Boston College Heights, March 2, 1981

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The mystery dance of Elvis Costello

James Ferrelli

This was originally intended to he a review of Elvis' show at the Orpheum a couple of Thursdays ago. Oh, I was psyched to see him, and then tell you whether he lived up to the reputation he has built for himself in the past 3½ years.

It was the perfect setting... Boston, probably the most progressive city musically (I love NY too, but NEW is not BCN), hosting the man who is unquestionably one of the most prolific performers to emerge from that warped decade which will he remembered as the 1970's.

Ah. Elvis... how long I waiti.tdmErom the time I heard those first few utterances on Alp Aim is True. "Now that your pic-ture's...." a gut feeling told me that this man was more than just another shooting star who would disappear after his 15 minutes of fame. The Divinely-Inspired This )e'ar'• Muhl threatened even Bowie's sacred /iggy Star Kist on my "Records to he Worshipml" not to mention Exile on Alain Street. 1.arla. or itlin's Nevi. What could compare to the seething misogny of "No Action.". the claustrophobic alienation of "Lipstick Vogue." or the "up-yours" deliance of "Radio.Radio"? By Armed Force.. 11w point had been made. Elvis' nark rivalled anything the Beatles, Dylan or the Stones had done: his melod• virtuosity stas equalled only by his lyrical brilliance. I as' year's Get Ilappr and Taking Liberties were icing on the cake.

Anyway. I go to see him. venturing down to the Orpheum on what has got to he one of the coldest. %%inches( nights imaginable. and I'► set to arils about it on Friday...make that Saturday. I.riday turns out to he one of those days where you just can't seem to get your act together. and you've gut a million things to do. And then. 1=riday night. and ►►t of /h• Heightslegendary hashes. Hosted hn DeeRail. Volmeter, and friends. the party nas up to par for The Heights' cress. Yeah, that's appropriate. "up to par." If yousknow anything Shout Heights' par-ties. you'll get the hessage. If not...well it's hrohahly better off that way.

Saturday afternoon. I wake up... with the idea of reviewing Elvis foremost in my mind. By now. of course. I'm cutting it close. real close. Halfway dressed. it hits me. There's this little gnome hashing around in my nasal cavities with a sledgehammer. God only knows what Rail put into that punch.

Somehow I make it to The Heights office. I explain the problem to Rail. who hasn't slept since Thursday,

"Well man... it's up to you... I mean. I don't wanna force you to write anything. and I can get by without it... but...."

"I know. it's a major event. we should run something. week... you'll have something. I promise."

So... here it is... next week. By now. superlatives about the show are more than a little late. What the hell can I say? Elvis cer-tainly didn't let anyone down. Of course. there were a few cynics in attendance, and I guess this brings us to the point that I want to make.

A friend of mine recently said "It's too had no one listens to music objectively anymore." or something to that effect, and I couldn't think or any more appropriate thoughts. The people who criticize Elvis' new mawrial because it's not the same as Alt. lint k True. or This Year's Model real-!) haven't listened to it open-mindedly. And there are lots of those people around people nho. having embraced Elvis' music in its first appearance. feel that he must duplicate his first ten albums. But an artist can't tread water_ I le should he trying dilTerent things. if he is an artist. Does :We• Road sound like Meet the Beatles. Evile on Main Street like The Rolling Sanest Now..- Quadrophenia likellappy Jack If you listened at all to "Get Happy" or Taking Liberties (or even the change from the first through third LPs(, it should be obvious that Elvis is not content to. continue to play one kind music. That's why he's been up to such diversity. His lyrics still have the same cutting sharpness: his hooks and melodies are still amazing. Still quality music - high quality.

What sickens me about these Costello critics is that they're mostly the same clique that latched on to punk and new wave with such vigor. They loved it, because in the punk explosion. they saw a commitment by hands to doing what they wanted, without milliard to sales figures. The "who cares ho much we sell" attitude was the common denominator between the Talking Heads' artistic pretensions and the Sex Pistols' nihilism. Of course, the fact that these bands made money off of their "art" must be accepted as the inherent contradiction of their trade. The fact is. these new bands were primarily concerned with their music. The trouble is, it seems that these people who are so cool, have forgotten this lesson. Instead of objectively evaluating Elvis' music, they have instead come to expect him to fit into their mold or what they perceive him to be. And since he hasn't - as true artists rarely do - hence the mediocre reviews.

This is what really killed the new wave -among other things - expectations of a cer-tain kind.of sound or artist. Once it became "hip" to he into "punk." the record com-panies took notice and we got the likes of sellout acts like the Curs. the Knack. and a horad of would-be punks. The Clash said it best: "The new groups are not con-cerned with what there is to be learned..Ha. You think it's funny? Turning rebellion into money..."

So... all we get are complaints that Trust isn't like My Aim is True. Sandinista isn't like The Oath - hell. I remember when the same people bitched that Low isn't like Alladin Sane. and now they worship Eno. Thank god they aren't alike:cause if all we had to listen to was drivel like the Eagles and Tow, rock'n'roll wouldn't be worth the time. Likc Pete Townshend said, "The music must change."


The Heights, March 2, 1981

James Ferrelli profiles Elvis Costello.


1981-03-02 Boston College Heights page 16 clipping 01.jpg

1981-03-02 Boston College Heights page 16.jpg
Page scan.


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