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Posts Tagged ‘elvis costello’

Repost: “I’m Not Angry”

Posted by purplemary54 on February 19, 2014

One of the things that has made me realize it’s time to go back into therapy is my inappropriate, angry yelling at the computer when I’m doing something innocuous.  I shouldn’t be that upset over a game or a crappy essay, after all.  There’s a little more going on under the surface.  But it makes this a totally appropriate repost.

This is actually a pretty angry song, belieing the title.  Elvis Costello (for whom I want to hug radios) has long been one of the angriest dogs in the yard.  He was one of the very fine artists that emerged from the ashes when punk attempted to burn down the world (they succeeded, but mostly only in destroying themselves).  He kept trying to rekindle the fire, but people liked it when he was angry.  Maybe because it was accompanied with witty lyrics and melodies.

What’s this song about?  A pissed off guy complains about his ex’s, um, proclivities.  Apparently, she moved one quite lustfully while he’s been sitting around seething.  He overhears her having sex.  He implies taking pictures of her.  He says outright “I know what you’re doing, I know where you’ve been.”  Sounds pretty stalkerish to me.  Although, it does open with “You’re upstairs with the boyfriend, while I’m left here to listen,” so maybe she’s being a little passive-aggressive about the whole thing.  These do not sound like healthy, happy people.  Which is what makes them so interesting.  Remember, the romance novel always ends when the hero and heroine finally get to live happily after.

Except that this song implies that ever after isn’t all that happy.  They might be exes, but this couple still seems to be living together.  Maybe a marriage going bad, but nobody wants to admit it.  Costello was married when he wrote this (wife number one); maybe he’s the one being a little passive-aggressive here.

To me, there’s more here than just rage about a relationship going down the tubes.  This was the late 70s after all; it seemed like the whole world was going down the tubes.  Divorce rates were up.  The economy was in the toilet.  Everywhere.  Costello had quit his steady job working with computers to be a musician, and found an outlet for all the rage he felt as a young person caught in a world that seemed like it was going to explode any day.  He knew that nothing was guaranteed anymore: “Spent all my time at the vanity factory, wondering when they’re gonna come and take it all back.”  The whole thing feels as nihilistic as The Sex Pistols sounded.  He keeps repeating “I’m not angry anymore.”  He sounds angry, but maybe he just gave up.  He knows where she’s been, after all, ” but I don’t care, cause there’s no such thing as an original sin.”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

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Posted in Music, Rock | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

“Radio Radio”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 15, 2013

I know this is usually Freaky Friday, but I didn’t feel like messing with my theme.  Maybe I’ll freak out tomorrow for a special Saturday edition.  Maybe not.  We’ll see how it goes.

The real programmers of all radio stations everywhere are the advertisers and/or corporations that run them.  They get to decide who gets into heavy rotation, and who gets tossed in the circular file.  Record companies have colluded in this for years, although it’s officially illegal to influence radio programming, at least in this country.  (Google “payola scandal” if you’re interested.)  It’s mercenary, arbitrary, and craven.

That’s why Elvis Costello wrote this song.

Simply put, Elvis Costello usually didn’t get put on the radio.  A lot of artists like Costello were getting shut out, musical acts who sang about politics and social issues, who wanted their listeners to think.  They didn’t want to play the usual games that got you played on the radio, and they didn’t want to sing mindless Pop just to have a hit.  It was making him angry, so he sang about it.  “You either shut up or get cut out, they don’t wanna hear about it.  It’s only inches on the reel-to-reel.  And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools, tryin’ to anaesthetise the way that you feel.”  Real thought is not acceptable on the radio.  Real creativity, unless it takes over the rest of the world, is forbidden.  Just play the same thing everyone else is playing, and it will all be fine.

It’s kind of funny that this song is more famous for television than it is for radio.  In 1977, Costello was asked to play on Saturday Night Live, because the Sex Pistols had backed out.  His record company, wanting to capitalize on the one album that was available in the U.S., asked him to play something from My Aim is True.  Initially, he agreed.  But just a few bars into “Less Than Zero,”  Costello yelled at the Attractions to stop, apologized to the audience, and played “Radio Radio” instead.  It kind of pissed a few people off.  (Which is really funny, because “Less Than Zero” is no less inflammatory.)  The stunt got Costello banned from SNL for a number of years, although they eventually lifted it.

Enjoy the song.  Call your local radio station, and ask them to play “Radio Radio.”  Ask them to play any song by Elvis Costello.  See what happens.

