Last week, with a voucher worth TWENTY FIVE euros to spend at any of the many Golden Discs stores nationwide on offer, we asked you: Name the finest song in the Elvis Costello canon?
You answered in your dozens.
But there could be only one winner
In reverse order then…
The stand out track from the Elvis Costello songbook would have to be Oliver’s Army owing to its relentlessly catchy chorus, it’s infectious motown-inspired backbeat and it’s edgy use of the term ‘white n1gger’. it was also the stand out track on 10 year old Scottser’s first hits compliation tape.
Dub Spot writes:
The stand out track from the Elvis Costello songbook would have to be “Watching the Detectives” owing to its super wry lyrics and dry delivery over a killer rhythm track.’ Lyrics so good even the Duran Duran cover was awesome!
The stand out track from the Elvis Costello songbook would have to be (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea owing to its sinister baseline, sneering vocals, street poet lyrics and the fact that it’s a damn sexy track in spite of the fact that it’s sung by a fella named Declan MacManus.
Brother Barnabas writes:
You won’t ever hear it on the radioand it won’t make it onto any greatest hits compilation but the stand out elvis costello track, for me, is ‘battered old bird’. it’s probably not the best song on Blood & Chocolate, but it holds its own (and more) – no small feat when you’re talking about one of the most sublimely beautiful albums ever made.
What makes it stand out, though, is that with zero fuss it announced MacManus as a master storyteller-songwriter. He’d already shown that he could do punk, rock, folk, 3-minute pop, new wave, whatever else, but never that kind of linear-sequence story-song thing. that was more associated with Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Nick Cave. but, with this one song, he showed he could do the structure, progression, lyricism, tempo and gradual unraveling as well as anyone.
Actually, Dylan played it fairly regularly when he had his radio show on sirius. introducing it once, he compared the span of characters in it to his own ‘Desolation Row’ and the sense of despair and absurdity in it to Tom Waits’ ‘Murder in the Red Barn’. it’s the story of the boarding house in Birkenhead where MacManus lived as a child with his mother. it’s worth a few listens….
Scary Lady writes:
Veronica – because it reminds me of my grandmother and it’s a really moving reminder that behind the facade of old age still lies a carefree, cheeky young woman. It’s about the only portrayal of dementia in song and the combination of the lyrics and music make you like and admire, rather than pity, the subject. It’s perhaps not his greatest work (Imperial Bedroom is) but it’s the song that means the most to me.
Shipbuilding, owing to its innate, subtle, bitter sadness, about the futile ordinariness of war. The shambles that Britain finds itself in today, could arguably be traced back to the resurgence of English nationalism that the Malvinas war evoked. The last gasp of an already dead empire.
“A new winter coat and shoes for the wife, and a bicycle on the boys birthday,” is a beautiful line in a beautiful song. It’s Costello’s masterpiece, and as if to emphasise that, you only have to listen to Robert Wyatt’s hauntingly magnificent cover of it, to hear the reverence other artists treat his work with.
It’s theme is universal, yet its expression is on a deeply human scale. The sons and daughters of those who take their countries to war, almost never die in these conflicts. As relevant today, as the day it was written.
Last week: Pump It Up