Tuesday, April 17, 2007

If It Ain't Stiff...

Can My Aim is True really be 30 years old? With the news that the Universal Music Group (a long way from "If It Ain't Stiff, It Ain't Worth a Fuck", huh Elvis?) is re-releasing the first eleven Elvis Costello cds plus two new compilations on May 1, I need a few minutes of your time.

First, for the love of god, what human who would want these hasn’t already bought them? Twice. By my count, this is the 37th time Elvis has licensed his catalogue to be reissued. My goal – in 2010 - Teenage Kicks Records presents “The Original Elvis – Only The Good Ones”...no bonus tracks. The debate on which are the good ones is tabled for a later discussion.

Second, how can 30 years have passed since “Welcome to The Working Week”’s 82 seconds changed my life? Was it a punk record? Didn’t sound like one… though in thought, presentation and attitude, it certainly seemed like one. Before I had immersed myself in The Ramones, The Clash, The Pistols, Television… there was Elvis. My record store of choice back then, Plastic Fantastic, was run by a suitably surly refugee from the record biz, Harold Gold. You know him even if you never met him. Great taste in music and a debilitating gift for making me forever regret my Frampton Comes Alive purchase a few months earlier. His enthusiasm for My Aim is True was such that he offered my brother and me a money back guarantee. And if you knew Harold, he was as apt to offer a refund as Raymond Stoller, Paul Dooley’s hilarious but frugal used car salesman in 1979’s bike racing classic, Breaking Away. Best $8.99 I ever spent… that was import prices too.

My Aim is True was the bridge from 70’s singer-songwriters (Rod Stewart, Springsteen, Randy Newman) and pub rockers to the nascent punk rock scene. Full of brilliant nastiness and caustic humor, it bristled with the greatest songs I had ever heard (a severe overstatement to be sure, but to a suburban 19 year old, it sure felt that way). There’s not a wasted second, a wasted note on this record. Form the cathartic “Welcome to the Working Week”, the domestic nightmare of “Miracle Man”, the semi-hit Ronstadt-ready ballad “Alison”, the auto-eroticism of “Mystery Dance”, the sheer brilliance of “Red Shoes”, the mission statement “Less Than Zero” (“Let’s talk about the future, now we’ve put the past away”) and the twitchy, obsessed finale “Watching the Detectives”, My Aim is True is now and forever the greatest Elvis record.

So happy 30th, and to those who don’t own this misanthropic maelstrom of a musical masterpiece, what are you waiting for... another reissue?


Michael Atchison said...

I'm looking forward to the Starbucks reissues.

Vincent said...



For what its worth,Harold offered me the same guarantee. He made me buy it. I was looking for some Graham Parker import or something.

I love your blog by the way...

Vince (see you @ SXSW)

RonF said...

I would hardly call Harold "surly;" I always thought he was a nice guy. His ex, Betsy, now she could be surly. PF was a great store, and I was exposed to a lot of great music there. I was lucky enough to work there for five months in 1978. One of the great record stores of all time