University of Manitoba Manitoban, July 10, 1978

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Dr. Jeckyl and Elvis Costello


Walter Dubowec

This Year's Model by Elvis Costello
Heaven Tonight by Cheap Trick

Remember 1970? Abbey Road, Paul is dead, license plate IF 28, and he blew his mind out in a car? Well that turned out to be a big hoax and a big disappointment. Paul McC. is still making silly love songs and as it turned out only his song writing ability died. But that's almost ten years old. Right now I've got the hottest scoop to hit rock 'n' roll since Britt left Rod. Are you ready for it? Elvis Costello is really Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen in disguise (or vice versa if you wish). What I'm really trying to say is that they are both the same person.

I couldn't believe it either. but it's true. When I first realized that the Mystery Dancer and Mr. Big Eyes were in fact the same person I kept it to myself. But, hey, the tension of acing the only person in the world to know that Elvis and Rick were really each other was just too much. Think about it. Creem, Rolling Stone, CBS or even Andy Mellen don't know. So hell, I had to finally spill the beans.

My discovery was purely accidental. After a few listenings I began to notice certain similarities between Elvis' This Year's Model and Cheap Trick's Heaven Tonight. Both albums exhibited many of the same influences. I mean, this stuff is good sixties rock with a seventies sound.

"You Belong to Me" by Elvis is the Stones' "Last Time" re-done, while Cheap's "Surrender" opens with a Who-style power chord drums / keyboards sound. Elvis' "Pump It Up" used to be called "Kansas City" and was played by the aforementioned Mr. McCartney in Hamburg around 1962. Cheap Trick's Heaven Tonight was played by John, Paul, George and Ringo when they were on their Magical Mystery Kick.

The list goes on and on. It got to the point that I didn't know which album I was listening to. What really aroused my suspicions was that this material was old yet new at the same time. It was more than just Bowie's Pin-Ups. Only a real musical genius could come up with stuff like this. Yet it existed on two separate albums by separate performers with both e.p.'s dated I978. The only explanation is that both albums had to be by exactly the same guy. Brilliant? You're right, it is.

Just look at Rick and Elvis and you'll see that they both play guitar and both handle the writing of material on their respective albums. Built have uncommonly short hair while, neither uses make-up nor star-studded leathers. Yet they are two of the strangest looking rockers around. Both performers coincidentally signed with Columbia. And now here's the clincher ... both albums contain songs about the radio.

It's more than a coincidence. There is no way that two guitarist from opposite sides of the Atlantic could evolve with the same style, appearance and most importantly the same material. The Soviets didn't invent the telephone on their side of the ocean while Uncle Alex was doing the trick over here? Of course not. It's an obvious open and shut case. Elvis/Rick has managed to pull off the biggest scam in rock history for 5 albums (3 under the guide of Cheap Trick and 2 as Elvis). Now the gig's up.

Why did he do it? Well here's the answer. Elvis / Rick was, in fact, born on an uncharted island situated exactly midway between America and the UK. He grew up wanting to play the rough, angry working-class pub-rock of Britain while at the same time playing the suburban beach-rock of the US. No single performer could legitimately mold these two styles into one. The solution for Elvis / Rick was to acquire two separate but basically similar identities no as not to betray his loyal followers on either side of the pond. So when Elvis let his roadie play his encore at the El Mocambo in Toronto it was only because he was forced to leave early so he could play the next afternoon with Cheap Trick in Topeka, Kansas. I mean things are really rough all over for this guy.

The Elvis side of this schizophrenic rocker is vicious and disenchanted a legitimate street punk. "Don't you know I've got the bullet boys out changing someone's facial design?" The Rick Nielsen side is light, refreshing and blatantly American. Nonetheless, it still rocks. When Cheap Trick does "On the Radio" there exists an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at the powers of radio. "When the radio's on you and me go crazy".

Elvis, on the other hand is rebellious: In "Radio, Radio," the music machine is plainly villainous. "The radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools trying to anesthetize the way that you feel." Elvis is even willing to jeopardize his recording contract and more importantly his chance to be a competitor on Superstar-Showdown. "I want to bite the hand that feeds me / I want to bite that hand so badly." But then why should he care?

If Elvis Costello should ever get canned there is still Cheap Trick. Right Rick?

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The Manitoban, July 10, 1978


Walter Dubowec reviews This Year's Model and Cheap Trick's Heaven Tonight.

Images

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Clipping.


Photo from Rolling Stone by Jody Caravaglia.
1978-07-10 University of Manitoba Manitoban photo 01 jc.jpg


1978-07-10 University of Manitoba Manitoban page 07.jpg
Page scan.

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