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Oompah’s Elvis Mixes

Meadow Mushroom spinning some music of her own, three-plus years ago.I am dealing with a nasty head cold, and have been for more than two weeks now. It’s kicking my butt. Joann has it too and has just passed the one week mark herself. Those who know her will understand the seriousness of hers when I say that she missed two days of work this week. A lesser mortal would have missed five. Those chemistry students aren’t going to teach themselves, you know. It would sure be nice if she didn’t have to come home and deal with a husband who has a cold and is unable to wipe his own nose.

We will get through this.[1] We have ways of coping. One of us is able to watch Gilmore Girls reruns and slip in and out of consciousness on a leather sofa . The other listens to music, does some very light reading[2], plays Scrabble online, and slips in and out of consciousness on a poorly-upholstered chair.

For periods of time, a cough suppressant, prescription-strength generic Musinex, and–this one is key–Vicodin makes me feel as if I am turning a corner, and gives me some energy to waste. That’s what I am doing right now (writing this). And I spent time doing something even more fun yesterday, if you can believe that.

This isn’t the first music I’ve shared with my littlest descendants. The photo at the top of this page shows Meadow, three years ago, with the boombox I gave her. Gave, along with a thumb drive packed with music from Elvis, the Beatles, Bach, Mozart, and a lot of They Might Be Giants. Click on the image to see more of her cute little bean-head!

Mix tapes!

That’s right, I made a couple of mix tapes! On compact discs, of course. And because kids today probably don’t know which side of a CD goes up in a boombox (a what?) or how to insert one into a phone, I put MP3s on a thumb drive too (what on a what? says Joe Biden’s generation). No tapes were involved.

My grandkids were here yesterday. (They probably gave me the cold, so presumably they won’t catch this particular one again. Lots of fingers are crossed just to be safe.) Their mom, my daughter Nicole, wants them brought up right. As she was. Meaning: lots of Elvis music to hear. Oh sure, other things too, but mostly it’s an early familiarity with “The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes” and other sparkling examples of his 20th century classics that she believes will put them on the right road. The road she’s on, in fact.

My daughters loved Elvis and his punningest lyrics way back when. What does “curiosity didn’t kill the cat / it was a poison pen” mean? they would ask. And “broken noses hung up on the wall / back-slapping drinkers cheer the heavyweight brawl / so punch-drunk they don’t understand it all” in the spooky song “Watch Your Step” befuddled and attracted them. The song “Beyond Belief?” Minds blown! In a good, creative-with-language way.[3]

Elvis is king, of course, but wordplay in song is not limited to him, and the three of us–my daughters and I–share a love for it. My daughter Tammy still looks for my reaction to fun moments like Mike Doughty’s lyric “you snooze you lose / I snost and lost” and Squeeze’s “As your body moves closer / I fumble for the clock / alarmed by 𝄽 the seduction / I wish that it would stop” (I’ve tried to mark the slight, significant hesitation between “by” and “the” that makes “clock alarmed by” so ominous-sounding–it’s a brilliant effect). There are many, many others.

So Nicole has been asking for an Elvis mix tape for awhile now. I’ve been uncharacteristically slow to get around to it, even after presented with a surreptitiously filmed video of the four-year-old Meadow quietly singing to herself “everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book” a few weeks ago. (If the video weren’t so disappointingly low-res it might have accompanied this post.) But now is the time. In six months Haaken will be two, and he already wants to do everything sissy does, so I expect him to be joining her soon. If he’s not ready to sing harmony, I’m sure he will do good work backing her on the drums.[4]

The Tapes!

Haaken calls me “Oompah,” so the names of these tapes use that (and yes, nitpickers, they aren’t really tapes).

Disc 1 cover.Tape 1: Oompah Mix

  1. Accidents Will Happen
  2. Beyond Belief
  3. Brilliant Mistake
  4. Our Little Angel
  5. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
  6. Watching The Detectives
  7. Everyday I Write The Book
  8. Veronica
  9. Radio Radio
  10. Pump It Up
  11. Pretty Words
  12. (That’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding

Notes: This first tape features twelve songs that should be familiar to my daughters and most casual Elvis fans. These songs have hooks that may grab the young ‘uns. I limited the number of tracks to twelve, because kids like repetition.

All tracks written by Elvis Costello except #8 (Costello/Paul McCartney) and #12 (Nick Lowe).

Disc 2 cover.Tape 2: Oompah Mix (deep cuts)

  1. Watch Your Step
  2. Fish ‘n’ Chip Paper
  3. I Throw My Toys Around
  4. London’s Brilliant Parade
  5. The Other Side Of Summer
  6. The Ugly Things
  7. My Dark Life
  8. Psycho [live]
  9. God Give Me Strength
  10. I Wanna Be Loved
  11. Any King’s Shilling
  12. Everyday I Write the Book [live]

Notes: Tape two is aimed more at the mother of the two emerging Elvis fans. She might enjoy No Doubt featuring Elvis Costello’s contribution to the Rugrats movie soundtrack (the Costello-penned “I Throw My Toys Around”). I know she enjoyed the excellent cartoon series. Later on she loved The X-Files and Elvis’s “My Dark Life,” recorded for an album inspired by the show, is here. One of my favorite songs covered by Elvis is “Psycho.” It isn’t just its name that evokes the movies of Alfred Hitchcock. A “crier” related to the UK’s “Troubles” will make an impression. Lastly, the version of “Everyday I Write the Book” that Nicole really loves–and the recording that has Meadow crooning–closes the reel. It is a very nice live version of a Ron Sexsmith / Elvis Costello duet.

All songs written by Elvis Costello except #3 (Cait O’Riordan/Costello), #6 (Nick Lowe), #8 (Leon Payne), #9 (Burt Bacharach/Costello), and #10 (Farnell Jenkins).


  1. As long as it stays a “head cold,” that is. If it gets into my lungs, all bets are off. [^]
  2. I’ve been reading the detective novels of Sue Grafton, C is for Corpse, etc. My late mother-in-law Vera enjoyed these. [^]
  3. After the fact, I notice that I’ve failed to highlight examples of Elvis’s “punningest” lyrics here. That is disappointing, but I’m just going to let it be. The cited lyrics are among my daughters’ childhood favorite lines, punning or not. Punning is the wrong term anyway: “cleverly playful” is closer to what I mean. [^]
  4. Haaken has been studying the work of the Muppet’s Animal for a while now. His father is a big fan too, and wears an Animal tee-shirt proudly. [^]


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