They call him a fascist but he looks like Elvis.
After a crusade Stateside, seeping the steel-noses down, the Flip City Kid returns. You can pay for the ticket or fork out on the gang-plank, buy your pint and start ligging in the rigging.
This swashbuckling soiree was advertised as "The Cruise Of The Century" and was to feature the Yachts and Clive Langer and the Boxes — Radar Records' new, passionate, bright young things. The majestic old tub passes the scouse cultural heritage, pulls up and the Deaf School Cats start rubbing their rimless goggles in bright young anticipation.
The grey daylight means that it feels like an afternoon and when Elvis does appear (to an indifferent/ incredulous reception), the band look anaemic and unhealthy. The stage has a tiny tots' playground rainbow area to frame the turns, like.
Togged up like a teddy boy on the African Queen in a baggy white suite and crepes, Costello grins, explains the "surprise" appearance and sets the band rattling into their pinball-flashy ricochetting set. The Merseybeats' number "I Stand Accused" (might have known), is executed with cautious precision but plenty of smiles and sweaty foreheads.
The inter-song rapping is minimal, but reveals a scouse accent from Elizabeth Arden's finest songsmith, rolled 'r's sticking out like broken bottles in a sandpit.
"Oliver's Army" is next: a tune that makes your feet move and words that make your flesh crawl. By now the ferry is swaying and rising, as are a few just-eaten dinners. As I turn a fetching shade of pale green, another of Costello's Clattering Classics crackles out — "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea." With added dub technique, the drums are ringing, spidery and epileptic, the guitar phrases taut, shortened or lengthened; cut to Elvis with his bottom teeth showing.
The reception for "Chelsea" is solid applause sure; but Clive Langer, and later on The Yachts, are far more enthusiastically greeted.
Now, a predatory Bootsy/Dread bass stalks about, then the drums tumble in like oil drums dropped down a lift shaft. On board the Grey Star Ferryboat it's forward, idren, onto New Brighton not Zion; watch the swell and the dockland; "watch" the detectives.
The guitar takes over from the organ and guides the melody through the spiked dub (again) territory, cymbals and drums exploding like grenades.
Elvis grins, announcing that he and the band are "getting into another boat because we're entering dangerous water". "Accidents Will Happen," a dull cog in the sparkling singles machine, is shown the door and the Mystery Attractions stride off. The Reticent One shouts "Thanks... see ya in the bar," and disappears for the evening.
What a card.