Everyone remembers their first concert. A young friend of mine recently attended his here in Everett, and many years from now he will enjoy a special memory of elderly men in scary clown make-up attacking their instruments with bone-crunching riffs. My special memory is of Elvis Costello in Seattle, 1981.
It was a fertile time in the music world what with the advent of punk, new wave, and second-wave ska. Bands such as The Police, Buzzcocks and Madness put on concerts in Seattle on a weekly basis. Alas, I was a tad young to venture into the big city for such an event, so the concerts rolled on and I wistfully waved goodbye to them, wishing that I could have witnessed this explosion of daring new music.
Finally in January 1981 my friends and I donned the uniform of the day: black and white checkered blazers, skinny ties, straight leg jeans and high top sneakers, and we eagerly waited in line with all the other young punks to see Elvis. Thirty years later I don’t remember too many details of the concert, but I was impressed enough to eagerly await each of his new albums for years to come.
Elvis remains prolific, having released 30 albums, produced and appeared on many others, written incidental ballet music, composed for movies, and toured extensively. His musical genres have run from new wave to country, soul, jazz, pop and classical. He is not buttonhole-able.
Following is a quick tour of the Elvis Costello albums you can find at Everett Public Library. Listen loud and listen often!
My Aim Is True (1977)
I first experienced Elvis at a high school dance in 1979, back before DJs killed performing musicians, hearing both the pop/soul ballad Alison and the reggae-influenced Watching the Detectives. This album is clearly a landmark in pop music, introducing both a force to be reckoned with (Elvis, that is) and new directions for pop/rock to explore.
This Year’s Model (1978)
Consistently listed as one of the greatest of its time period, song after song from this album assaults your senses, caresses your cortex, shakes your moneymaker. For fans of music that makes you want to move, this is a good starting point in the Elvis discography.
The Best of Elvis Costello (1985)
A nice mix of songs, clearly displaying Costello’s prowess in diverse musical genres.
The Juliet Letters (1993)
Yes, Elvis made a classical album filled with music entirely outside of his core fans’ comfort zones. In other words, it’s business as usual.
Brutal Youth (1994)
Many of Costello’s albums in the 1980s did not float my boat, so to speak. Brutal Youth is a return to the glory of This Year’s Model. After a single listen you’ll find yourself singing 13 Steps Lead Down in an uncontrollable fervor of joyousness.
Elvis was tired of the hassles surrounding recording and had decided that he was done. However, a happy experience making music with friends and family changed his mind, and Momofuku came out of this adventure. Musicians involved with the album include Jenny Lewis, Rosanne Cash and Loretta Lynn to name but a few.
National Ransom (2010)
National Ransom is well on its way to becoming one of my favorite Elvis albums. In a way, the album is a snapshot of his career with songs shifting genres faster than a New York waiter cashes his paycheck. If you’re new to Mr. Costello, perhaps his latest album is just the ticket for unveiling a world of sonic delights.
P.S. When you have a chance, look into the song “Green Shirt” on the album Armed Forces for perhaps the only use of the word quisling in a pop song.