 

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“Put it There”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 15, 2013

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for the last couple of days.  I don’t really know why.

I don’t pay much attention to Paul McCartney’s new music these days.  It seems like he puts out a new album of mostly inoffensive, mostly forgettable Pop every couple of years.  But back in 1989, when Flowers in the Dirt was released, his work was still a pretty big deal to me.  And this album always seemed like a pretty big deal for him.

McCartney is one of those songwriters that will write nothing but maudlin pabulum if left to his own devices.  He needs someone cynical and kind of nasty to play off of, someone with a little acid in his voice.  John Lennon was that perfect foil for a long time, and I think that effect lingered until John’s death.  In the 80s, however, whatever edge Paul had carried with him since the early 60s had been worn away, blunted by years of fame, money, and happy family life.  His records sold well, but were increasingly criticized for being, well, kind of soft.

Flowers in the Dirt represented a real return to form for Paul McCartney.  The love songs were sweet without giving you cavities.  The gentle acoustic work, like “Put it There,” was quiet without sounding like Muzak.  And there was some bite and laughter in Paul’s voice for the first time in a long time.  I think a lot of the success of this album was due to McCartney working with a partner who really challenged him, the wonderfully nasty and acid-tongued Elvis Costello.  He brought out the best in the former Beatle, and helped remind everyone what a real talent Paul McCartney really was (check out “You Want Her Too” to hear them play off each other).

He’s let that talent lie fallow again.  I don’t really blame him.  He’s in his 70s, and has more money than some small countries would be able to spend.  He’s on his third marriage, with children mostly grown.  He doesn’t have to do anything new or interesting anymore.  Of course, once in a while he’ll pop up for a surprise concert somewhere, or collaborate with the surviving members of another generation-defining band.  He’s not dead.  Or stupid.  He still enjoys his work and being creative.  He just doesn’t feel the need to be anyone’s spokesman anymore.

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“Every Day I Write the Book”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 20, 2013

When I started up my computer this morning, I saw the news that author Elmore Leonard had died.  I wasn’t an Elmore Leonard fan; I’ve never read any of his books.  Heck, I never even saw the movie version of Get Shorty.  But I fancy myself a writer, so this is the death of a comrade in arms, a fellow wordsmith.  Granted, he was a much more famous, successful, and arguably better wordsmith; nonetheless, we are however vaguely connected by this thing we both love and agonize over.

As anyone who has ever tried to write anything will tell you, writing is hard.  It’s a struggle to put the right words to your thoughts and feelings.  It’s terrifying to show those words to another person.  In my job as a writing tutor, it is both company and my personal policy to try to be as encouraging and positive as possible, which I freely admit is sometimes difficult.  But positive feedback and constructive criticism are the best ways to encourage writers.  Come to think of it, they’re the best ways to encourage anyone at anything.

Elvis Costello turns writing into a metaphor for a romance in this song.  It’s not the first time that’s been done in a pop song (see here for another famous example), but no one’s ever done it more cleverly.  Like most Costello, there’s a slyness to the lyrical twists and turns that disguises a lot of different emotions.  That’s one of the hallmarks of a good writer: Being able to wring as many meanings out of a few words as you possibly can, leaving room for both your own intentions and the audiences’ interpretations.  Because that’s the most important thing about writing–or any other art–that a lot of people don’t think about.  Once you finally finish (or give up, because no writing is ever truly finished) and send it out into the world, it ceases to be yours.  It becomes the world’s.

 

 

Posted in Music, Obituaries, Rock | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

“Waiting for the End of the World”

Posted by purplemary54 on December 20, 2012

Okay, so it’s already 12-21-12 in some parts of the world, and there hasn’t been any out of the ordinary bad news reported.  Yet.  I don’t believe in doomsday prophecies.  It just seems like such a cop-out.  “Oh, well, the world’s going to end tomorrow, so I guess I don’t have to be responsible for anything I do.”  Although I suppose, strictly speaking, this isn’t really a doomsday prophecy.  The Long Count calendar simply indicates that this is the end of one period and the beginning of a new one.  It’s not their fault that some have chosen to view that as some sort of apocalyptic catastrophe.  And I guess I should really wait until the end of tomorrow to count my chickens.  (Hmm, maybe I’ll get some chicken at the market tomorrow.)  Hence, today’s song.

