Elvis Costello Insults His Audience And Shows His True Nature In Current Memoir
I am a very slow reader, I just don’t have the time really and tend to just read on the subway to and from work or at concerts waiting for the main act, so while rock nyc writer Steve Crawford read, reviewed and panned Elvis Costello’s memoir “Unfinished Music And Invisible Ink” in something like three days, I am still reading two months later. Unlike Steve (here), I’ve enjoyed it except for the occasional gnomic aside -a Wreckless Eric slap down was unnecessary.
Until the other day, when while discussing his country covers album Almost Blue, Costello wrote: “I’d slipped out of those tricky bitter songs that only appealed to a certain kind of creep.”
This is so insulting to the people who made him what he is, it is a little baffling that Elvis thought it, let alone wrote it.
I understand precisely who Costello’s target is: Teenage and college guys who never got the girl, like yours truly. Guys who through a mix of misreading and misleading, thought Costello was the patron saint of the loveless. It was, indeed, with something like excitement and joy that we heard songs like “Two Little Hitler” and “Big Boys” for the first time. Listening to a line like “You want to throw me away, well I’m not broken”, was the voice of empathy. Ugly, fat, socially maladroit, boys don’t get laid. we are shy, hurt, we have no self esteem, and we know a big brain is no replacement for a big penis.
But what we had was Elvis. As early as “I’d like to get right through the way I feel for you” and as late as “there’s a hand on a wire that leads to my mouth”, the man understood rejection. We, the boys he sung for, weren’t bitter or creepy or even misogynistic. It wasn’t us who wrote “You can’t stand it when I throw punch lines you can feel” and any way, we were listening for “You’re upstairs with your boyfriend, well I’m not here to listen”.
There is a subtext to the entire memoir that comes through in that “certain creeps”: Costello was not us and don’t mistake him for us. That’s all he says, over and over again, I am not one of you, I am pop music royalty, my birth was announced in the NME. You think you knew me but I wasn’t one of you hopeless wretches, I was sleeping with woman after woman after woman, palling with the God’s Of Pop, and I was never part of you, or a member of your bad breath, pimply, masturbation addicted sub-strata of humanity. No Blacks, Irish, Or 20 Year Old Male Virgins.
Alright, we got it Elvis, but let’s take a look at your pre-Almost Blue albums…
My Aim Is True – A
This Year’s Model – A
Armed Forces – B+
Get Happy!! – A+
Trust – B+
When you go to Costello concerts, this is the heart of the matter, and when you think of Costello this is, more or less, what you think. For the sake of completion, here are the rest of his “A” list
Imperial Bedroom – A+
King Of America – A
The latter one was 1986.
So, look, it was those bitter songs people love, it was those bitter songs people care about. And we “certain kind of creeps”, by which he means, we the unloved who finally had a rock star who was smart enough to articulate our pain with perfect pop rock songs and dynamic lyricism, were right. We loved what he was great at. We saw in his sense of rejection everything we never had before in pop. What did “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” have to do with me being turned down for a dance at a disco? Who cares about “I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are” when you have “You come here looking for the ride to glory, go back home with a hard luck story.”?
I don’t know when I’ve resented a rock star more.