I'd first heard Elvis earlier that fall. I was living in Maynard, Massachusetts and one of my roommates was playing piano in Jonathan Edwards' touring band. Jonathan was at the house one day and I asked him (J. Edwards) if he had heard any good new music (this was during the disco-induced drought, and a very dull time in rock). He mentioned that he'd just been in New York meeting with record companies and heard two new debut albums he'd really liked.
The first was Talking Heads:77 (released on Sept. 16) and the second was My Aim Is True by Elvis Costello (can't find release date; Wikipedia is wrong in showing the US release as March 1978).
I went out the next day and purchased both records listening first to Talking Heads which I really enjoyed. I then put on My Aim Is True and didn't listen to anything else for the next couple of weeks, playing it over and over again.
What drew me to it were the lyrics and the attitude. If you've seen Elvis in the last 20 years he's adopted the persona of a genial talk show host. The Elvis of the late 70s was aggressive, angry and conveyed a sense of urgency all the time. A week after we saw him he appeared on Saturday Night Live and earned a lifetime ban from SNL by switching after a few bars from the song he was supposed to play (Less Than Zero) to Radio, Radio. (Elvis on SNL) And the lyrics did have an edge:
Watching The Detectives
You think you're alone until you realize you're in it
Fear is here to stay, love is here for a visit
You snatch a tune and match a cigarette
She pulls their eyes out with a face like a magnet
Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking
When I hear the silly things that you say
I'm Not Angry
I know what you're doing
And I know where you've been
I know where
But I don't care
Cause there's no such thing as an original sin
Welcome To The Working Week
All of your family had to kill to survive
And they're still waiting for their big day to arrive
But if they knew how I felt they'd bury me alive
Why'd you have to say that there's always someone
Who can do it better than I can
Cause don't you think that I know
That walkin' on the water won't make me a miracle man
The music on that first record did not match the electric charge and fury of the lyrics. The band Clover provided backup and was just okay but by the time of his first US tour and second album he'd linked up with The Attractions who gave him that musical edge.
A few weeks later I saw that Elvis was coming to Boston and playing at The Paradise, a small club in the Brighton section of the city. My friend Mike with whom I was working (recently, after a 34 year break, we began working together again) and who had also become a fan came with me.
It's most likely we saw the first show on Friday night (the setlist for both nights does not match what we heard). Elvis was very upset because he'd just found out that dancing was not allowed at the club and he kicked off the show by denouncing the club management. Every song was played at breakneck speed, except for Alison, with The Attractions launching a furious musical assault - actually there were moments when it looked like Elvis might personally assault the audience.
Here's a 1978 version of Watching The Detectives to give you a flavor of their live show.
> One of the unusual aspects of the show was that they played as many songs from from their next album, This Year's Model, which was not released until March 1978, as they did from My Aim Is True. Because we'd never heard the newer songs before we couldn't make out all the lyrics but what we could understand was stunning. Among those songs were There's No Action, The Beat, I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea, Pump It Up and the incomparable Lipstick Vogue:
Don't say you love me when it's just a rumor
Don't say a word if there is any doubt
Sometimes I think that love is just a tumor
You've got to cut it out
You say you're sorry for the things that you've done
You say you're sorry but you know you don't mean it
I wouldn't worry, I had so much fun
Sometimes I almost feel just like a human being
Maybe they've told you
You were only a girl in a million
You say I've got no feelings
This is a good way to kill them
When I got home that night, between midnight and 1 a.m., I was so charged I called my friend Larry to tell him what I'd seen. And Mike and I made sure to get tickets to see Elvis again when he returned to play Boston at The Orpheum, on May 4, 1978.
For those who would like to see a more relaxed Elvis, here he is in 2004 playing The Deliveryman ('"in a certain light he looked like Elvis, in a certain way he seemed like Jesus") along with 2/3 of the original Attractions; Steve Nieve on keyboards and Pete Thomas on drums. Well, this post kind of got out of control and took me forever to do one-handed so I'll be doing some shorter ones for the next few days.