Tag Archives: Elvis Costello

Rocks In The Attic #814: Linda Ronstadt – ‘Living In The USA’ (1978)

RITA#814Living In The USA is Linda Ronstadt’s seventh studio album, released in September of 1978. Its cover image, of Ronstadt standing in a corridor wearing a pair of roller-skates, is credited with increasing the popularity of skating in the United States.

It was a different time.

In fact, the album looks like an advertisement for roller-skates, with the front, rear cover and inner sleeve depicting Ronstadt either putting on her skates, struggling to stand up in them, or struggling to skate in them.

I’m not quite sure why I have any of her records at all in my collection. I’m sure she’s seen as some of national treasure in her native America, but she always felt more like an imported curio in the UK. She seems to get a fair bit of radio airplay here in New Zealand, but it’s the kind of middle-of-the-road AOR that fits the Dad-Rock demographic of the Kiwi stations. Perhaps if she had done a Bond song, she might have ended up with the kind of longevity that Carly Simon has.

RITA#814aLiving In The USA features songs made popular by Chuck Berry (Back In The USA), Elvis Presley (Love Me Tender) and Elvis Costello (Alison), but ultimately, the fact that Ronstadt doesn’t write her own songs is a major limit to her credibility. She’s essentially a cover-artist, a pub-singer who got lucky, the Jane McDonald of the 1970s. Her only solid contribution to popular culture was bringing together musicians Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner and Don Henley together to play on her second studio album, Silk Purse. The band gelled so well on stage, they stayed together and called themselves the Eagles.

Hit: Love Me Tender

Hidden Gem: Mohammed’s Radio

RITA#814b

Rocks In The Attic #628: Huey Lewis & The News – ‘Huey Lewis & The News’ (1980)

RITA#628Before Huey Lewis and his band struck the big time with the Sports and Fore! albums, they were just another band struggling to get noticed. Neither this debut album or its two singles – Some Of My Lies Are True (Sooner Or Later) and Now Here’s You – charted, and with a result like that it’s a blessing that they got a second chance.

Many other bands – thousands in fact – would have fallen by the wayside, its players moving on to more promising ventures. Not only did Chrysalis Record give Huey Lewis & The News another shot, the band also managed to (alongside Bob Brown) self-produce their second album, Picture This, a decision that surely couldn’t have been taken lightly at Chrysalis. The risk paid off, and the band was allowed to mature into the ‘80s chart-toppers they are now remembered as.

It wasn’t an easy road though. Lewis and keyboard player Sean Hopper first joined Clover, the band that, without Lewis, went on to become Elvis Costello’s backing band on his 1977 debut, My Aim Is True. In the resulting fallout, Lewis and Hopper created a new band, enlisting players from Clover’s rival San Fransisco band, Soundhole. With guitarist Johnny Colla, bassist Mario Cipollina and drummer Bill Gibson on board, the band – initially named Huey Lewis & The American Express – signed with Phonogram in 1978 on a singles-only contract.

A year later, they brought another guitarist – Chris Hayes – into the fold and signed with Chrysalis Records. Not surprisingly, Chrysalis didn’t care for the name of the band, fearing litigation from the credit card provider, and so the name was changed to Huey Lewis & The News. Ironically, American Express credit cards would probably have loved the free publicity a few years later when Fore! struck gold.

The debut record is full of energy, and has a New Wave tinge that is missing on their later albums. The soulful backing vocals are there though, and if anything the record suffers from a lack of strong material and a rock-by-numbers production.

Hit: Some Of My Lies Are True (Sooner Or Later)

Hidden Gem: Don’t Make Me Do It

Rocks In The Attic #494: Various Artists – ‘Every Man Has A Woman’ (1984)

RITA#494Yoko Ono got a raw deal, didn’t she? Known to the entire globe as ‘the woman who split up the Beatles’, she didn’t really do anything malicious or wilful to break up the band (and if anything, they would have split up whether she was in the picture or not). Her only crime was to exist as far as some people are concerned. Well, that’s not very nice, is it? ‘All you need is love’, John sang in 1967, but half of his fans have a hatred for his wife usually reserved for their personal enemies.

While some of her high-pitched wailing puts me off, some of her songwriting is great. I might like her contributions to Double Fantasy far less than I like John’s, but they still stand up. And who knows what might have happened next, had John not been gunned down. Half of Double Fantasy – admittedly Yoko’s half – is very much new wave, and I wonder if John would have gone down that route in the early ‘80s (as McCartney did with McCartney II in 1981).

Every Man Has A Woman is a collection of Yoko Ono covers put together to mark her 50th birthday. Devised by John, but completed by others after his death, it features the likes of Elvis Costello, Harry Nilsson, Lennon himself, Roseanne Cash, Roberta Flack, and a young Sean Lennon covering songs from Approximately Infinite Universe (1973), Double Fantasy (1980), Season Of Glass (1981), and It’s Alright (I See Rainbows) (1982). Nilsson appears three times throughout the course of the record, perhaps in an attempt to apologies to Yoko for leading John astray during his long weekend of 1973 to 1975.

Hit: Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him – John Lennon

Hidden Gem: I’m Moving On – Eddie Money

Rocks In The Attic #154: Elvis Costello – ‘The Man – The Best Of Elvis Costello’ (1986)

I’ve never really been able to figure out Elvis Costello. On the one hand, he’s a fantastic songwriter, but I think I have a problem in that he doesn’t fit into one genre of music – he moves around so much that it’s impossible to pigeon-hole him.

I know his stuff more through other band’s covers of his material – Pump It Up, especially – rather than his own recordings. Listening to these songs back-to-back, I think his voice puts me off him more than anything else – he slurs his lyrics in the same way that Buddy Holly hiccups his. They look like they share the same optician too.

I can take him or leave this Elvis – and I get the impression that like a lot of London acts, he’s far more relevant to southerners rather than grim northerners like myself.

Hit: Oliver’s Army

Hidden Gem: Pump It Up