Today in our adventures with Elvis Costello, I’m going to highlight what I think is the first CD I ever owned: Spike. It’s certainly the case that I originally had Blood & Chocolate on vinyl. And yes, I know, I’ve completely neglected the first three albums. I think that’s because of something James said. I assure you, I could do Elvis Costello songs for the next several months and manage to write 500 words about each one of them. I’m still not 100% and today we’re doing Spike so get over it!
The thing about Spike is that I don’t think it is a very good album. But it has some of my favorite songs on it. It has “Let Him Dangle” and “Tramp the Dirt Down.” But I already highlighted both of those songs (along with the exquisite “Shipbuilding”) a year ago, Three Elvis Costello Political Songs. In that article, I say I that I hadn’t actively sought out his music after this album, but that’s not true; I followed him closely through All This Useless Beauty. But it is probably true that Spike was the album that kind of ended the romance.
The real standout song on the album is “God’s Comic.” Maybe I say that simply because I get it, unlike so many other of his songs. For example, on the same album is “Veronica,” a little pop annoyance he wrote with Paul McCartney. I really tried to figure out what that song was about, but it was only after I read an interview with Costello that I found out. How the hell was anyone supposed to get that from the song? And given what the song is about, why is it such an upbeat tune?
On the other hand, in “God’s Comic,” I’m in on the joke. I even get the final line that turns everything on its head. And I think this is a wonderful bit of sly writing:
Drinking a cola of a mystery brand
Reading an airport novelette
Listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem
He said, before it had really begun
“I prefer the one about my son.”
Get it?! God is listening to Webber’s requiem mass, but God isn’t that into it. He prefers Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. In addition to everything else, God has base tastes. It’s a brilliant song with lots of other great lines like, “Sometimes you confuse me with Santa Claus; it’s the big white beard I suppose.” And I was going to feature it today, but this week, I’m feeling a little down. And so we’ll listen to another song I quite like from the album, “Baby Plays Around.” It was written with Cait O’Riordan, the woman who did a better job than anyone else at putting up with his crap.