Vinyl Collecting: Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello

Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Back on during U2’s Pop tour, I headed to the Superdome to see the show. The most exciting thing about that show is that I remember I bought an Elvis Costello’s greatest hits cd from Tower Records. U2 seemed tired, but Elvis in the car sounded young and full of life. I think I purchased his entire catalog in the next year.

While there was a period where Elvis could do no wrong, Imperial Bedroom is Costello at the height of his powers. I listened to the CD constantly. Years later, on Record Store Day, I found a used copy at Peaches for $7 which makes this the best deal I ever got there.

There is nothing special about this particular physical record.   It’s a standard release not the hi-fi one. The lyrics are on the sleeve. After a good wash, it sounded great like most records do after a good clean. However, the medium isn’t the message with this one.

It was produced by Geoff Emerick who was a an engineer on Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Abbey Road. Of course, he worked with other artists, but when you are partially responsible for the sound of Beatles albums people are going to know you about that. He’s perfect for this album because Costello seems to be trying to break free from his early near perfect sound that he made with Nick Lowe. He’s ideas need fuller arrangements.

At the time I was impressed with how many words Costello could get into a song. The Replacements, my all time favorite band, always got to the point and when they were poetic they still employed an economy of words. Robert Smith of the Cure could write tons of lyrics but those songs seemed to be above five minutes. Costello seemed to figure it out without sacrificing the length of a pop song. The lyric that caught my attention was “so called gentlemen and ladies dog fight like rose and thistle” on Beyond Belief. At first I thought he was just explaining a fight he had with a lover or a fight he saw between lovers. Then my history degree kicked and I wondered if he was talking about the War of the Roses. Then I stopped trying to analyze and just enjoyed the sound of the words.

Listening to it today, it amazes me how much music is actually on this album. Each song neither seems long or short, but after about the fourth song on side 1, I kept thinking it was time to switch the side. That might say more about other artists, or I might say that Costello was full of ideas, great ideas, and needed to get them all out.

Traveling: Dublin and the Guinness Brewery

The worst part about Dublin was getting there. Our flight was before 7 am, which meant we had to be at the airport entirely too early.  We were planning to fly to London after Dublin for our first free weekend.  We had three reasons to go to London.  We wanted to take a day trip out to Hampton Palace, visit the Science Museum, and attend the London Comic Con.  Our friend, a huge Star Wars autograph collector, gave us some of his posters to be signed at the con.  Therefore, besides our luggage, we had a poster tube and a portfolio book.

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Listening: Men at Work’s Overkill

I’m kind of ashamed that I’m starting off my favorite song series with Men at Work.  I like Men at Work, but they are not The Cure, The Replacements, R.E.M. much less the Stones or the Beatles.  Yet, this song has always been kind of a personal anthem for me.

In the 90s I remember having one of my sleepless nights.  I was stressing over something.  I always stress over something.  I have social anxiety disorder and am prone to panic attacks.  I just remember being at low point when a band I never heard of before, nor ever again actually, came on MTV.

In fact, I never checked on Lazlo Bane till it was time to write this.  (Wow, they did the Scrubs theme song…Who knew?).  The cover is good, but it becomes great when Collin Hay joins in.  At first, I thought he was just making a cameo in the video, but then it comes to the last verse and he just belts it out.

The lyrics are simple and to the point.  It’s simply about a person who cannot stop thinking about something until it gets the best of them.  Anyone with anxiety understands this.  Anyone with stress understands this.  The Lazlo Bane version is your typical 90s grunge treatment.  The notable part of is Hay’s verse which he tries to match the music with as much force.

The original is better.  And for the record I’m not an original is always better kind of guy.  The Replacement’s Black Diamond destroys the original version.  There is just more weakness and fear in Hay’s voice in the original.  In the Bane version, when he sings “it’s just overkill” he sings it as if he knows it’s will be alright.  In the original, it sounds as if he is trying to convince himself. It’s the music, particularly the saxophone that is more convincing that it will be ok.

That’s the thing about anxiety disorders.  No matter how rationally you approach the problem, you always think that the fears will win.