If you’ve read this far, I won’t burden you with my next 40 entries. I love rock ‘n roll the only way I know how: with tough love and my own expectations for how I like to live my own life. On my last day driving to work as a 49 year old I cranked up my favorite album of all time, Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ Get Happy!! I was flooded with memories. Before the album was released I bought an import double-single—or was it a 4-song, 7-inch EP—I don’t know if I even own it anymore. I bought the record at a pretty cool record store that used to be at Cottman Avenue, near the intersection of Roosevelt Boulevard and next door to a Northeast Philadelphia branch of the Library, the same place where, around the same time, I took out Television’s Marquee Moon to investigate and then loved it so much that I never returned it. Sorry, Philadelphia Library: in this case, crime paid. Anyhow, if memory serves the Costello EP had “Getting Mighty Crowded,” “High Fidelity,” “King Horse,” and something else, maybe “New Amsterdam.” I’d already been living on Costello’s first 3 albums, but the advance songs on this EP resonated more deeply than ever. The rhythms were clearly indebted to the Motown and Stax records of my childhood. Ghostly backing vocals and organ parts piped through the throbbing bass and driving drumbeats. Like a musical Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Beatles’ psychedelia bumped into Booker T & The MGs at the intersection of Abbey Road and McLemore Avenue. “High Fidelity,” in particular, blew me away. Costello and the band took the structure and passion of The Four Tops’ “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” and ripped off all the pleasantries and hope of a Motown hit. It was a rare case of the White Man taking the Black Man’s music and making it more authentic, more to the heart of the matter.
Along with the aural delights provided by the album’s 20 power-packed tracks, Get Happy!! helped fuel my desire to kick it out, drive ahead, and stake my turf. It wasn’t a roadmap to Winning Friends and Influencing People, as the more peaceful, cosmic Beatles albums I cut my teeth on provided, but it was what I needed in my late teens as part of that final push to manhood. To this day there’s no album I listen to that more clearly demarcates the start of My Identity. Now I’m deep into this beast I wanted to be, and it’s all right.