From 1994's Brutal Youth -- one of the many albums I missed in my apostate years when I wasn't paying attention to Elvis Costello.
Mea culpa, mea culpa.
Somewhere in Elvis's UNINDEXED autobiography/memoir/apologia Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (yes, I am that geek who's read all 672 pages) I seem to recall that he explains that this song was inspired by a visit to a ritzy resort with his then-wife Cait O'Riordan. I could spend an hour or so looking it up, but why? The song stands as it is -- and as it is, it's a Dante-esque vision of our modern inferno.
Despite the crunchy dissonance at the beginning, this is a seductively sprightly track. "This is hell, this is hell I am sorry to tell you / Never gets better or worse / But you'll get used to it after a spell / For heaven is hell in reverse." But whoever said the devil wasn't an upbeat con man?
Well, I'm that EngLit bore who has read Milton and Dante and C.S, Lewis -- and I have to say, EC's vision of Hell is totally in line with the EngLit view of things. Wherein Hell is not just about the grave and horrible, but about the multitudinous moments of self doubt--the drip-drip-drip of a leaky faucet.
The line that's lodged in my brain on an endless loop? This brilliant couplet: "My Favorite Things is playing again and again / But it's by Julie Andrews and not by John Coltrane." I'm flashing to the great 1967 Stanley Donen film Bedazzled (please, forget the 2000 remake), where the darkly brilliant Peter Cook plays the Devil, and whenever things go rogue, what's his safe word? Julie Andrews!
You can't tell me that my man Elvis hasn't seen that film. I know he has. Just as I know he is intimately familiar with Coltrane's track
So what are your favorite things? Elvis is asking you to choose. What's heaven for you, and what is hell?
And knowing that you may have to live with your choice for at least four years.....