Thursday, October 30, 2014

Peel Nabs Attractions Elvis Costello and Rockpile

I don't listen to Elvis Costello or Rockpile nearly as much as I did, say, in my early teens, but I go back more than 30 years with both of them, and I consider each crucial to my early musical education. From here I discovered Stiff and the many bands Costello and Nick Lowe produced and covered... then Madness, then 2 Tone, and the Costello/Lowe tree just kept growing more and more limbs. They were a strong trunk.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions recorded four Peel Sessions between 1977 and 1980, and I found them all on a very poorly assembled and produced bootleg called 'Radio Radio' while living in Japan 20 years ago. The sound quality is uneven, which is really too bad because I really like some of the takes found on this 19-song disc. That's how bootleg purchases went in the pre-Internet age. You bought on faith... not research. What I do like is hearing Costello with the Attractions so early. Of all my Costello live recordings, and I have a bunch, I don't believe I have another one that goes back to the summer of '77. My favorite of the sessions, however, is the one from 1980, but that's probably because 'Get Happy!!' is my No. 1 from the entire Costello catalog. Here's a taste from each session:

Mystery Dance (July 25, 1977)
Blame It On Cain (July 25, 1977)
Pump It Up (March 13, 1978)
Really Mystified (Oct. 23, 1978)
Beaten to the Punch (Feb. 25, 1980)
High Fidelity (Feb. 25, 1980)

Rockpile's session is from Feb. 8, 1977, and there was much to plug at the time. Dave Edmunds' album 'Get It' was slated for an April release, and Lowe's solo singles had been hitting the racks for the past year and would continue until 'Jesus of Cool' came out in 1978. "JuJu Man" was a Jim Ford cover from 'Get It." The Lowe penned "Heart of the City" is the real winner of this lot, and it, of course, appeared on 'Jesus of Cool' as a live song and on the American version of the album, 'Pure Pop for Now People,' as a studio track. Edmunds would also include the tune on his 1978 album 'Tracks on Wax 4.' "I Knew the Bride" was another Lowe tune on Edmunds' 'Get It.' I don't think Lowe released it himself until 'The Rose of England' album in 1985, but it was a live staple for many years. "Down Down Down" is another cover Rockpile used to play quite a bit. Edmunds had it on his first solo album, called 'Rockpile' just to really confuse things, way back in 1972. That settles it. I need more Rockpile posts. So good. Oh, and I got these from a Rockpile boot called 'A Mess of Blues.'

JuJu Man
Heart of the City
I Knew the Bride
Down Down Down


Echorich said...

Why haven't these ever seen the light of proper release!?! Really wonderful.
You know I used to have a really hard time picking a favorite Costello album. Of course Stateside, we got some slightly different versions of the early albums as non lp singles would find their way onto the albums released in the US.
For years and years it was Armed Forces with Get Happy a very close second. But in the last 10 or 15 years, Get Happy has bolted forward. It's an amazing achievement. There is not a single song I can't listen to over and over.
The two covers, "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" and "I Stand Accused" are the best rock versions of pure soul music I can think of. But Costello adds his own take on Soul with Love For Tender and Temptation.
He's at his tender best on Motel Matches and New Amsterdam.
The Imposter and Opportunity are Pub Rock flipped on its head.
Mod/Beatles are updated on Beaten To The Punch.
The cream that rises to the top of this rich album is High Fidelity, Man From Uncle and Riot Act. Costello and The Attractions seamlessly glide from one mood and attitude to another throughout the album's 20 track ending with Riot Act's visceral pains of love.
Yeah maybe I get a bit carried away, but this is a career defining album to me - one I can NEVER do without.

Brian said...

Echorich, Nailed it. Anyone who thinks you're getting carried away doesn't know these 20 songs. Even though this one doesn't get quite as much attention as, say, This Year's Model, I feel like those in the know have a special appreciation for this album. Thank goodness Costello scrapped the new wave turn that was planned as he went back to his Stax, Motown and Atlantic Rhythm and Blues records for inspiration. If this isn't my favorite album, it would certainly be in the running. How's that for getting carried away? Your comment has really made my day.

Charity Chic said...

Echorich has inspired me to give Get Happy a spin over the next few days.

Echorich said...

Today I moved on to the US compilation of singles and b-sides Taking Liberties which is possibly the best of that genre of releases I can think of.

Brian said...

I'm right with you, Echorich. Too bad generations after us only know those songs as bonus tracks on reissues (and reissues of reissues). I have always listened to Taking Liberties like I would a traditional release. That red-lettered CBS spine sticks out like a sore thumb in my Costello collection, but I just couldn't part with it, even after it became redundant as I bought his discography over and over again.

Brian said...

I hope you aren't alone, Charity Chic. Echorich's words should have moved many to that great album. As a regular reader to your blog, I think Get Happy would be your cup of tea. Take care.