Forthcoming from Elvis Costello


Elvis Costello fans, especially completists, have a very expensive few weeks ahead of them.

The man, born Declan McManus, has just published his autobiography, entitled Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink. Later this week (October 23) will see the companion ‘soundtrack’ entitled Unfaithful Music + Soundtrack album. This is a genuinely career-spanning compilation, which also includes two previously unreleased tracks ‘I Can’t Turn It Off’ from 1975, and ‘April 5,’ a collaboration with Kris Kristofferson and Roseanne Cash. It also features collaborations with a diverse selection of artists, including The Roots, Brian Eno, Burt Bacharach and The Brodsky Quartet.

The tracklisting is as follows:

1. ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN (LIVE) – Elvis Costello And Steve Nieve
2. POISON MOON- Elvis Costello
4. OLIVER’S ARMY – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
5. RIOT ACT – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
6. NEW LACE SLEEVES – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
7. MAN OUT OF TIME – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
8. I WANT YOU – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
9. WHEN I WAS CRUEL NO.2 – Elvis Costello
10. STRANGER IN THE HOUSE – George Jones With Elvis Costello
11. BEYOND BELIEF – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
12. HOME TRUTH – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
13. INDOOR FIREWORKS – The Costello Show Featuring His Confederates
14. SHIPBUILDING – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
15. CINCO MINUTOS CON VOS – Elvis Costello And The Roots
16. BEDLAM- Elvis Costello And The Imposters
18. ASCENSION DAY – Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint
19. RED COTTON – Elvis Costello And The Sugarcanes

1. VERONICA [DEMO] – Elvis Costello
2. IN THE DARKEST PLACE – Elvis Costello With Burt Bacharach
3. I WANT TO VANISH – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
4. MY DARK LIFE – Elvis Costello With Brian Eno
5. THE OTHER SIDE OF SUMMER – Elvis Costello
7. GHOST TRAIN – Elvis Costello
8. SUIT OF LIGHTS – The Costello Show Featuring His Confederates
9. JIMMIE STANDING IN THE RAIN – Elvis Costello And The Sugarcanes
10. THE BIRDS WILL STILL BE SINGING – Elvis Costello And The Brodsky Quartet
11. WISE UP GHOST – Elvis Costello And The Roots
12. ALMOST BLUE – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
13. ALL THE RAGE – Elvis Costello
14. COULDN’T CALL IT UNEXPECTED NO. 4 – Elvis Costello
15. ALISON – Elvis Costello
16. MY THREE SONS – Elvis Costello And The Imposters
17. I’M IN THE MOOD AGAIN – Elvis Costello
18. APRIL 5TH – Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello And Kris Kristofferson *
19. I CAN’T TURN IT OFF – D.P. Costello *

In addition, there will be a reissue in conjunction with Back To Black of his first eleven studio albums, released between 1977 and 1986, and the issue of the Taking Liberties collection of b-sides and rarities, previously only available in North America. The list of albums, which will be released on October 30 is as follows:

My Aim Is True, This Years Model, Armed Forces, Get Happy, Trust, Almost Blue, Imperial Bedroom, Punch The Clock, Goodbye Cruel World, Taking Liberties, King of America, and Blood and Chocolate.

Elvis Costello albums

In honour of this, an Elvis classic:

and ‘April 5’

Where’s our ‘Ghost Town’?


So there we were, a week or so ago, out on a Saturday night for a curry, Me and Mrs. 17 Seconds, and quite a few friends, including members of Aberfeldy and the Last Battle.

At one point during the meal – in relation to discussions about the Tory HQ in London being stormed at tuition fees, someone said ‘Where’s our Ghost Town?’

To which someone else replied ‘Give the bands a chance [the Colation]’s only been in for a few months!

I think if you’ve read this blog before, you probably know how I feel about the present government. It’s not to say that having a right-wing government in power automatically leads to a counter-culture of music, books and film, and as Mike Leigh pointed out on TV one night, not something that should be taken as being a good thing either.

But just watching this video nearly thirty years after the song came out…it’s never been more timely, sadly:

The Specials -‘Ghost Town.’ mp3

This was the Specials’ last single before they split; though the Special AKA worked with Rhoda Dakar to produce a record that remains truly frightening, about date rape, entitled ‘The Boiler’ and then to score a major hit with ‘Free Nelson Mandela.’ Two very different and awesome tracks.

