Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Song in My Head

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Just a Memory
by Elvis Costello & The Attractions
from his "Taking Liberties" album,
released in 1980.

I'm reaching way back in the cob-web-covered archives for this one.

As a young, punk-leaning musician in 1977-78, I was captivated by the new, hook-filled pop-punk coming out of England. In particular, Elvis Costello (later to become Elvis Costello and The Attractions) grabbed my ears with "Alison," "Accidents Will Happen," and "What's So Funny 'bout Peace, Love and Understanding?" It was new rock, but with a great melodic sense, clever lyrics, and seriously good rhythms.

I was a freshman in college in the fall of 1980 when Elvis' third album, "Taking Liberties," came out. It hit me like a ton of bricks--especially the song "Just a Memory." Something about the way Elvis sang "Losing you is just a memory. Memories don't mean that much to me" resonated deeply with me. Goodbye high school girlfriend, and cozy life at home. Hello big, cruel world.

All the other songs on the album were punchy, raw rock of the time, save for Elvis' cover of "My Funny Valentine." Twenty-seven years later and I can still remember how listening to this album in my dorm room in Peabody Hall made me feel. For most of the 80's, Elvis Costello's music was my sonic reference point.

But the album had other effects, too: I started writing songs (nearly all of which were hopelessly bad). And I started my first college band "The Shades" --just wanting to play thoroughly modern music. Of course we settled mostly for cheesy frat rock, but the gigs we played and the hours of practice did me a world of good.

Perhaps least importantly of all, as you can see from the photo above, (taken recently in North Dakota) I've still got an affinity for nerdy, Elvis-like eyewear.

The lyrics to "Just a Memory" are here. One of many major Elvis Costello fan sites is here. You can't (legally) download most of the older Elvis songs, but on the ITunes website you can get a version of "Just a Memory" done by Tywanna Jo Baskette on an EC tribute album, called "Almost You." It's a decent version, but I still love Elvis' best of all. I've gone back to it many times over the intervening years.

And it's not completely true--memories, as you may have inferred, DO mean a lot to me. Sometimes they're all you've got.


On June 20, 2006 at 9:27 AM Anonymous said...

Elvis is King!

On June 20, 2006 at 9:48 PM Anonymous said...

My favorite EC song of all time is "Watching the Detectives." His later music (since 1990 or so) is not as good, IMHO.--James

On June 21, 2006 at 8:33 AM Anonymous said...

Dude, Just A Memory is haunting! Hey, did you ever consider writing for Rolling Stone? You've got the specs for it.

Steve Free

On June 21, 2006 at 1:27 PM dguzman said...

Did you ever hear Marti Jones' version of this song? It's also haunting--but with material like that, how can one go wrong?
Marti Jones was (is?) the wife of big-time 80s producer Don Dixon (who had his own early MTV hit with "Preying Mantis"--a little- known classic).

On June 21, 2006 at 4:17 PM Anonymous said...

My friend Billy the Bloggin'-Bird-Bard knows from whence he speaks-- Elvis is indeed worthy of his reverential tone. I recently saw EC play a 3 hr show with Allen Toussaint at Wolf Trap in VA. The Imposters with horns and a mess of great songs.

King Horse

On May 15, 2007 at 9:44 AM Anonymous said...

tywanna jo baskette has one of the most beautiful voices ive ever heard. personally i think her version is magical. have you heard her album "fancy blue"? truly original. also elvis rocks!