Tuesday, May 31, 2011

80. Elvis Costello & the Attractions, "From Head to Toe" (1982)


At one point in my life I decided I wanted to be a collector, and then I decided that I wanted to collect Elvis Costello product. As you can imagine it was almost immediately an overwhelming chore. Few artists are at once so prolific and so willing to release countless alternative versions and packages from market to market and year to year. I gave it up pretty quickly. But it's how I came to know this gem, a cover of a Smokey Robinson Going to a Go-Go song stripped down to an impossibly bouncy essence that bursts with up-tempo charm and never overstays its welcome. I wore out the single, which significantly compromised the value of my investment. That must have been when I figured out I'm not cut out to be a collector, as much as I love to prowl for treasure. I see here that the tune essentially existed only as the single until it was anthologized on a couple of compilations (The History of Rock, Vol. 39 in 1986 and a Costello collection, Out of Our Idiot, in 1987), before finally finding a home on Rykodisc and Rhino reissues of Imperial Bedroom. It doesn't particularly belong there, even if the time frame is right. I would be more inclined to slot it with Get Happy!!, but I'm not really sure it belongs anywhere. It's in love with itself for being in love with itself and somehow makes that as good a reason as any to stick around for the two and a half minutes. As with so many Costello numbers with his house band, Steve Nieve's piano is a feature attraction, sparkling all through. But it's probably the infectious enthusiasm of Costello himself attacking the vocals that's as responsible as anything for putting it over. The guy just loves music and it's evident in every little thing he does.

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