For one brief summer, in 1978, I found myself with one of the coolest record collections of anyone I knew.
Easter by Patti Smith; New Boots and Panties, by Ian Dury and the Blockheads ("Sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll, are all my brain and body need"); Love You Live, for my money the best live album by the Rolling Stones; and a personal favorite, The Tubes' What Do You Want From Live were but a few of the vinyl LPs circling the turntable that last, carefree summer before real life.
But the real prize that year, actually from the summer before but still leaving its mark, was My Aim Is True, by a snarling, cryptic, angry young Englishman, a snaggle-toothed anti-matter Buddy Holly, possessed, named Elvis Costello, and his band, The Attractions.
Elvis and a partly reconstituted Attractions come Thursday to the Paolo Soleri on the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School.
Twenty-six years have passed. The man has come full circle, if circle is how it can best be described. He dabbled in country with 1981's Almost Blue, and in 1998 dueted with Burt Bacharach.
Burt Bacharach! Odds are the Elvis of 1977 would have found grounds to provoking Bacharach to a fistfight. But there he was, crooning pianoside while Burt tickled the keys. What next? Will dogs lie down with cats?
It was a long, strange trip. But echoes of the old Elvis haunt his latest release, When I Was Cruel. For former geeks who found a champion in the brilliant lyrics and hammer hard, unforgiving riffs Costello unleashed in the late '70s, it sounds like a return to that spring of resentment at misdirected authority and cruel passion.
But this is much mellower Elvis Costello. The first track, the one most radio listeners can identify, "45," was written on his 45th birthday.
"I was always intrigued by the idea that you look back at a period of time, and you suddenly look at pictures, newsreel footage on some music program or a sports program and you suddenly notice that — there might be footage of the '70s or '80s and it suddenly looks like another time completely, yet you can remember yourself in that time so clearly. Because I've lived to the extremely gray age of 47, I'm able to look back. Well, nine years before I was born, the Second World War was ending. And a lot of things in the life of my parents proceeded from those events and those changes," he said in commentary to the track available on his World Wide Web site.
It's nearly three times nine in terms of years since Elvis Costello thumbed his nose at convention. In the interim it appears he's accomplished a revolution in terms of making music on his own terms and changing the message as times, and his own life, progress.