It was a Saturday night, so we got to stay up really late. If that wasn't racy enough, somebody turned on the television and everybody at the party was ready to watch the American debut of Johnny Rot ten and the Sex Pistols. Hoo, Boy.
Well, I don't know if you remember that night, but the Sex Pistols didn't make it. Rotten had gotten his finger stuck in his throat during a ballad or something. Instead, out walked Elvis Costello.
Just imagine. There we were ready for good times. And along comes this little geek who looks like he just stepped out of the pages of my old high school yearbook.
You know, he was the kid with corrective penny loafers and off-white socks and glasses made out of old Coke bottles. He probably wore green on Thursday, too. The Ghost of Nerds Past. if he weren't British, he would be a former Future Farmer of America.
When somebody appears in public looking that way on purpose, he must be making some kind of statement. Like maybe, Nyahh, nyahh, nyahh."
Then take that name lie adopted. Elvis Costello. It is a blatant attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the late Lou Costello.
I admit that I was initially put off by his wimpier than thou attitude. I also admit that history has proved me wrong. (In the rock business, history is measured in weeks.)
Now that the new wave has gone out and punk rock is a nostalgic, sentimental memory, Elvis Costello lives on with This Year's Model (Columbia).
And what lie does is so simple. He combines some simple early rock chords with some seething '70s rock lyrics. The result is funny.
Especially when you realize it is all coming out of this weird Elvis Costello person and that people who wouldn't go out with him in school are now going out to hear him sing lines like "Don't you know ins an animal?"
Most of the songs on the album could be classified as unlove songs. From the opening song, Costello promises "No Action." Rock music has now evolved from "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" to "I ain't gonna give any."
The theme recurs again and again. "Lip Service" is all that he is going to give to a woman. Nothing more than that. "This Year's Girl" is to be used and then discarded because nobody really gives a damn about her. She is just this year's girl.
Of course, the latter also implies a few things about how quickly undying love dies in the music business. Elvis suggests that h e knows he is just this year's boy. Whatever they do to him, it's not going to conic as any surprise.
In fact, he even taunts the powers that control his life with a little ditty called "Radio, Radio."
Biting the hand that feeds h i m down to at least the elbow, Costello rips radio station managers as "such a lot of fools" who force-feed junk music to the young as a means of crowd control. Listen for it on your Mighty Hitmaker station.
Then there is "Pump It Up," which says nothing at all. It just keeps pushing faster and faster and feels good.
Costello's songs are all short bursts. He knows the attention span of his audience. But for the moment at least, Elvis Costello is a giant among men.