Friday, October 05, 2007

Get Happy!! (1980)

"Love for Tender" With this semi-alleged (and semi-denied) gesture of quasi-apology, exhaustion in Elvis Costello from the furious pace of the previous two or three years was arguably beginning to show. That was evidenced most painfully by the unduly famous 1979 encounter in a Columbus, Ohio, bar between Costello, on the one hand, and Bonnie Bramlett and Stephen Stills on the other. In the conversation, Costello reportedly referred to James Brown and Ray Charles with a nasty name that starts with "N." Bramlett and Stills ran to the press with it. Me, I never doubted that Elvis meant it only as a blow-off gesture to two sorry figures of the '60s on the downslope of their careers incapable of understanding punk-rock and all that it engendered. He was probably tired and didn't feel like talking to them. They probably didn't get the hint. So goes my take. Unfortunately the rock establishment of the time—who held Bramlett and Stills in higher esteem than Costello (looking at you, Rolling Stone)—went ahead and set the whole thing up as a public cage match between hippies and punks, too busy expressing their disdain for one another to see how much they have in common. They should have brought in Allen Ginsberg to fight for the beats and been done with it. The damage was severe. Three years later and beyond Costello, no racist, was still apologizing for it. He's probably still apologizing for it even today. This album was part and parcel of all that, intentionally or otherwise, with its many paeans to Motown, Stax, and all points soul. It's also one of his best albums, as rich and generous as anything he had released yet. Go ahead and live with it for a month or two. You won't regret.

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