Joe Bastianich, 46, co-owns restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Singapore and Italy, and is a judge on the U.S. version of “MasterChef.” He spoke to Marc Myers.
When I’m not managing my restaurants, I play guitar and sing to unwind. When I strum the chords to Elvis Costello ’s “Man Out of Time,” I get goose bumps. The song not only takes me back to the 1980s but also makes me think about my future.
When I was in high school in Queens, N.Y., in the early 1980s, I listened mostly to formulaic rock, like the Beatles and Kiss. At Boston College in the late ’80s, I began listening to Elvis Costello. His songs and lyrics didn’t fit into neat patterns. The music might be melancholy one minute but then build to an optimistic crescendo the next.
While I was in college, I spent summers in Italy with my cousin, a professional musician. He turned me on to a cassette of Elvis’s 1982 album “Imperial Bedroom,” which included “Man Out of Time.” The song opens chaotically, with rhythmic guitar chords and screaming, but abruptly settles into a midtempo ballad.
There’s a crowd of instruments layered in—organ, piano and guitars—and Elvis’s voice is both melodic and wonderfully off-key. The song keeps building until it releases with, “To murder my love is a crime / But will you still love / A man out of time.” To me, back then, the chorus was a metaphor for a man out of sync with everyone else, which is how I felt about myself.
Now, that I’ve already lived half my live and I’m always so busy, I hear the line differently—as a man running out of time. At the end, the song shifts back to the chaotic opener. It’s like tuning the radio dial from static to a station, listening to a song and moving into static again.
Elvis and his wife, singer-pianist Diana Krall, come often to Babbo, my restaurant in New York. I’ve never had the courage to say hello. I wouldn’t want to disturb his privacy. I suppose I’m also secretly afraid that if things didn’t go well, the experience might ruin how I feel about a favorite song. So I leave it alone.