stunning interpretation. See what I mean?