The Lovers That Never Were: The Paul McCartney & Elvis Costello Demos

In 1987, Paul McCartney invited Elvis Costello to write songs together. Over a series of sessions, they created a body of work from which both artists pulled selections for various albums over the years. The songs written by this partnership were used to augment their own individual work, filling in cracks when either member neededContinue reading “The Lovers That Never Were: The Paul McCartney & Elvis Costello Demos”

Tokyo Storm Warning

An earlier piece on Recliner Notes investigates Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and the different traditions from which Dylan examined and pulled, including rhyming songs, nonsense songs, Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business,” and skatting within songs. At the core of the Dylan song and these other song forms is the rhyming and unrelenting cadenceContinue reading “Tokyo Storm Warning”

Uncomplicated

Renowned minimalist Lou Reed once said: “One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.” Rock ‘n roll has plenty of examples of one-chord songs. “Chain of Fools” is filled with such incredible vocal interplay between Aretha Franklin and her background singers that the lack of a chord changeContinue reading “Uncomplicated”

Suit of Lights

“The suit doesn’t make the man, but it highlights him and gives him a different air.” So says Luis Miguel Calvo, a banderillero and former matador, in a 2005 New York Times article about the clothing worn by bullfighters in the ring and the methods and techniques used to create this finery. The most commonlyContinue reading “Suit of Lights”

Brilliant Mistake

In 1984, Elvis Costello undertook a series of solo concerts in which he shared the bill with T Bone Burnett, the Texan musician who had not yet become the svengali producer figure that he is known as today. These solo performances and the emerging creative partnership with Burnett led Costello to a specific vision forContinue reading “Brilliant Mistake”

Deportee

Elvis Costello and The Attractions released their album Goodbye Cruel World in June 1984. To say Costello was disappointed with the album is an understatement. In the liner notes for the re-release of Goodbye Cruel World, Costello wrote: “Congratulations! You’ve just purchased our worst album.” After the release of the album, Costello took stock whileContinue reading “Deportee”

Almost Blue

A song is considered a standard when it has achieved a certain amount of popularity within a specific genre (jazz, blues, etc.) and sometimes across genres. It becomes part of the “standard repertoire” when a significant number of different artists perform the song. While there are standards within different musical genres, often referencing a standardContinue reading “Almost Blue”

Beyond Belief

In 2004, Elvis Costello wrote a lengthy appreciation of The Beatles for Rolling Stone: “I first heard of The Beatles when I was nine years old…I was exactly the right age to be hit by them full on. My experience — seizing on every picture, saving money for singles and EPs, catching them on aContinue reading “Beyond Belief”

New Amsterdam

1980’s Get Happy!! is Elvis Costello’s fourth album and third with his backing band The Attractions. The album is an attempt to fuse Costello’s lyrical content with the rhythms and sounds of R&B and Motown, resulting in a 20-song record with a flood of musical ideas. Costello wrote about Get Happy!!: “The lyrical content ofContinue reading “New Amsterdam”

Watching the Detectives

The essay “The Simple Art of Murder” written by crime writer Raymond Chandler was published in The Atlantic Monthly in December 1944. It’s his definitive statement on the mystery genre, encompassing insights on all manner of detective stories, country house murders, and hard-boiled crime fiction. The essay includes some praise, but mostly criticisms of suchContinue reading “Watching the Detectives”