“Waiting for the End of the World” was off Elvis Costello’s utterly wonderful debut, My Aim is True.  The whole album is filled with anger, sarcasm, and vitriol, and there is not a clunker among the thirteen taut tracks.  “Waiting for the End of the World” is less manic than some of the other songs, but no less bitter.  England in the late 70s was in bad shape, and Costello reflected the anger and despair of that time a lot more articulately than his punk contemporaries.  (Costello has always been considered one of the first New Wave acts.)  There’s an overwhelming sense of stagnation and frustration.  The first verse of “Waiting. . .” tells the story of a blackout on a subway line, where the train passengers sit waiting in the darkness for something to happen–anything–to happen.  You get the feeling the apocalypse would’ve been welcomed at that point; at least it would be something different.

Since the world probably isn’t coming to some sort of fiery end tomorrow, I suppose we’re just going to get more of the same again.  I kind of hope The X-Files was right and the aliens land.  Maybe not the invasion Mulder and Scully feared, but more of an intergalactic tour bus.  “And on your left, ladies and gentleman, is Earth.  Among the highlights of our visit today will be the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, and the temple of Angkor Wat.  For lunch, we’ll be stopping at McDonald’s to sample some of the local cuisine, and then we’ll be moving on to The Mall of America to pick up some souvenirs.  Make sure you bring your cameras to get some pictures with the natives!”

At least it would be something different.

 

 

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“Veronica”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 4, 2012

I’m feeling the blogging blahs right now.  I want to post, but I can’t seem to settle easily on something.

I’ve been thinking about my grammy a lot lately.  Maybe because her birthday would’ve been last month.  Maybe because my uncle (her son) passed away.  Grammy was sweet, very grandma-like.  We’d come over to visit, and she’d come out of her room and say, “Do you want something to eat?  I can make you a sandwich.”  First thing.  No hug, no hello.  Just an offer of a sandwich (or something similar).  She loved her beer, her St. Louis Cardinals, and anything Iowa.  She worked hard, first as a mother and wife, then as a secretary after my grandfather died.  The only thing I wish (besides that she was still here) was that I listened more to her.

Elvis Costello wrote “Veronica” about his grandmother.  I don’t know how many years after she passed he recorded the song, but the grief feels as fresh as if it had been the day before.  I know that feeling.  It’s been over twenty years, and sometimes something will remind me of her and I will be stricken with how much I miss her.

My favorite thing about this is the way Costello sings along with the track instead of just lip-synching.  It’s such a gentle, generous, tender declaration of love.

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“I’m Not Angry”

Posted by purplemary54 on March 13, 2012

This is actually a pretty angry song, belieing the title.  Elvis Costello (for whom I want to hug radios) has long been one of the angriest dogs in the yard.  He was one of the very fine artists that emerged from the ashes when punk attempted to burn down the world (they succeeded, but mostly only in destroying themselves).  He kept trying to rekindle the fire, but people liked it when he was angry.  Maybe because it was accompanied with witty lyrics and melodies.

What’s this song about?  A pissed off guy complains about his ex’s, um, proclivities.  Apparently, she moved one quite lustfully while he’s been sitting around seething.  He overhears her having sex.  He implies taking pictures of her.  He says outright “I know what you’re doing, I know where you’ve been.”  Sounds pretty stalkerish to me.  Although, it does open with “You’re upstairs with the boyfriend, while I’m left here to listen,” so maybe she’s being a little passive-aggressive about the whole thing.  These do not sound like healthy, happy people.  Which is what makes them so interesting.  Remember, the romance novel always ends when the hero and heroine finally get to live happily after.

Except that this song implies that ever after isn’t all that happy.  They might be exes, but this couple still seems to be living together.  Maybe a marriage going bad, but nobody wants to admit it.  Costello was married when he wrote this (wife number one); maybe he’s the one being a little passive-aggressive here.

To me, there’s more here than just rage about a relationship going down the tubes.  This was the late 70s after all; it seemed like the whole world was going down the tubes.  Divorce rates were up.  The economy was in the toilet.  Everywhere.  Costello had quit his steady job working with computers to be a musician, and found an outlet for all the rage he felt as a young person caught in a world that seemed like it was going to explode any day.  He knew that nothing was guaranteed anymore: “Spent all my time at the vanity factory, wondering when they’re gonna come and take it all back.”  The whole thing feels as nihilistic as The Sex Pistols sounded.  He keeps repeating “I’m not angry anymore.”  He sounds angry, but maybe he just gave up.  He knows where she’s been, after all, ” but I don’t care, cause there’s no such thing as an original sin.”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

 

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