Rhoda with the Special AKA -‘The Boiler.’ mp3 (*WARNING* – this track will freak you out. You have been warned)

The Special AKA -‘Free Nelson Mandela.’ mp3

Of course, there were other British folks* writing political music in the eighties, writing about what was happening in Britain and further afield. Elvis Costello wrote ‘Shipbuilding’ about the Falklands War, which was also performed by Robert Wyatt; and also two other classics in ‘Pills and Soap’ and ‘Tramp the Dirt Down.’ Morrissey’s solo debut Viva Hate finished with ‘Margaret On the Guillotine.’ The Jam did ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down…’ and then there was pretty much the whole career of Billy Bragg, New Model Army…yet the last twenty years have seen little to compare with these. Sure there have been a few songs; Apache Indian’s ‘Movin’ On (Special)’ about the election of the first BNP councillor in 1993; early stuff from the Levellers (Check out ‘Battle Of the beanfield’ and Gene’s 1999 single ‘As Good As It Gets’ about New Labour.

Of course, songs do need to be good and get out there. ‘Ghost Town’ was a number one. Billy Bragg’s ‘Take Down The Union Jack’ may have had admirable sentiments but the song was piss-poor, frankly.

What we need is a song that is a HIT that unites the people. Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?

Elvis Costello -‘Shipbuilding.’ mp3

Robert Wyatt -‘Shipbuilding.’ mp3

Gene -‘As Good As It Gets.’ mp3

Billy Bragg -‘Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards.’ mp3

* I’m not meaning to undermine how important Hip-Hop was here – Public Enemy alone deserve several posts devoted to them.

Elvis didn’t mean shit to Chuck D…


…but that was Mista Chuck talking about Presley, and Costello would hopefully not incur Chuck D’s wrath so much (apart from that stupid remark about Ray Charles, but if Charles forgave him, then so should the rest of us).

I guess at this point in history Costello’s always going to be best known for ‘Oliver’s Army’ though I reckon he’s done many better. So why not post a handful of great if lesser known Costello tracks?

This track was a minor hit in 1980, and whilst I’ve never really loved parent album Trust, this shows just how important Steve Nieve was to the Costello sound:

1982’s Imperial Bedroom is probably my favourite Costello album. This was another single that didn’t make the Top 40 (yes, it was a single, I have it on 12″!) and if there’s an official video I cannot find it on YouTube. But this rules -and one of my favourite Costello songs:

As with any artist who’s been going over thirty years, there are highs and lows – I reckon he’s made many great albums, though some like Goodbye Cruel World are poor. Mind you, I loved the Juliet Letters collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet in 1993, though I don’t tend to play the collaboration with Burt Bacharach Painted From Memory very much.

But one album that is chockablock full of great songs (in some other people’s hands it would be a greatest hits comp) is 1994’s Brutal Youth. Another song that should have been a bigger hit…

As the Election approaches…


It’s approaching Election Day in Britain this week, which affects Scotland (obviously!) and whilst there haven’t been a lot of great political songs to reach my ears of late, this is still pertinent.

From 1989, the still astonishing ‘Tramp the Dirt Down’ by Elvis Costello.

‘I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice coming down on that child’s lips?

Well I hope I don’t die too soon, I pray the Lord my soul to save
Yes, I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

When England was the whore of the world, Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t haunted by every tiny detail
When she held that lovely face in her hands all she thought of was betrayal

And now the cynical ones say that it all ends the same in the long run
Try telling that to the desperate father who just squeezed the life from his only son
And how it’s only voices in your head and dreams you never dreamt
Try telling him the subtle difference between justice and contempt
Try telling me she isn’t angry with this pitiful discontent
When they flaunt it in your face as you line up for punishment
And then expect you to say “Thank you”, straighten up, look proud and pleased
Because you’ve only got the symptoms, you haven’t got the whole disease
Just like a schoolboy, whose head’s like a tin-can
Filled up with dreams then poured down the drain
Try telling that to the boys on both sides, being blown to bits or beaten and maimed
Who takes all the glory but none of the shame?

Well I hope you live long now, I pray the Lord your soul to keep
I think I’ll be going before we fold our arms and start to weep
I never thought for a moment that human life could be so cheap
But when they finally put you in the ground
They’ll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down’

Elvis Costello -‘Tramp The Dirt Down.’ mp3

Here is the news…


Utterly depressed by the news this evening. With the threat of a Tory government becoming not only a nightmare but a possible reality, do we really need this?

And what about British Airways?

Billy, we need you more than ever.

Billy Bragg -‘There Is Power In A Union.’ mp3

And just in case people need a reminder of how bad things got…

The Men They Couldn’t Hang -‘Ironmasters.’ mp3

Elvis Cosetllo -‘Tramp The Dirt Down.’ mp3

The memory of John Peel Vs the Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph, that bastion of the sort of thinking that is abhorrent and makes a mockery of free speech, three days ago published this editorial that can only serve as a reminder of why John Peel was important and why conservatives are a threat to a decent way of life. Mike at Teenage Kicks ran this this morning, and I am still so incredulous I am doing the same.

This is by someone called Michael Henderson:

” There is something embarrassing, to be frank, unmanning, about the inscription on the memorial to John Peel, the broadcaster, who passed away four years ago. Freshly carved in a Suffolk graveyard, the stone reads: “Teenage dreams so hard to beat”.

