guilty pleasure monday: from a whisper to a scream (elvis costello)

like a finger running down a seam…

faked you out again, huh? in fact, i was going to feature a completely different song today… until BC started singing this song at bedtime last night. (in the fine tradition of her dad, who usually sings the glenn tilbrook part to my elvis, girlfriend started singing bits of tilbrooks’ part on the car ride home from sunday school.)

when i was growing up, the only person i knew who loved elvis costello more than i did was my friend leifer. (add also pete townshend and the jam to that list.) i mean, the dude had an altar to pete in his room in college. (perhaps he’ll confirm in the comments so you all know i’m not a liarliarpantsonfire kind of girl who hallucinated too much in college.) his lyrics (costello’s, not leifer’s) at times are incredibly pointed and cleverly invective –anyone recall this gem, for just one example:

Some of my friends sit around every evening
And they worry about the times ahead
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference
And the promise of an early bed
You either shut up or get cut up, they don’t wanna hear about it
It’s only inches on the reel-to-reel
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
Tryin’ to anaesthetise the way that you feel

yep. the only thing during that period that came close, in my opinion, to costello’s brilliant songwriting was the stellar team of chris difford and glenn tilbrook of squeeze. in their early days, there was nothing finer than those two… plus i adored the hilarious keyboard player jools holland. (do any regular readers of this space know of anyone else usually referred to as jools? anyone? anyone? bueller?)

i still have fond memories of asking my mother, the original ms. malaprop, to borrow the then-latest squeeze album from my Brother The Doctor  (before he was a doc and was merely my brother) during her visit to his apartment. my brother later called me up, laughing. mom asked for georgie porgy by the crush. i figured out you wanted argybargy by squeeze.

thank Dog he could translate elaineese..

anyway, when elvis costello produced squeeze’s east side story, i nearly went over the edge. (happily, of course.) squeeeee! two, two, TWO mints in one!  i played tempted at least 50,000 times in a row on my little rinky-dink tape recorder every single day during the summer of 1981, smiling dementedly whenever i heard elvis break in singing his little bits and bobs. (later on, i’d lose it every time i heard him squawk no milk and sugar! in black coffee in bed.) and when i wasn’t listening to it on cassette, i was playing it on the damn piano, over and over until i suspect my parents considered having me committed. (don’t worry; i was still working on my old partridge family favorite… in secret, though. the patridges were tres uncool in the early 1980s in my set.)

so, to my delight, elvis and glenn did a little duet on elvis’ classic album, trust. is it either’s best work? hell, no. but their energy, along with the contrast in their voices, makes this song a firm favorite.  (i’m not a belter, but i belt elvis’s part so loud, people probably hear me in west virginia and wonder what the hell is up in them there hollers.)

i remember it coming on one time and i started singing one part… and lo and behold, BS, a man who doesn’t sing a lot, period, suddenly burst into the tilbrook part. maybe it was an early sign of the apocalypse, but hell, it charmed me!

so hell. i’ll sing it anytime, any place, anywhere. thanks to my big, sometimes off-key mouth, the torch has been passed to a new generation. today, elvis. tomorrow, nirvana? now that BC is singing it, my musical hope for her has started to bloom anew.

take that, jonas brothers.


4 Responses to “guilty pleasure monday: from a whisper to a scream (elvis costello)”

  1. Calling it an altar might be a bit strong but there definitely was at least a pictorial homage. If I close my eyes I can still see Pete, resplendent in his white jumpsuit, guitar held high overhead as he surveyed the huddled masses at Yasgur’s farm. It seems kind of odd now that I didn’t have an altar for Elvis. By the way, Wreke did hallucinate too much in college 😉

    So I whisper and I scream, but don’t get me wrong…please don’t leave me waiting too long

  2. I am writing not to comment on the above–which is bot brilliant and insightful (My soon to be three yr old is learning the nuances of Dif and Til song mastery via you tube and will sing Peace Love and Understanding from beginning to end). I am writing to beseech your assistance in stopping one of most insidious bands to hit our airwaves. I am not talking about Jonas Bros or American Idol drivel….but none other than Airborn Toxic Event. For god sake, if you are going to blatently rip off Echo and the Bunnymen you should start every song with the following words “We really wish we were Echo and the Bunnymen, but we are not that original and should be treated like the posers that we are” PLEASE Wreke, we need your help, now more than ever!….

  3. momo,
    i’ll check them out when i’m feeling especially cranky 😉

  4. Oh, HELL yeah! I wasn’t cool enough to have discovered Elvis Costello in high school; I waited until I was 19 and was given “Punch the Clock” on cassette by my tragically hip older cousin. But it was a downward spiral from there, and I bought every album I could get my hands on, right up through his Burt Bacharach and “The Juliet Letters” phases, which left me parched.

    So I definitely know this song. And love it. And I think I have some *ahem* not-necessarily-Costello-sanctioned-releases, *ahem* to share with you. I need to dig them up . . .

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