Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cover Me Impressed: 'Girls Talk'

"There are some things you can't cover up with lipstick and powder..." I wonder how many hundreds of times I have heard this opening line. Elvis Costello has said "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" was a song he always wished he had written. Today we will listen to a song he did write but that he wished he had kept for himself. Costello wrote "Girls Talk" and, as he noted in the liner notes to the 'Get Happy!!' reissue from Rhino, "[gave it] away to Dave Edmunds in a moment of drunken bravado."

You have to hand it to Edmunds. He made the most of this gift. The single would peak at No. 4 in the UK and a modest No. 65 in America. (Let's not cry for Costello either. As the writer, he must have made quite a few shekels.) It was the opener to his 1979 covers album 'Repeat When Necessary.' He was backed by Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams. It's amazing to think these same four fellas appear together on Lowe's excellent
'Labour of Lust' album at the same time... and that Rockpile's 'Seconds of Pleasure' would be just around the corner. Of course, in '80, they all appeared together on Edmunds' 'Twangin'' and Carlene Carter's 'Musical Shapes' as well. Wow!

Costello's recorded version first appeared as the B-side to the 1980 single "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down." I didn't have that 45. Like many in America, I first heard the song on the odds-n-sods collection 'Taking Liberties.' Although I have all 20 tunes from that album as bonus tracks on Costello reissues, I have always held on to 'Taking Liberties' because I love the track order. In my world, "Girls Talk" is always supposed to come after "Clean Money" and before "Talking in the Dark." I have had the album for so long that it has always felt like a regular studio release. Maybe that's because even though several musical style are represented, all of the songs were recorded in such a small window of time, and the quality of work was so high. Costello was quite prolific between 1977 and the release of 'Taking Liberties' in 1980.

So, even though Edmunds and his Rockpile mates ended up with the hit and Costello used it as a B-side, I'll usually take the Costello version. If you're a fan of the Costello version as well, there is an additional (but inferior) "alternate take" of "Girls Talk" on that same Rhino reissue of 'Get Happy!!' that I mentioned earlier.

Dave Edmunds - Girls Talk (mp3)
Elvis Costello - Girls Talk (mp3)

Trivia: Who wrote "Bad is Bad," the B-side of Edmunds' "Girls Talk?"


Someone Said said...

Edmunds is one of the great cover artists. He never did note for note remakes but painted the songs in his own colors. Love the guy.

Bad is Bad was a Huey Lewis number if I recall right.

Echorich said...

I have to agree about Taking Liberties...for me it is a proper Costello album and fits right in the era it was released. It contains so many amazing moment - Clean Money, Girls Talk, Big Tears and the b-sides of the New Amsterdam 7" EP...I agree about the running order as well. When you grow up listening to an album from start to finish, sometimes those songs only sound right in the order you've always known them.
My Aim Is True through to Trust are perfect pop albums for me. But it took me a long time to fall in love with Almost Blue and Imperial Bedroom.
A final note on Girls Talk. As amazing an interpretation that Dave Edmunds created, I will never understand why Linda Ronstadt recorded the song! It's a song about a guy wondering what the girls are saying about him - it's filled with a nervous vunerability that really makes no sense to me when sung by a woman. I seem to remember EC was pretty annoyed by her version as well...

Brian said...

Right on, Someone Said. You recollection is correct. I was never a Huey Lewis fan, but he (or members of the News) pop up in unlikely places. He produced Nick Lowe at one point, for cryin' out loud!

And hello to you, Echorich. I wondered if anyone would mention LR's version. I made it a point to ignore it. Your point on the very male point to view is spot on. I imagine we Americans took to Taking Liberties more than Brits cared for Ten Bloody Marys & Ten How's Your Fathers because it all comes down to access to the singles. Kind of hoping to hear from someone in the UK on that.

Someone Said said...

Lewis' band Clover also provided the backing on Elvis Costello's debut record. That still amazes me.

Brian said...

Hey again, Someone Said. That Clover appearance was exactly what I was thinking when I mentioned "The News" popping up in unlikely places. Amazes me, too.

George said...

Excellent post. Dave Edmunds' version is very very good. Much better than ECs.

Brian said...

Hey George. Thanks for checking in. I can't possibly argue with you on this point. Both of them are quite satisfying to these ears.