Strictly speaking, there should be a comma after “dreams”, those phantoms that are, apparently, “so hard to beat”. But, whatever else he did in his 65 years, before his unfortunate death on holiday in Peru, Mr Peel did not speak strictly. On this occasion, therefore, and making further allowance for the fact that the line is borrowed from a pop song, it is permissible to overlook that solecism.

All the same, it is embarrassing. The man lived 65 years, and in that time he must have had the kind of experiences that bring a few drops of wisdom; at the very least, a smattering of self-knowledge. Yet he chose to be remembered by the words of a song that, like the adolescent dreams they are supposed to evoke, are thoroughly wet.

One doesn’t necessarily expect a Wordsworthian invocation to see into “the life of things” from a man who spent his working life among the sharpies and ne’er-do-wells of the most venal industry in the world. A man who taught me was at Shrewsbury with Peel (or Ravenscroft, as he was known in those days), and remembered him as “the dimmest boy in school”.

People have been known to improve with the years, so, once more, we shouldn’t be too hard on the chap for his lack of sparkle in the classroom. He seems to have been a harmless man, loved by those close to him. Yet, like so many young people who found their voice in the 1960s, and were indulged thereafter, he never really grew up.

A man who tells a television audience, as Peel did, “I wish I had the courage to be a terrorist”, to milk the applause of the credulous, forfeits the right to be taken seriously on any matter under the Sun. Worse, he presents himself to the world in the colours of a buffoon.

There is going to be a lot more buffoonery in the next few months, as the BBC pulls out all manner of expensive stops to mark the 40th anniversary of les événements. They will all be wheeled out again, the well-heeled Trots from Trottington Hall, to tell us how we got things so badly wrong back then, and how, if only we had got the revolution groove, baby, life would now be much sweeter.

Again, it is that refusal to grow up, the reluctance to let go of those comforting illusions that seek to make simple what is, of necessity, complex. We all have illusions, of course. Life without them would be intolerable, even if that longed-for century at Lord’s remains vivid only in our morning reverie.

But no sentient being who has absorbed the lessons of life would ever submit to the sovereignty of “teenage dreams”. Child-like visions, by all means. Had Peel chosen to inscribe Winnie the Pooh on his memorial, or summoned the spirit of Ratty and Toad, that would have been all right. Innocence always trumps self-deception.

And self-deception is exactly what is wrong with that memorial. Its banal sentiment is not child-like, merely childish. Pop music speaks to teenagers because, green in judgment, they lack the emotional resources to respond to anything deeper. With helpful instruction, and a bit of curiosity, that should come with age, though in this case it didn’t.

In fact, it often doesn’t. We have now reached a strange, indeed a unique, stage in history, when the ageing process has been reversed, with predictably grim consequences. We read about it again this week, only this time “teenage kicks” meant something else altogether; something literal and devastating.

People in their fifties and even sixties are seen on our streets every day behaving like teenagers. In their eating and drinking habits, clothing, language, and leisure pursuits, they can be hard to distinguish from people young enough to be their grandchildren. No wonder those youngsters fail to grow up.

Funeral directors across the land have spoken with sadness in recent years of the lack of respect shown to the dead. The passing of loved ones used to release feelings of love, loss and reflection. Now they are just excuses to have a bit of a larf. Death: just one more reason to roll out the barrel.

Peel was, in effect, 65 going on 17, with a teenager’s fear of disapproval. He made his name as a disc jockey playing any amount of bilge because, as he said, “people send me their tapes, so I play them”. Scared of being considered out of touch, he jumped on any bandwagon that happened to be passing.

It is also worth noting that he was a keen fan of football, a game (or industry) that tends to pickle its most fervent followers in a jelly of arrested development. Should you doubt that, feel free to attend any fixture today and study the behaviour of spectators in even the most expensive seats. If you have never been to a football match, you are in for the kind of surprise that greeted the good woodsfolk who stumbled across the Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

“Teenage dreams so hard to beat”. Feeble stuff. What it really means is: “I never grew up”.”

Several holes I would like to pick in this travesty of journalism.

Firstly, to make a very thinly veiled link with the muder of Garry Newlove and the song Teenage Kicks beggars belief. This is utterly crass.

Secondly, the rampant generalisation about football fans. John was at Heysel in 1985 when 39 Juventus fans died, and was deeply affected by it. Yes, there are unpleasant people at football games, there are unpleasant people everywhere.

Thirdly, he jumped on every bandwagon passing – tosh. Peel played punk, hiphip and reggae, amongst others, when other DJs wouldn’t cover these genres, taking abuse from racist idiots, particularly for reggae.

