Jun 192013

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.


  12 Responses to “50 for 50: Love and Hate Across the Wrinkles on My Hands”

  1. ladymisskirroyale

    At last, a Road Map To Mr. Moderator! This has been very helpful. I note your positive growth in the area of synthesizers, and send you a virtual high-five.

    Happy Birthday, Mod!

  2. BigSteve

    Hey I always thought the wheel in the sky song was by Kansas! Hanging with the Mod is so educational.

    I’m not sure I knew about this Afghanwhigophobia. Dreadful name, but I like them, perhaps because I can relate to someone who is sexy and dangerous and whatnot. Especially whatnot.

  3. BigSteve

    Btw the idea that Mod hates everything, combined with these ‘didactic thoughts,’ reminded me of these two clips I happened across yesterday. 10 things Noel loves/hates:


    10 things Liam loves/hates;


  4. High 5ive for High Fidelity, also my favorite by EC.

  5. Oops, meant that to be Get Happy.

  6. bostonhistorian

    A friend of mine wrote a song just for you, Mr. Moderator. Well, maybe not just for you, but still….


  7. I’m glad someone typed out the thing Liam hated 10 times. I thought he was saying “Monday night,” but it seems he was saying “Man United.” That makes more sense. I was wondering whether Monday night for rock stars was like Monday mornings for most of the rest of us.

  8. That was good. For my money, Elvis Costello’s dig on Morrissey just barely topped Paul Weller’s Freddie Mercury shot and Rick James’ Prince slam. Morrissey, to his credit, had a good one on the singer from Suede.

  9. misterioso

    Nick Cave on the Red Hot Chili Peppers made me laugh out loud it was so perfect.

  10. misterioso

    Mod, don’t worry about turning 50, I mean, for inspiration, look at all the great records the Stones have made since turning 50! When Jagger turned 50 the Stones put out an album called Jump Back that’s practically a greatest hits compilation! What’s that? It is a greatest hits compilation? Never mind. No, wait, Voodoo Lounge came out just before Mick turned 51! And that was easily their best album of new material since Steel Wheels, wouldn’t you say? What’s that? It was their only album of new material since Steel Wheels? Never mind.

    Like I was saying, bummer about turning 50, Mod.

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