Drake University Times-Delphic, March 28, 1980

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Drake Univ. Times-Delphic

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Elvis Costello song draws
esoteric rock 'n' roll question

Charles Faris

The flip side of Elvis Costello's latest British single is a previously unreleased song called "Girls Talk." Besides the usual great lyrical plays on words ("You may not be an old-fashioned girl / You're still gonna get dated"), and the most sinister music of his career, this song shows that Elvis has his hand firmly clasped on the pulse of the age.

But this isn't another "bang the drum for Elvis" essay. It is more of a "What the hell is rock and roll good for?" essay. So why bring up Elvis in the first place? Because "Girls Talk" brings up another question, one that most (all?) critics have ignored, or never thought of, concentrating instead on the song as an attack on damaging gossip (it is). The question? What the hell is modern man (and woman, though for brevity's sake I'm going to stick to man for the rest of the essay) good for?

The key line in the song is also the chorus. "Don't come any closer / don't come any nearer / my image of you can't come any clearer / oh I just want to hear girls talk." This is the new response of modern man. Don't make me try — don't make me work — do it for me. The modern man is willing to give up his freedom for peace. And I'm not talking about guns and bombs and war as opposed to peace. The same man who is willing to give up his freedom for peace is willing to bomb the hell out of Iran for "peace," as long as he doesn't have to go over and do it.

I'm talking about peace as in not having to think about what you do, the implications of your actions; peace as trading in the freedom (and, admittedly, burden) of choosing your own moral code for a ready-made set of rules from an authority, preferably, a church.

The same man who is willing to sit back instead of take action ("I just want to hear girls talk") because it is the easy way out, is willing to trade in one thing that makes him human — the knowledge of good and evil — because it is the easy way out.

Perhaps this new human response was inevitable since Hiroshima (and anybody who doesn't think that our act of genocide was as heinous as anything that the Nazis did is a moral slug) the threat of holocaust has hung over the heads of every thinking person in the world. Pessimism has abounded and often has manifested itself in anthemish songs — Dylan's "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" and Bowie's "Five Years" in particular. The fear that spawned this pessimism has now turned into an unnatural craving for peace at any cost. Kitty Genovese will he the patron saint of our generation.

So what the hell is rock and roll good for? At its worst it tells us our faults in full-surround stereo, accidentally. At its best it reminds us that someone is thinking, that man is good for something, but that we had better get our act together before someone rather blows it apart or locks it up.

They say that every generation gets the art that it deserves. Being of the opinion that rock and roll is the highest form of popular music ever, that gives me a lot of hope I only hope that "they" were right.


Drake Times-Delphic, March 28, 1980

Charles Faris finds inspiration from the lyrics of "Girls Talk."


1980-03-28 Drake University Times-Delphic page 07 clipping 01.jpg

1980-03-28 Drake University Times-Delphic page 07.jpg
Page scan.


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