I remember walking around the track at my high school with another guy. We were both injured but were walking wounded so we walked around the track and then stretched. We got to talking about Elvis Costello. We were debating whether he was a real artist or a spoof, a clown just making funny music. Tim, my fellow walker insisted that he was the real deal. At the time there was only one song I knew which was Red Shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes. It’s a good song, but at the time I thought the song too quirky and really just didn’t want anything to do with the funny looking guy which was more proof that he was just a spoof, a gimmick act. Weird that I could love the B-52’s and Devo but have problems with one Elvis Costello. It would take me a long time to catch on, longer than you might think.
Now it really didn’t take all that long to figure out that Costello was actually a serious performer with serious songs, but my first impression held firm with me. There were exceptions of course. First there was one song, one beautiful song that could have been written about me. That was the only song that I liked though at least at the time.
I did and didn’t want to go to my prom. By the time prom came around I really just wanted one thing; to graduate and have that terrible part of my life high school be over. I wanted to be in college where I believed things could be more on equal terms, which turned out to be true. I did want to go because years later I didn’t want to have some sort of weird regret and my mom who never graduated high school wanted me to go. Other than athletics the only club I belonged to was Spanish Club which was full of quirky people just like me. I was one of the Spanish dancers in the club and we performed some. It was always fun and generally we were well received. Oh yea you can bet your ass I could dance the Tango. You wish you were me right about now. I had a really good friend, a junior who was one of my partners in Spanish dance. I screwed up three times with her, times where I should have asked her out and didn’t. The first time was over prom when I stupidly asked if she thought a friend of hers would go to prom with me. Yes I really was that stupid and clueless.
One reason why I liked the other girl and asked her to prom was that she was the queen of weird. It wasn’t anything overt, she was just a strange chick. She took me home to meet her father and she had one or two older brothers I forget how many. Her mother was not in the picture and I believe she had died. Her father worked at Bell Helicopter as an engineer and unlike his daughter he was very talkative. He sat me down and asked if I liked Pink Floyd and I said sure. He put on The Wall specifically that small part where the helicopter is landing and then turned it up. It was loud. He had a really nice stereo. He then identified the helicopter and told me all about it. I was thinking her dad was pretty cool. Then he told me this long story of how they grew marijuana in California and juiced it to get a pure form of THC. I thought why the hell is he telling me this?
Prom was horrible. The girl and I broke up a few days before but went anyway too much money spent on a dress and tuxedo. She also had this ridiculous curfew of like 11:30. I had no curfew. At the prom though was a girl that I had a lot of classes with, and who was on the drill team. The drill team during football season decorated the football players lockers and dumped enough candy in them to ensure that they would be nice and wired for the games. This girl was responsible for my locker. I loved her, one of those many girls that were way over my skis but she was so nice all the time. You probably guessed her name was Allison. As it turns out Allison had broken up with her boyfriend too and was at prom with him some dude on the basketball team and she invited me to an early morning breakfast that we called champagne breakfasts but she made it clear with narrowed eyes there would be no alcohol and I better show up sober because her mom wanted me there. I had never met her mom. I wasn’t dumb enough to think that this was a romantic invite and I would not have gone if it had been. Even back then I was conscious that there was a certain poison about me. I just liked being her friend. Her mom greeted me like a long lost friend. I had no idea how she knew me. There were place mats all the way around the tables with names printed on them and my name was there, I thought it odd, still do. Anyway both Allison and her mom told me not to get into any trouble that night. There were real champagne breakfasts out there, yea I hit a couple. It seems over the years I kept meeting women that were just like her and I don’t think I ever met an Allison that didn’t take a chunk of my heart. Yea My aim is true.
Alison (Elvis obviously doesn’t know how to spell the name as he uses only one L) remains one of the saddest songs ever. Have you ever really listened to how Elvis sings the words especially the words “I heard you let that little friend of mine take off your party dress.“ Have you ever felt that way, wanted someone so bad and watched while someone else treated them less than you would? Its crushing.
If Alison represents one end of the spectrum the type of girl who does end up with me is not so bad either, if you don’t mind being dumped in the lake now and again. Apologies to the Dixie Chicks who dumped Earl in the lake the coolest chick to ever rid herself of a body is in the song Watching the Detectives. Now, why on Earth it took me so long to really discover Elvis Costello is beyond me. He would have been perfect for my college experience yet I went on having already decided that I just didn’t like him. How wrong can a person be? Watching the Detectives is probably, and I know I say this between 25 and 50 times a day one of my all time favorite songs. I do believe the current count on favorite songs is somewhere around 11, 422.62. Yea don’t ask. Look when you have this much music there are going to be some well and truly loved songs, favorites. If you have ever had a favorite book and kept it and read it so many times that the pages get soft and yellow and you still refuse to buy a new copy then you will understand. There is magic there. There is magic in music so you should have more than one song for every occasion or feeling.
These two extremes, Alison and Watching the Detectives represent about 140% of my dating or married life. Okay maybe not 140% but a good solid 138%. I KNOW it’s not possible silly rabbits but it feels so true. I laugh when I hear the song Watching the Detectives, and it does have the greatest line ever in a rock and roll song, “She’s filing her nails while they’re dragging the lake.” I laugh every time and then inevitably one of a dozen women will pop into my head and a few of those memories make me go heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, that’s my body they were looking for. What a way to go.
So let me say apologies if you think maybe this blog was a little more story and a little less music but sometimes it works out that way. Believe it or not I was in my late 30’s before I seriously gave much thought to Elvis Costello. Imagine my regret when all that great music was really heard by me for the first time. Yes, regret because there is regret in music too and not just regret that you spent some of your life thinking country music spoke to your soul. Not me of course country music has never spoken to my soul but some of you people sheesh. Branch out, please. Costello should have been the music of my college life. It would have been perfect but you know I didn’t have it so bad and you never know it may have lacked any real meaning for me if I had simply because I lacked any real experience. Imagine if I had known the song Watching the Detectives. I would have gone searching.
Have a musical day people.