But the most flagrant piece of neo-colonialism has been an actual British artist moving into a formerly sacrosanct area of American culture: Elvis Costello singing at the Grand Old Opry House in Nashville. Of course, one could see it coming, what with his Almost Blue album produced by Billy Sherrill, but not even the security guards at the Opry House were ready for what they got Saturday night.
According to my tipster, Bernard, who had front-row-center seats, the country stuff was held down to nearly every song on the album (excluding the one Sherrill, who has publicly said he dislikes the record, wrote), plus the infamous "Psycho" and Elvis' "Stranger in the House." Costello was "40 pounds lighter than when he played Austin, looking good and singing fantastically," Bernard said.
Performing to a non-sellout crowd of around 3,000, Elvis was joined for the country songs by Doobie Brother John McFee, who backed him on his first album, and he played two sets, 44 songs in all. He also premiered some songs from a forthcoming album, which Costello claims will be called Revolution of the Mind, an old James Brown phrase. New titles include "Pidgin English," "Kid About It," "Human Hands," "Shabby Doll," "Long Honeymoon" and "Beyond Belief."
As the audience kept rushing the stage, and bassist Bruce Thomas kept encouraging them, the security guards tried to keep order. Finally one exasperated guard told Bernard "We've never had anything like this at the Opry." Nor, his tone of voice made clear, was he anxious to have it again.
Costello's country album sank off the charts almost as soon as it was released, and he expressed some disappointment at the fact when he sang "Radio, Radio." But at least it means that there is one beachhead where British neo-colonialism isn't getting a toehold. Yet.