At least that’s where my copy of this song lives. It was originally released as part of a 1997 greatest hits collection, a contractual obligation that allowed Costello to finish off his time at Warner Bros.
Elvis Costello’s 1996 album All This Useless Beauty featured mostly songs he had initially written for other artists. ‘The Other End of the Telescope,’ for example, was written with Aimee Mann and first appeared on ‘Til Tuesday’s fine album Everything’s Different Now.
Today’s track, ‘Complicated Shadows,’ was written for Johnny Cash, though the Man in Black opted not to record it. He did, however, record two other Costello tunes, ‘The Big Light’ and ‘Hidden Shame,’ during his career.
Ah, my favorite kind of Random Weekend — one that falls on the birthday of a loved one. This allows me to dedicate the song to the person — in this case my sister — sight unseen and then see what fate serves up.
So here we go… Happy Birthday, Amy! This mystery song is for you!
When Elvis Costello released 1996’s All This Useless Beauty, I loved every minute of it, including (perhaps especially) its opening track, ‘The Other End (of the Telescope).’
Years later the song started to get on my nerves, particularly due to one lyric toward the end in which Costello sings of putting “a bamboo needle on a shellac of Chopin,” as pretentious a phrase as he’s ever uttered.
‘Starting to Come to Me’ is treated like a throwaway on All This Useless Beauty. It’s tucked away toward the end of the album, a rare upbeat track on a record full of portentous ballads. But this is the song that hit me first and has stayed with me more than any other on the album.