"The Only Flame in Town" / Elvis Costello
Well, I'm in the middle of changing computers -- gotta move everything from my old ThinkPad to the newer Lenovo my son abandoned to become a Mac-head, and I better do it fast because the old one could blow up any minute. But one component wouldn't work on the new machine: iTunes. And as you can imagine, I am unable to function without iTunes. (I don't just mean unable to write this blog -- I mean unable to function.)
Finally I spent a morning with my new best friend at Apple, Jamila, and iTunes is working again, but because the old computer's drive is so compromised (I'm not kidding when I say "blow up any minute"), I couldn't just shift the whole humongous mass of music with seven keystrokes and a flash drive. Instead, I've been reloading the entire library by hand, which I don't have time to do but I'm doing anyway, in the most OCD manner possible.
Which is why I missed a few days writing.
But I have to say the process is very therapeutic. I'm reminded of a lot of songs that've gotten buried (thanks to all of you whose music samplers have contributed gems like Magali Noel's "Fais-Moi Mal Johnny" and the Black Lodge Singers' "Theme from the Flintstones"). And while CDs are dumping in the tracks, I've looked at certain CD covers for the first time since I originally loaded these things into my computer. Which is how I discovered a picture of Elvis and Daryl Hall inside the booklet for Goodbye Cruel World, a 1984 album I completely undervalued at the screwy moment in time when it first was released. (Note to self: You got married in 1984, dingbat, that's where your mind was at instead.) I had completely missed the fact that it was Daryl contributing those lovely high backing vocals on "The Only Flame in Town," though really, it's perfect -- how else to capture the 80s pop zeitgeist?
Here's Elvis' liner notes on the subject: Our second guest was Daryl Hall who added some effortless high harmonies to the chorus. He was also adored by the camera during the shooting of the accompanying 'Win a Date with Elvis and the Attractions' video . . . Daryl made the rest of us look as if we had just crawled out of a hedge. My humour wasn't helped by the record company representative shrieking at the make-up girl: 'Make him look handsome' as I was about to go under the pancake. Ah! The Eighties.*
Of course, this must be how Daryl met Nick Lowe, his guest on his recent delightful webcast. It's ridiculous how happy this information makes me.
Re-listening to "The Only Flame," I'm thrilled to discover what a nifty little track it is. I suppose in 1984 I felt disappointed in Elvis for going all power-pop on us -- and reading the liner notes, I see that Elvis was pretty disappointed in himself for doing it, too. But then there are those glorious harmonies in the chorus -- and jesus, any track that gives Steve Nieve an excuse to throw in riffs from J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavichord just can't be bad.
The Only Flame in Town sample
* cut-and-paste inspired by Uncle E