Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Elvis Costello? Yes.

A reader asked me whether Elvis Costello is advanced. I believe that he is. He started out on the punk scene, though he never really thought of himself as a punk. As I remember, he was a computer programmer in the early '70s, which just shows you how ahead of his time he was. I think he was also in a country band around that time as well. I love the fact that he chose Elvis as his stage name--and got away with it. I can't think of anything more audacious than taking the King of Rock'n'Roll's name. He didn't choose Jerry Lee Costello or Ringo Costello (and Lou was obviously out), he chose Elvis. "My Aim Is True" is indisputably (and overtly) great. What I love is that his backup band was the same one that backed up Huey Lewis as The News ("Sports" is an all-time advanced album title), and that band could have kicked the Clash's asses any day. Some early evidence of his advancement was his lifting an Abba piano riff for "Oliver's Army" and admitting it openly. He made a country record with a bigtime Nashville producer. He wrote songs with Paul McCartney. Things took a very advanced turn when Costello recorded with the Brodsky Quartet, creating a genuine "song cycle." His collaboration with Burt Bacharach was also a good advanced move. He appeared in an Austin Powers movie, as well as an episode of the Simpsons. One one tour, according to All Music, "he began singing the last song with a microphone, forcing the audience to sit in complete silence as he usually performed 'Couldn't Call It Unexpected #4' with nothing but his dulcet baritone filling the auditorium." Forcing an audience to do anything is advanced, but it's especially advanced if they do it. He did a pop standards album. He grew a long beard and started wearing sunglasses (changing the traditional formula from dark sunglasses, long hair in the back, to dark sunglasses, long hair in the front). Advanced British artists do not wear black leather jackets for some reason. Apparently he also had a residency at UCLA. Recently there was an article about how he has destroyed his wife's music and she his. That's the kind of criticism one would expect of an advanced artist.

So Elvis Costello is a perfect example of an advanced artist. He started out in the Punk scene and wound up singing to Austin Powers, mystifying just about everyone along the way.

I'll probably say more about him as the days go by.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I dare say that creating a blog to discuss advanced behavior in the media is in itself a pretty advanced thing to do. What do you think? I am on the fence here. Also, I enjoyed reading your posts and imagining you using the "southern articulation" accent. You know the one! Best, Tracie

Jason Hartley said...

(with southern accent) I say you should get off the fence and come into the yard.