Monday, April 7, 2008


The title of this post comes from 1988. I was in college and as far into my obsession with Elvis Costello as I would ever go. I don't know how to describe what happened with Elvis and I, only that I feel much like one half of a famous divorced couple. I only have nice things to say about him but we aren't together anymore.

Don't get me wrong, now, the man is one-in-a-million. His creative stretch from 1984 to 1990 was astonishing. 1986 alone has two MASTERPIECES. 'King of America' and 'Blood & Chocolate' came out the same year and are almost diametrically opposed in a stylistic sense.

'King of America' was recorded live with crack session musicians and prefigures the whole alt-country movement by about 10 years. If you ever listened to Wilco and thought they invented that wheel, you ought to check this album out.

'Blood & Chocolate' was recorded with The Attractions. They all hated each other and him at this point. The album doesn't suffer for it, in fact the discord etches these songs indelibly into the memory. You can hear every single breath that Elvis has to take in order to spew the vitriol and pain. 'I Want You' is 6 minutes of exposed id. He begs a lover who has betrayed him to tell him every detail, to explain the unexplainable, to account for the devastation he is left with. And the love is always the primary emotion that comes through in spite of the anger and the rage.

It is this song upon which the title of this post hinges.

I had gone to Keaney Gym with my sister's boyfriend at the time, as much of an Elvis fan as I. We snuck in a flask of vodka which we mixed in with Del's Lemonade. Anyone from RI will know what this means. If you aren't from Little Rhody, imagine the best crushed ice lemonade drink ever, multiply it by several million, and then you'll approach the delicio-sity of Del's Lemonade.

Nice and toasty from our subterfuge drinks, we settled back to take in Elvis solo. Nick Lowe opened and he was fine. But he just seemed pleasant compared to the artistry that came after.

Elvis played what seemed like 70,000 songs. Each one a bigger hit than the last. The acoustic format was a bit of a stretch for an arena of that size but he filled the space easily. He added a drum machine and distortion for 'Pump It Up' and many other sound effects/embellishments made for as varied an array of sounds as a single man with a guitar could hope to make.

During his encore, which came well past the two hour mark, he started the immediately recognizable chords that open 'I Want You'. Stark and minor, he went through the intro which itself lasts almost two minutes, and ends with him saying 'Anything else is a waste of breath'. Then the song goes on for almost 5 more minutes.

In the pause between '...waste of breath' and the kerang of the opening chord to the bulk of the song, the tension in the arena was palpable. His emotional performance was WRENCHING. It was as if we 3,000 strangers were listening in on his break-up call.

In that pause, some bozo screamed 'BUDWEISER!!!!' at the top of his lungs.

Even anonymous intimacy is too much for some people.


siobhan said...

oh man. that is too too funny. never heard taht story.

Brendan O'Malley said...

yep. what a ding-a-ling.

will be constantly revisiting my elvis position. not sure what has happened there...some sort of break.

siobhan said...

i think i am going through that for the past two years, too. he used to be a constant in my life. i think the advent of the ipod has something ot do with it, too. b/c of the sheer number of elvis albums i have, his songs come up almost way too frequently....