Elvis says “Whut???”
Listen/Download – Elvis Costello and the Attractions – You Belong To Me
Every once in a while even the most jaded of collectors needs to be reminded that he/she is not omnipotent of infallible (you shouldn’t need to be reminded, but we are after all taking about record collectors, so…).
Back in the olden days, when I was in high school and new wave was (new) I used to sit at the same lunch table as a couple of marginal characters (at least I thought they were marginal at the time) named Bob and Alan.
Like most non-athletic adolescent boys of the time we spent an inordinate amount of time discussing/arguing about music.
I had recently discovered Bad Company.
Though Bob and Alan were both hard rock aficionados as well, their tastes ran to KISS (I’m still ambivalent), but they had already started to progress by digging into bands like the Clash and Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
I had spent most of my early teen-hood obsessing about the Beatles, and was as a result a case of musical arrested development. I was suspicious of anything even vaguely punk-adjacent, so when the boys started rapping about Elvis, I kind of rolled my eyes and ran the opening chords of ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love’ through my head for the thousandth time.
Flash forward a year or two, and the unfinished synapse that started with the Beatles closed its circuit when I discovered how much of debt new wave and power pop owed to the Fabs and every other pop and jangle band of the 60s.
Before long I was scouring the local flea market for commercial stuff like the Cars and the Romantics listening to college radio.
Then, in college, a friend whipped Elvis’s ‘Armed Forces’ album on me. I immediately threw down my arms, hoisted the flag of surrender and joined Oliver’s Army.
I had seen the Attractions on Saturday Night Live, and Elvis and his spasmodic affect struck me the wrong way (though I remember digging DEVO, so maybe it was a case of ‘weird but not quite weird enough’ or something like that, but when the dulcet tones of ‘Armed Forces’ wormed their way into my head, I discovered that the four-eyed goon staggering around the stage was a songwriter of no small talent and deserved my attention after all.
I eventually found my way back through EC’s early albums – losing track some time in the early 80s when his prolific nature outpaced my interest and bank account – and discovered that there was much gold to be dug.
The record that really knocked me for a loop was the second by EC and the Attractions, 1978’s ‘This Year’s Model’, and the track that I wore the grooves out on was the one you see before you, ‘You Belong To Me’.
I suspect that my 1980s garage-mania has a lot to do with why I love this song so much, since there’s more than a touch of the Pebbles at work here.
You get the ringing guitar riff, the elbows-on-the-keyboard combo organ and the kick of the bass and drums, all of it with roots that reach back to 1966 (thanks to Nick Lowe for the production). I always find myself wishing that someone back in the garage revival days had glommed onto this one but I suspect that such a move would have been perceived as apostate (no matter how hip in real life).
The groovy 45 you see before you was picked up (along with half a dozen others by EC) whilst out digging in the hinterlands of New York last summer.
I hope you dig the track, and I’ll see you all next week.