Tag Archives: Radio Radio

Elvis (Costello) Is King

As I walk through
this wicked world
searching for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself
is all hope gone?
Is there only pain and hatred and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside, there’s one thing I wanna know
What’s so funny about peace love and understanding?

Nick Lowe wrote it, and in the 1970s, to boot. But it’s Elvis’ song. And it should be our goddamned National Anthem.

My friend Bill has seen Elvis Costello live about twenty times over the years. After witnessing his three-hour performance at Rochester’s Jazz Festival (yes, I know…) earlier this month, he proclaimed it the finest show he had ever seen Elvis perform…ever. I do not take comments like that from Bill lightly; he’s not prone to hyperbole.

I missed that show; by the time I was available to get seats there were a few nosebleeders left for $95 (plus Ticketbastard charges), and $250 seemed a bit steep. Fortunately I discovered that two short weeks later he was performing in a beautiful outdoor setting at the Buffalo Harbor…for ten dollars. That’s like time-travel prices, folks! It’s also a magnificent place to see a show; I saw Crowded House there last summer.

There were two openers as the sun set over the water. A game Mark Norris and the Backpeddlers did their best and sported some catchy songs, albeit monitor troubles were likely the cause of some flat vocals. Then Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers came on – great band instrumentally, great concept and even very entertaining on occasion…like when lead singer Shilpa didn’t howl like a banshee impaled on a fiery pole.

With curfew, I knew Elvis now had only two hours, not three. But damned if he didn’t hit the stage en fuegofive straight classics without a breath between them – and wrung every second of time for all it was worth without so much as a momentary lapse of energy. I wish every young band who think they are the shit could watch and learn how to create, sustain and leverage momentum. This was a master class.

The band was phenomenal. Consider that had Bruce Thomas not left the fold for personal reasons, this was the same quartet that changed lives thirty-five years ago. But Davey Faragher – veteran of Cracker, John Hiatt and others – has been the perfect foil for Elvis both musically and vocally for years. And while the other two might not sit atop people’s lists of best drummer and best keyboard player, I cannot think of anyone else manning those chairs better.

Pete Thomas is still a dynamo of hands and feet, as steadily adept and pulsating as he was when The Attractions were at their peak. Unassuming but rock solid, he and Faragher are telepathic.

And Steve Nieve – is that the greatest rock’n’roll name ever? Not only was his mad scientist act on banks of keyboards as good as ever, but I have never seen anyone play a theremin with such impeccable pitch and control.

Elvis is no spring chicken, but someone forgot to tell him. His vocals were superb, whether artfully crooning “Shipbuilding” or spitting out the fast paced venom of “Mystery Dance” and “Radio Radio“. He paced the stage restlessly, played guitar god whenever the Gibsons were strapped around his neck, and damned if he didn’t do a little dancing, too.

The set list tilted heavily to the early years, but some of the obvious crowd-pleasers (“Oliver’s Army”, “No Action“) were skipped in favor of deeper dives like “Green Shirt” and “Clubland“. He even threw in spirited covers of  “Heart Of The City” and “Substitute” pleasing the old guard among us.

He did finally pull out “Alison“, and as couples hugged and swayed and the crowd sang along I couldn’t help wondering if he felt compelled to play it just because it was such a touchstone. But as he headed for the home stretch, the band’s volume ebbed and flowed as he stepped to the microphone and started to weave in other artist’s lyrics as if they were simply bonus verses. Hank Williams. Jimi Hendrix. Smokey Robinson. Not covering the songs, mind you – weaving them into his own melody and chord changes, and each fit like hand in glove. With dignity and subtlety the man was giving a goddamned rock history lesson from the pulpit, and we were renewed in our faith.

And as he wailed about infidelity to draw the song to its conclusion, and thousands of people already on their feet tried to stand even taller in appreciation, he lit off the cherrybomb that has become his signature song, and we were all one explosive beacon in one of rock’s finest moments.

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

Right here, Elvis. Forever and always.

