New Musical Express, June 26, 1982

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Dangerous visions


Paul Morley

Andy Peebles said at first he thought Costello on Roundtable was Tony Blackburn. That friendly...

Unclear words marked as "???."

Anyone who is asked by a man with a microphone what it was like to realise that your child was being born as you rammed in the winning goal or what it was like to take your first bite of Turkish Delight or was it really that interesting to have sex with your school teacher or is it much cop to sail on the QE2 from Southampton to the Antarctic to fight for the freedom of a grand little nation will inevitably answer, "Well, y'know, it's unbelievable..... words can't explain it."

Of course, words can explain it, and it is entirely believable — but in a world of Sounds, Star and our boy's own Sun, words are dying their death each and every day. Words could explain it, if they were still around.

A little while ago many of us would have started all of a frown, that Radio One was doing its unwise and wealthy but to contribute to this mass killing of words — not long ago the Radio One vocabulary was all of 78 words. These days it's least ten times that, and Radio One is more radical and enriching than Melody Maker, Record Mirror and The Face put together!

It says a lot about Radio One that Elvis Costello — a song and dance man who's done his best bit to keep words going — is happiest having a chat with Steve Wright than with me or Ian or Barney or Chris. Elvis knows that Radio One isn't cool and that you don't have to watch your back. He'd rather gossip than rip apart the remains of his songs (if only he'd realise that me and Ian aren't cool and that we'd rather gossip). Elvis — a happy kind of guy — is better suited in 1982 to the fresh and friendly environment of Radio One than the stuffy music papers.

So... you've a day off school because you're teacher is having her first baby and you're listening to Steve Wright — right! — and Wright is nattering to himself with that idiotic articulacy common to the Radio One DJ. Bob Dylan, in conversation with Ralph J Gleason and Erich Fromm, and suddenly he's wishing, oh wishing that Elvis Costello was sitting next to him.

Radio One DJs do a lot of wishing — they wish they were Cliff Richard, they wish they were Kenny Dalglish, they wish they were on the beach, they wish they knew the answer to that question — but mostly they do this to keep our minds hopeful. Keep wishing you lovely ones! But, curiously enough, Elvis is sat next to Steve, can words explain it?

Elvis Costello is hosting this week's Roundtable while Dicky Skinner visits the beach or whatever he does. He drops in — a radio term — on Steve Wright's Friday show, taking a break from the preparation for his very own table. So Steve's wish come true. What is Elvis's wish? To be friendly, it seems.

Costello selected his own 'table cast — Alf of Yazoo, Tony Visconti of Bolan & Bowie but the rest are crap, and Martin Fry. "It's just an excuse" he tells Steve about his chairmanship, "to meet all the people I want to meet... like Martin Fry." It's not necessarily unbelievable that Elvis so much wanted to meet Martin, but it's an interesting turn up for somebody's book.

Elvis's selection reveals that he knows a good voice when he hears one (Alf), he has an idea what makes up a pop legend (Visconti) and he's quick to recognise anyone standing close who wants to keep words coming and going (Fry).

Elvis was friendly and competent but no catalyst — was he in awe of Martin, or just under the table with him? Alf, a real mystery I always feel, was supremely confident. Martin regularly polished off a few crisply fried quips — always the very best corn oil — and I can't remember anything about Tony Visconti, except he'd produced one of the records played, John Hiatt, which I was just dying for someone to say was tedious cotton wool. What was needed was somebody like well, somebody like me, to choose those blues singers (and the man who is forgotten) away into "controversy." This really is what Radio One is missing, a sense of controversy, which is really just honesty.

The thing about class artists is that they're reluctant to slag off other artists. Why should they? It's none of their business really. So when Elvis and his party got to duff records there was just gentle sarcasm or muffled laughter.

Mostly Elvis — a friendly, positive person — had picked records that were likely to be enjoyed. Something like Reo Speedwagon was just thrown in for the muffled laughter. Speedwagon was mugged, McCartney was shrugged at, Hot Chocolate, Bananarama, ????, ???, Everything But The Girl, Laurie Anderson, Linx were ???. Bobby Womack, justly, was just about the favourite. And the featured LP, a turn up for somebody else's book, was the new Joe Jackson.

After the ??? panel had been polite and admiring about what Joe was- ??? into, the man himself just happened to be on the phone. Jackson and Costello had a conversation that appeared to consist of no words at all. An interview? I don't think so — well, it ain't easy, friendly El: "When are you going to let me interview you?" asked Joe. Elvis was momentarily lost. "Ah, that'll happen next time," he chuckled, quickly finding himself. "Well, hopefully that'll put an end to the non-existant feud between the two of us."

Andy Peebles started his show after Costello's Roundtable saying that at first he thought Elvis was Tony Blackburn: he was friendly enough, certainly. For me Costello was more like Richard Baker, there's only thing that suits Elvis better than Radio One and that's Radio Four. Costello hosting Start The Week, or a quiz show featuring Willie Rushton, Nigel Rees, Martin Fry and Ned Sheerin, now that would be unbelievable.

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New Musical Express, June 26, 1982


Paul Morley reports on Elvis Costello hosting Roundtable on BBC.

Images

1982-06-26 New Musical Express page 06 clipping 01.jpg
Clippings.

1982-06-26 New Musical Express page 07 clipping 01.jpg


1982-06-26 New Musical Express cover.jpg 1982-06-26 New Musical Express pages 06-07.jpg
Cover.

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