80’s Music: Elvis Costello

If I could have dinner with 5 people, my table would include Bill Clinton, John Irving, Adam Carolla, Bill Murray, and Elvis Costello.  What a f-ing conversation that would be.  So you might guess from his inclusion on this list, I am a huge Elvis Costello fan.  I put him right at the top of great songwriters during my lifetime.  And while his first 3 albums were released in the 70’s and are hard to top, his work in the 80’s was just as prolific and not that far of a drop below his astonishing early brilliance.

Get Happy was Costell0’s first album of the decade and its R&B style shows a divergence from what he had done up until this point.  Here is the dancing EC on High Fidelity and I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down.

Trust was not one of his better records, but there are 2 excellent singles from it, Clubland and Watch Your Step which comes from Tom Snyder’s talk show.

If I have any beef Costello, it would be that he can be a bit too prolific, bombarding his fans with more music than all but his most rabid followers can handle.  During 1981, he put out both Trust and Almost Blue.  Neither is very good record, as the country covers on Almost Blue miss the mark for me, except for the Good Year for the Roses.

Imperial Bedroom was a big improvement, as it’s a solid effort with the great Man Out of Time and beautiful ballads, Beyond Belief and Almost Blue.

Elvis’ most poppish record is Punch the Clock. It’s a high-quality affair with stand-outs Everyday I Write the Book, Shipbuilding, and Pills and Soap.

Goodbye Cruel World is according to Elvis Costello his worst album. I would rate a couple others worse, but it says a lot of his consistency that one of his worse is still better than most that was released in 1984.  I found a cool Tonight Show clip of him doing Peace in our Time, plus his duet with Daryl Hall called The Only Flame in Town.

After 6 records in the first 4 years of the decade, Costello slowed down enough to record his best record of the decade, King of America.  Listen to it and you quickly realize it was the best alt.country record of the decade. Brilliant song after brilliant song. Not a lot of stuff you can find online from this record, but let assert this is one of the 3 best records of his career.  Here are Brilliant Mistake and Indoor Fireworks.

Blood and Chocolate was his critically heralded follow-up, but even though I appreciate it’s rage, I don’t think it’s as good as it was hailed.  There are some good cuts, though. Here is Uncomplicated and a duet/cover by Fiona Apple with Elvis.

1989’s Spike was his collaboration with Paul McCartney.  Their collaboration was more fruitful for McCartney, as his Flowers in the Dirt record was better, but there are some moments to visit on Spike, like   Veronica, Deep Dark Truthful Mirror, and Tramp the Dirt Down.


4 thoughts on “80’s Music: Elvis Costello

  1. Best concert I ever went to was Elvis Costello in Stockholm in 1989, in the concert hall where they hand out the Nobel Prizes. He was alone on stage for 95% of the performance, and the amazing thing was that just by himself, he gave off more energy than any group I’d ever seen.

  2. I’m envious you saw that show.

    He’s one of the 10 most important figures in music during my lifetime. I always was jealous I didn’t see him do the tour where he had a wheel of his songs and wherever it landed after he spun it, would be the song he would do.

  3. I’ve been thinking about that concert again after seeing this really interesting talk by David Byrne:

    That one-man show only works in a modestly sized theater like Konserthuset, where the architecture and the music were a perfect fit.

  4. Agreed, though I don’t believe think Byrne has deluded himself into thinking he could do the one-man show, as his work outside of the Talking Heads has never captured me.

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