Elvis Costello

The Buffalo set list will eventually be here.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Classic Costello Cuts

As I mentioned on his birthday earlier this week, Elvis Costello entered my life with a bag and has hung around ever since. I do admit that I find his earlier work superior, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at his transcendence from faux angry young man to elder statesman. Not that I don’t punch a hole through the ceiling anytime I hear “Radio Radio“…

And for a man who once called Ray Charles a “blind ignorant nigger” in a drunken stupor, I think his track record has borne out that he’s a musical historian who is truly color blind.

As with many good artists, listing ten great songs – or even albums for some – is going to leave something out. But these weekly lists aren’t meant to be the definitive inclusive barometers of taste. Sometimes they’re just ten great things. Today, that is most certainly the case.

Listen to a wealth of Elvis Costello clips here.

So as you prepare to enjoy your weekend, may I offer Ten Classic Costello Cuts for your dining and dancing pleasure? And my God, if you have any doubt that Elvis is King, please play clip number one…

01) “What’s So Funny ’bout Peace Love and Understanding?”  Seeing double lately?

02) “High FidelitySome things you never get used to

03) “No ActionEvery time I phone you I just want to put you down

04) “Everyday I Write The BookWhen your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote.

05) “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling DownThe vow that we made, you broke it in two.

06) “Pump It Up”  She’s been a bad girl, she’s like a chemical

07) “Oliver’s ArmyNo there’s no danger, it’s a professional career

08) “Watching The DetectivesShe looks so good that he gets down and begs

09) “VeronicaDid you wake from your dream with a wolf at the door

10) “Alison”…segueing into “Suspicious Minds“! I heard you let that little friend of mine take off your party dress

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Radio Records

Happy Radio Day!

Well, that’s if you believe that Popov invented the concept instead of Marconi or Tesla. (And if everyone believed that, would we have had a band named Popov instead of these guys? Would Marconi not have played the mamba?

Celebrate the day anyway – it is Friday, after all – and blast some music out your car window. You might also want to celebrate by seeing films like American Hot Wax and The Boat That Rocked, a/k/a Pirate Radio.

Here are ten radio-related songs to get you started…

Joe Jackson:  “On The Radio”   Not the best song on I’m A Man, but that’s how strong the early Joe Jackson albums were (and how tight the band is).

Bruce Springsteen:  “Radio Nowhere”  I like Bruce’s social conscience, and I can appreciate the whole Woody Guthrie thing and his passion for the roots of music. But sometimes I just like a great Bruce single, and this is one.

Rush:  “Spirit of the Radio”  I was never a big Rush fan, mostly because Geddy Lee’s voice is like chalk on a blackboard to me. But when he shuts up and the band jams…wow.

Warren Zevon:  “Mohammed’s Radio”   Great live version (with Jackson Browne). God, I miss this man.

The Doors:  “WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)”  I know a lot of people hate The Doors and think Jim Morrison was an overrated ponce, but I think L.A. Woman was a phenomenal album; an indication of what might have been.

Everclear:  “AM Radio”  One can argue that many of Art’s songs sound like they’re built on the same rhythm and chord progression, but you can’t knock his ability to combine humor and pathos. Great video, too.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch:  “Midnight Radio”   If you have not seen this film, you need to run to the store and get the DVD. John Cameron Mitchell’s performance is amazing, and thanks to Steven Trask, this is arguably the best rock and roll soundtrack ever. That’s right…ever. The original cast recording from the play is as good or better than the film soundtrack, but get both.

R.E.M.:  “Radio Free Europe”   The song that started it all for them, and one listen brings back that era in a flash, when these guys sounded so different from everybody else.

John Hiatt:  “Radio Girl”  The video sadly cuts off at the end, but I’m thankful even this much exists. John doesn’t play songs from Slug Line and Two Bit Monsters anymore, and that’s our loss.

Elvis Costello:  “Radio Radio”   Elvis Costello hit the ground with an astounding one-two-three punch of albums, and I wish I had a good rip of his initial SNL appearance when he played this song. But this nod and wink to that event with the Beastie Boys is pretty damned cool.

And your bonus trackJonathan Richman’sRoad Runner“. Priceless!

Got my radio ON!

Tim Russert would have been sixty today. RIP, buddy.

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