Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sticks and Stones

Scott's recent inclusion of "Getting Mighty Crowded" over at
Spools Paradise got me thinking about some of my favorite covers performed by Elvis Costello... and I would certainly place the Betty Everett tune among them. Here's another. "Sticks and Stones" was penned by Titus Turner and made famous by Ray Charles in 1960. It was Charles' first single after the move from Atlantic to ABC-Paramount, and the song peaked at No. 2 on the R&B chart and No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. We all know the story of Costello's drunken racial epithet while discussing Charles back in 1979, and that unfortunate incident will follow the artist forever, but the myriad of mea culpas since then have satisfied most of us.

After several years of cooling, my passion for Costello's work heated up again in 1994. The Ryko reissues, the first but certainly not the last of its kind, were in full swing. Nick Lowe was producing the new album. Most importantly, the Attractions were back. Even though I was living in Japan and had seen Costello several times in the past, this would be my first show with the Attractions. My fandom was such that I was even buying the singles again. As B-sides go, I thought the "You Tripped At Every Step" single was the best from the 'Brutal Youth' era. There was "Step Inside Love," written by Paul McCartney and used as the theme song to Cilia Black's late '60s TV show. The second B-side, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," needs no introduction. The single ends with a hoppin' 95-second take of "Sticks and Stones." Interesting choice, don't you think? Fortunately, by 1994, it seemed Costello's cover of this particular Charles song was more or less a non-story.

Ray Charles - Sticks and Stones
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Sticks and Stones


george said...

The Brutal Youth album is one of my favourites of his, it has some terrific songs on it.

Brian said...

Hi George. I have always been pretty tough on Costello's post-CBS/Columbia work, but I thought (and still think) Brutal Youth was the best of the lot. In fact, I think Sulky Girl is one of his top songs... period. Wow, that was 20 years ago!