100 Moments that shook music...
- Nick Hasted
There are three EC entries in the cronologically listed "APAOCALYPSE WOW! 100 Moments that shook music, movies ... and the world. A personal chronicle of a century of genius, madness, murder, riots and war" By Nick Hasted [accompanying a 1/2 page picture of the bomb exploding on HMS Antelope]
64. The Falklands War and Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding (1982)
The Falklands conflict was Britain's only competitive war since Korea, a time-warped imperialist contest whose pomp dimmed as the Belgrano then the Sheffield sank into the Atlantic, with government control of televised carnage adding to the distanced mood of worry, and hated first-term Prime Minister Margret Thatcher's Churchillian rhetoric setting new standards for mindless jingoism.
Almost uniquely in an Eighties of much clumsy political songwriting, Costello found a poetic language to communicate his sorrow and implacable opposition - "With all the will in the world/diving for dear life/when we could be diving for pearls." "Is it worth it ?" he began at a Liverpool concert this year, playing to his generation. "Yes!" somebody shouted, then remembered the song's subject, and everyone stood as if at prayer.
[below a 1/2 page picture of The Smiths [74. The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead (1986)]]
71. Elvis Costello's I Want You (1986)
"I'm afraid I won't know when to stop ..." Costello had split wth his wife, would soon disband The Attractions and - on this sparse, savage songe on his second album in a matter of months, Blood And Chocolate following quickly on the heels of King Of America, a dilated eye at the centre of his storm - wrestled with resentment and vengeance. It starts like a hillbilly lament, keeps The Attractions brutality bottled up, guitar and drums like faint scrapes on the door, by someone you shouldn't let in. He threatens, taunts, begs, cries, pictures her dead, or him, her with her lover, and her body, undressing, unreachable, and he repeats over and over, "I Want You." In concerts this year, it seemed like it might never end. It was a love song.
[preceding a 1/4 column picture of The Grand Hotel, Brighton]
78. The Brighton Bombing and Costello's Tramp The Dirt Down (1985/89)
When news of the IRA bomb at the Tory conference broke in 1985, cabinet casualties unknown, everyone in my class at school instinctively cheered. Four years later, in this spine-chilling, tear-springing vengeance song, Costello shared the sentiment. In the cathartic climax of his decades work, he listed the lives she'd destroyed, the dripping cynicism of her visits to the sick in hospitals, the beatings and bloodshed in her name, the individuals, the adults, the children, squeezed of dreams, of imagination, by her grip. "And the cynical ones say that it all ends the same in the long run," he spits. This song is the emotional evidence of that lie, the repository of all she destroyed: "Well I hope you live long now, I pray the Lord your sole to keep/ I think I'll be going before we fold our arms and start to weep/I never thought for a moment that human life could be so cheap/Cos when they finally put you in the ground/They'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down".