But mostly, what I find spectacularly offensive is the way he makes people seem idealistic and naive for wanting to have changed things. Yes, the comment about terrorists seems misguided, but take any comment out of context and you can cause anyone to look stupid and misinformed, or worse.

As a teacher, I’m privileged to teach young people, and learn a lot from them, something Mr. Henderson seems to find impossible. Yes, I may be idealistic, but if I wasn’t, I would have ended up cynical and given up long ago. I don’t kid myself that I make a difference, but if I can help people to think for themselves, then I must be doing something. Is hanging on to your dreams and aspirations really refusing to grow up? As well as his long-running Radio 1 show, he also presented Home Truths for
many years on Radio Four, something Mr. Henderson omits.

I know next to nothing about Mr. Henderson, so I’m not going to make childish insults about him, but this article is insulting to so many people.

Elvis Costello -Tramp The Dirt Down.’ mp3

Another Festive Fifty themed post

What can I say? It was just such fun (if bloody time consuming) doing yesterday’s Peel-related Post here that I thought I’d do something similar again…In the process, I have realised that a great number of these come from 1982, confirming my belief that 1977-1982 was the greatest era ever, for music. Followed by 2001-2008, obviously).

First up, Pete Wylie under various guises had several entries in the Festive Fifty, here are two of my favourites. It’s sometimes hard trying to work out what was Wah!, Mighty Wah! or Wah! Heat (or Shambeko Say Wah! for that matter, but I think these were both as the Mighty Wah! That is what the CDs say, anyway)

Mighty Wah! -‘Come Back.’ mp3

Mighty Wah! -‘The Story Of The Blues.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty, No.7)*

The song Shipbuilding was written by Elvis Costello in 1982, about the Falklands War and Robert Wyatt recorded it first, nearly topping the Festive Fifty in 1982. Elvis Costello recorded his own version for Punch The Clock in 1983. Both versions are fantastic, Wyatt’s version and piano are gorgeous, though Costello’s version is great too, and features Chet Baker on trumpet.

Robert Wyatt -‘Shipbuilding.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty, No.2)

Elvis Costello -‘Shipbuilding.’ mp3 (1983 Festive Fifty, No.48)

And in different guises, Coventry also had a fair amount to say about social issues of the time, both at home and abroad.

The Specials -‘Ghost Town.’ mp3 (1981 festive Fifty No.21)

The Special AKA -‘Free Nelson Mandela.’ mp3 (1984 Festive Fifty No.41

As ‘New pop’ replaced or post-punk evolved, depending on your point of view, there were certainly many bands who were commercially successful on in both the charts and the festive fifty (even Frankie Goes to Hollywood made the Festive Fifty in 1984, with their nine-weeks-at-the-top-of-the-proper-charts Two Tribes). Though Peel bemoaned on his 1994 Festive Fifty that some of the records had made the chart, and where had he gone wrong, it’s probably fair to assume he had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. These are both from 1982:

Yazoo – ‘Only You.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty No.12)

Associates -‘Party Fears Two.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty No.14)

Peel also played Hip-Hop when no-one else on Radio 1 was doing so (Peter Powell reportedly once told him that he shouldn’t on the grounds that Hip-Hop was the music of Black hooligans, allegedly).

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five -‘The Message.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty no.3)

Erik B & Rakim -‘Paid In Full.’ mp3 (1987 Festive Fifty no.27)

* There are several different versions of this track in existence, including the Parts 1&2 version that Peel played on one of his last ever broadcasts in 2004. I have put the ‘Part 1’ version here.

When is a cover not a cover?

OK, maybe I’ve just got too much time on my hands, but this question has been occuring to me for a while…And where does that leave prefering one version over another?

First up, ‘China Girl.’ Co-written by Iggy Pop and David Bowie in 1977, it appeared on Iggy’s The Idiot in 1977, and then on Bowie’s Let’s Dance in 1983. I suppose that Bowie’s version is a cover coming technically afterwards, but he did produce The Idiot. And I sorta prefer Iggy’s voice on his version, but i love the bass on the Bowie version. Hmm, go figure…

Iggy Pop -‘China Girl.’ mp3

David Bowie -‘China Girl.’ mp3

And what about ‘Shipbuilding?’ Elvis Costello co-write this poignant ballad about the Falklands’ War, in 1982, Robert Wyatt recorded it first and had ahit with it, then Costello recorded his version for his own Punch The Clock LP in 1983. I like Wyatt’s voice, but Chet Baker’s trumpet is heartbreaking.

Robert Wyatt -‘Shipbuilding.’ mp3

Elvis Costello -‘Shipbuilding.’ mp3

As for this last one, well, I guess it always was a James Kirk track, even if there were twenty years between the version he did in Orange Juice and then recording it for his own solo You Can Make It If You Boogie in 2003. Or was it?

James Kirk -‘Felicity.’ mp3

Please leave any thoughts below…