Get Happy!! (1994) liner notes

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Liner notes

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Get Happy!!


Elvis Costello

Several of the songs on "Get Happy" had been played on the mysteriously named "Armed Funk Tour" in the spring of 1979, our last American trip for over two years. However our first trial sessions revealed our "road" arrangements to be trite, brittle, and uncomfortably close to the rapidly dating style which was now called "New Wave". The decision to change was not exactly agonized over. It took a few drinks, a handful of old Stax singles (which I had recently bought in Camden Town) and our copies of "Motown Chartbusters vol. 3" for us to imagine that we could quickly find a new blueprint for the album.

Some songs, such as "Men Called Uncle" and "Riot Act", retained the shape sketched out at the demo sessions, while almost everything else was reworked, often to the extent of trying the patience of more than one member of the band. Of course, just because you listen to somebody's record doesn't mean that you will sound anything like them. Sessions were often far from coherent and anything but analytical: A song or singer would be mentioned and it was sheer luck if we all handsome response to a direction such as: "Play it like a Garnet Mimms tune". In other cases it is hard to imagine who, or what, we were thinking of. Having said that it is fairly obvious that "Temptation" is based on the Booker T. and the MG's hit "Time is Tight", while "Love for Tender" and "High Fidelity" both quote in different ways from Supremes songs. I could also point out that "King Horse" uses the guitar figure from the Four Tops' "Reach Out (I'll Be There)", but after that you are on your own.

"Get Happy" was produced by Nick Lowe, balanced by Roger Bechirian at Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum, Holland during October 1979 (a little recording was also done at Eden Studios, London). The main exception is "New Amsterdam", which was a fluke recording that came out of a demo session in a fifteen-quid-an-hour studio in Pimlico. Attempts to re-create the mood with the entire band failed, so my solo effort was included on the album and later issued as part of an E.P. On the whole, Wisseloord was a more sedate environment than we were used to, but it did have unforeseen advantages such as a glass "strings" booth which proved to be more useful for creating the vocal sound on "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down". This song was a Sam and Dave b-side which we changed from a ballad into an up-tempo number, while the other cover on the album, "I Stand Accused", was learned from The Merseybeats."

"I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" was the first release on the new F-Beat label, but only after a legal dispute with Warner Bros. over the departure of the Riviera Global team (E.C., Nick Lowe, and Jake Riviera) from Radar Records (during which the record was briefly pressed and scheduled for release on The Specials' Two-Tone label). With honour satisfied the delayed single became a top five British hit. The follow-up "High Fidelity" was the last in an unbroken run of eight top thirty singles.

"With such songs as "Possession" being written while we were in Holland, we eventually settled on these twenty tracks. Special care had to be taken with the cutting and pressing process, but now thanks to the wonders of technology we are able to present the new, improved, "Get Happy" containing, count them, THIRTY TRACKS!!!"

Extended Play

Girls Talk ("I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" B-side) -- "Perhaps I was careless to give this song away to Dave Edmunds as it became a top five hit for him in Britain. This was just one of the versions of the song that we recorded during the "Get Happy" sessions."

Clowntime Is Over (No. 2) ("High Fidelity" B-side) -- "This is how the song was originally written, however being unhappy with our first recording we developed the arrangement heard on the album. I later re-recorded the vocal on our original track. Both versions have featured in "live" performances."

Getting Mighty Crowded ("High Fidelity" B-side) -- "I learned this song from the great Betty Everett record. Our version was recorded at Eden Studios during the "Get Happy" sessions."

So Young (from the Demon compilation "Out of Our Idiot") -- "This song was borrowed from the great Joe Camilleri, then of Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, after our first trip to Australia. Unfortunately our only Abbey Road session fell on a Bank Holiday and was blighted by flying coffee cups, technical resistance and overwhelming blueness."

In fact, before the session, "So Young" was to be a summer single. Elvis and the Attractions performed the song at the Pink Pop Festival in Holland that July. The bill which now makes curious reading was (in order of appearance): Average White Band, The Police, Dire Straights, E.C. and the Attractions, rush and Peter Tosh.

Just A Memory ("New Amsterdam" E.P.) -- "Recorded at T.W. Studios, Fulham with Steve Nieve at the keyboards and released on the "New Amsterdam" E.P. Later, with addition of an extra verse (which had to be sung down a transatlantic telephone line), this song was finally recorded by the artist for whom it was originally intended: Dusty Springfield."

Hoover Factory (Ampro Studios "Clubland" b-side) -- "Although this song was written in 1976 it was among the experimental "solo" recordings made around this time at Ampro and Archipelago studios."

Ghost Train (Ampro Studios "New Amsterdam" E.P.) -- "I first used this storyline in a song I wrote in Liverpool in 1972. This version was written in 1976."

Dr. Luther's Assistant (Ampro Studios "New Amsterdam" E.P.) -- "Written in 1977 and briefly considered for the album "This Year's Model". I recorded this version at the same session as "Ghost Train", playing everything apart from drums which Pete Thomas added at a later date."

Black And White World (Archipeligo Studios; from the Demon and Columbia Compilations "10 bloody Mary's And Ten How's Your Fathers" and "Taking Liberties") -- "This is a demo recording for "Get Happy" which presents an entirely different treatment of the music, while although this "Riot Act" (Archipelago Studios; previously unreleased) is a blueprint for the final recording. I think it has something that is missing from the final version."

-- Elvis Costello

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Get Happy!! liner notes (1994)


Elvis Costello's liner notes for the 1994 Rykodisc/Demon reissue of Get Happy!!.




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