Elvis Costello & The Attractions in session for John Peel – recorded on February 25, 1980 and broadcast on March 3, 1980 for BBC Radio 1. One of the things that struck me about Elvis Costello during the early years was how prolific he was as a writer. Not that he was just “cranking out tunes”, but that everything he recorded was riveting and demanding of attention for one reason or another. He wrote masterpieces almost by the pound. Something very few artists of the day were doing. Coming out of the Punk period by 1980, music was becoming a bit more dense and diverse with a stronger sense of social purpose going in (we are talking about The Thatcher Years). The three-chord wonders were fewer and farther between. Elvis Costello was never simplistic – his words and word pictures were vivid and rich and carried the weight of life with them. He weathered the changes quite nicely.
I will say there were times when the sheer volume of music he was creating bordered on overwhelming – in all honesty, his was/is the music that you really have to sit with and absorb on a one-to-one basis. And by the time you’ve felt like you’ve had a meaningful relationship with one song, you realize there are 20 others that are just as engaging, just as profound and just as demanding. You could spend most of your time listening to Elvis Costello and almost nothing else in-between (which I suppose is the ultimate aim of the artist; to corner your attention and hold it hostage for a while). But you never felt like you were being subject to an ordeal; a musical blood-letting some confessional writing often does. His music has always been the stuff of razor-sharp observation and comment, surprisingly neutral in its assessment.
So this 1980 session, coming on the heels of the release of Get Happy! (which came out only days earlier), further carried that legacy along. The original album version had 20 tracks – subsequent reissues for CD have clocked in with as many as 20-30 additional tracks. Musical feasts, without a doubt. This session contains only four numbers, as they were recorded for John Peel.
Crank it up and enjoy.