The songwriting matchup of Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello yielded many memorable tunes and a couple of minor hits, including Macca’s ‘My Brave Face’ and Elvis’ ‘Veronica.’
You’ll find lots to love in the deeper cuts as well, such as today’s Random SOTD, from the back half of Costello’s 1989 album Spike.
‘Pads, Paws and Claws’ takes its title from a “junk shop book” and depicts one of the unhealthier relationships in the Costello canon, which is saying something.
For the second weekend in a row, the Random iTunes Fairy has selected an Elvis Costello tune. This one is a bonus disc cut from the 2001 reissue of Spike.
Written by Nick Lowe, ‘The Ugly Things’ was originally recorded by Lowe and his band Brinsley Schwarz (named after the group’s guitarist, one Brinsley Schwarz). Why anybody would name a band, or a child, that escapes me.
Today’s Random Weekend selection is similar to the Lucinda Williams track posted last Sunday — a raw, acoustic demo of an album cut.
In this case the performer is Elvis Costello and the song is ‘Tramp the Dirt Down’ from 1989’s Spike.
This is a song — in both its finished form and as a demo — with which I have lost patience over the years.
Elvis Costello’s Spike features quite a few political songs — including the capital punishment commentary of ‘Let Him Dangle’ and the anti-Thatcher ‘Tramp the Dirt Down’ — and the personal songs are pretty dark.
Even ‘Veronica,’ the jaunty minor hit co-written with Paul McCartney, is about an elderly woman who has seen her identity stripped away while living out her final days in a nursing home.
So while Costello is dressed as a clown on the album’s cover, he’s most decidedly a sad clown.
Elvis Costello released two great albums in 1986 but then took a break for three years before releasing his next disc, 1989’s Spike.
Spike was the first Costello album I bought as a new release, and as such it holds a special place in my heart.
Looking at it objectively, it’s a bit of a mess, but this batch of songs was like manna from heaven for a young guy who had recently discovered a new favorite artist and was dying for new material.
Following the double dip in 1986, Costello waited three years to put out his next album. During that time he signed with Warner Brothers and, as he tells it in the liner notes of Spike, was given a boatload of cash to make his next album. As a result, Costello writes, he took the five potential albums swimming around in his head and put them all out as one.
Indeed, Spike suffers a bit from schizophrenia. Though it is no longer than Get Happy!, Imperial Bedroom or King of America, it lacks those records’ thematic and musical cohesion and as a result feels about twice as lengthy as it is.