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Musical Thank You #7: Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello's This Year's Model album cover (US)I haven’t left any graffiti on my blog in quite some time. Many reasons, I suppose, but I can cite one good thing and one bad thing as excuses (as if I need excuses). One, I have been busy (a good thing). Two, as my speech deteriorates, writing with Dragon Naturally Speaking is getting to be more difficult for me (the other thing).

Today, though, a friend is having surgery on his shoulder and I am reminded I owe him a “musical thank you note” for introducing me to the music of Elvis Costello.

It was more than 35 years ago that Doug P bought two LPs from a record store next door to his Dad’s grocery store in Central Valley, California. One was something I can’t recall from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the other was Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model.

At this time I lived in a decidedly one-horse town in Northern California. Well, probably more than one horse, but only one sway-backed nag of a pop music radio station. KRDG: a radio station that did not play the Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight,” presumably because impressionable teenagers might consider the possibility that one day they might make love during daylight hours.

You can bet this station wasn’t playing the Clash, Graham Parker, the Jam, Elvis Costello or anything else interesting coming out of the British “new wave” either. Its listeners had no reason to be outraged when Taste of Honey (known for their one hit, “Boogie Oogie Oogie”) won the Grammy for best new artist of 1978. Neither had I. I’m not sure if I was even aware of Elvis’ remarkable debut album My Aim Is True.

Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True album coverDoug was. He probably had an FM radio that picked up stations from Sacramento. Ahead of his time, he was.

Anyway, one evening (probably joined by my friends Jeff and Mike) at Doug’s apartment to celebrate whatever was marked on the calendar that day–Ulysses Grant’s birthday?–a needle dropped on side A, track one of Doug’s brand-new copy of This Year’s Model and a whole new universe of music opened up to me. This was a sound unlike anything I had heard to that point. It led not long after to me standing outside of a locked Wherehouse Records store waiting to purchase EC’s Armed Forces on the day of its release. Then in short order I discovered Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, the Clash, the Specials, Rockpile, Joe Jackson, the Talking Heads and all of the rest of the musical soundtrack of much of my adult life.

Which could have been disco or “stadium rock” …

For that, I will always owe Doug a debt of gratitude. Here is that side A, track 1: “No Action.”

Musical Thank Yous:
10/04/2019 #12: The Beatles
08/19/2016 #11: Van Morrison
04/11/2016 #10: Conor Oberst
01/29/2016 #9: Reina del Cid
10/01/2015 #8: Ron Sexsmith and Neko Case
05/13/2015 #7: Elvis Costello
10/09/2014 #6: Longhair Music
08/27/2014 #5: Neil Young
06/19/2014 #4: Arcade Fire
03/14/2014 #3: Mike Doughty
02/10/2014 #2: Lucinda Williams
02/07/2014 #1: Richard Thompson


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