Friday, September 12, 2014

Behold: The Elvis Costello Song of the Week® from Trunkworthy

Behold: The Elvis Costello Song of the Week® from Trunkworthy

Trunkworthy co-founders Gary Stewart and David Gorman have started a project I can really get behind. Beginning on his 60th birthday (Aug 25, 2014) and continuing weekly as long as interest holds, these two promise to share a song a week from Elvis's vast catalog.  Read what they say about the selected song, and listen to the audio clip.

Trunkworthy says, "We can’t think of anyone who’s written 500 songs as consistently good as his 500 songs . . . and we hope to turn you on to some of the best you’ve never heard."

I could not agree more! So I am collecting links to their efforts and publishing them here in hopes that PhilosFX readers will join me in sustaining this project. Enjoy!


1. Emotional vulnerability: "Human Handsfrom Imperial Bedroom (1982)


2. Acidic lyrics with an upbeat (and unforgettable) melody "Worthless Thingfrom Goodbye Cruel World (1984)

3. Elvis shows his bona fide soul side: "Either Side of the Same Townfrom The Delivery Man (2004)

4. Going Gospel with the Fairfield Four: "That Day is Donefrom The Fairfield Four’s I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray (1997)

5. Comfort food for long-time fans: “You Tripped At Every Step” from Brutal Youth (1994)

6. That time he invented Americana: “Jack of All Parades”  from King of America (1986)


7.  Breaking up? Broken up? This one's for you: This House Is Empty Now from Painted From Memory (1998)

8. What Midlife Crisis? This Is Rock: “45” from When I Was Cruel (2002)

9. How to sing to the back of the room: Couldn’t  Call it Unexpected No. 4," (though originally recorded for the album Mighty Like a Rose, Trunkworthy highlights the live, unamplified version of the song with a clip pulled from A&E’s Live by Request in 2003)

10. The man in the Deep Dark Truthful Mirror from Spike (1989)


11. Political outrage fuels this killer garage track: American Gangster Time from Momofuku (2008)

12. Oh, when Toussaint came marchin' in: “The Sharpest Thorn” from The River in Reverse (2006)

13. Deep, Dark Soul For When You’re Done Clowning Around: “Clowntime Is Over No. 2,” first released as a B-side to “High Fidelity” (1980) and then on Taking Liberties (1980)

14. A love song for the ages, Manhattan style: “I’m in the Mood Again,” from North (2003)


15. Sweet ear candy with a poisoned filling: “Charm School,” from Punch the Clock (1983)

16. The glorious sound of hippie optimism turn, turn, turning on itself? “You Bowed Down,” from All This Useless Beauty (1996)

17. The sound of love’s death from 1000 paper cuts.“Little Triggers,” from This Year’s Model (1978)

18. Sing along to the best song you won’t understand: “Crimes of Paris,” from Blood & Chocolate (1986)

19. Elvis & The Roots Pound the Apathy Right Out of Us: “Wise Up Ghost,” from Wise Up Ghost (2013)


20. The official battle-cry of your mid-life crisis, “Last Year of My Youth,” first performed on the June 4, 2014, Late Show With David Letterman

21. The Eerie Revelations Of An Unearthed 1975 Demo “Poison Moon,”  recorded at home, late 1975-early 1976

22. Cry-in-your-whiskey country from a most (or least?) unlikely place: How Much I’ve Lied,” from Almost Blue (1981).  

23. This Is What Happens When You Piss Off a Great Songwriter: How to Be Dumb,” from Mighty Like a Rose (1991).


24. Sulky girls and the men who stalk them: Sulky Girl,” from Brutal Youth (1994)

25. L.A. gets another kick to the crotch: Heathen Town,” originally released as the B-side to “Everyday I Write the Book” (1983). 

26. False optimism, self-delusion, and new age bromides all meet a painful death under “Alibi”‘s unrelenting glare: Alibi,” from When I Was Cruel (2002). Read the lyrics here.

27. The Torch Song Burning Beneath a Glossy MTV Hit: "The Only Flame in Town," live version.


28. Here’s the song we wish we had around when we were sending mix tapes to the unattainable objects of our affection: “That’s Not the Part of Him You’re Leaving,” from National Ransom (2010) Lyrics here.

29. Shut up and dance: “Getting Mighty Crowded,” originally released as the B-side of “High Fidelity.”

30. If you've ever had a baby play around, you get it: “Baby Plays Around,” originally released on Spike (1989).

31. You can sit and stew in the blue chair, or you can jump up and dance around it. Better yet, you can do both! This week’s pick is a two-fer: “Blue Chair,” originally released on Blood & Chocolate (1986) and then as a completely re-arranged and re-recorded non-album single (1987).


32. Costello remakes one of his earliest singles for a whole new generation of fans. We let his target demo decide if his aim was true. This week’s pick: “A Monster Went And Ate My Red 2” feat. Elmo and Cookie Monster (2011).

33. Tony Soprano said, ” ‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.” That sums up this song pretty nicely. This week’s pick is the last song to play at your High School Reunion: “Dirty Rotten Shame,” released as a B-side to Secret, Profane & Sugarcane’s single “Complicated Shadows” (2009), but played live starting in the mid-’90s.

34. What happens when you mix the bossa nova rhythms of swinging bachelor pad/lounge music with the more sinister tones and textures of ’60s-era spy soundtrack music? You get something like this:“Harry Worth,” released on Momofuku (2008).  

Gary and David do not mention this in their story, but the title is a pun on multiple levels.
"Harry Worth was an English comedy actor and comedian. Unlike the brash humour of other comedians at the time, Harry portrayed a charming, gentle and genial character, totally bemused by life, creating comedic confusion wherever he went." --Wikipedia.  
This aspect of Elvis Costello's writing makes me appreciate his craft all the more.

35. Costello paints the grays in the otherwise black and white screaming match of god v science. This week’s pick: “If I Could Believe,” released on Wise Up Ghost (2013)

36. Elvis explores the dark power dynamics of failed relationships behind a wall of sound: “No Dancing,” released on My Aim Is True (1977).


37. A sultry and slightly sinister slow jam, this week's pick is its own little erotic fever-dream: “Love Field,” released on Goodbye Cruel World (1984).

38. What a broken heart has sounded like for over 50 years: “Poisoned Rose,” released on King of America (1986).

39. This week's song could have been a perfectly good folk ballad about 1930s blues / jazz singer Stella Gloria Crowson, aka Teddy Grace--and her many trials, tribulations, and traumas. Thankfully, Elvis kicked out a jam instead: “Stella Hurt,” released on Momofuku (2008). You can read more about Teddy Grace here.

40. This deceptively simple ballad packs a powerful punch, gently rocking you in to a dark, decidedly Southern nightmare: “Country Darkness,” released on The Delivery Man (2004)


41. An eerie meditation on faded beauty, masterfully rendered in under two minutes. It also makes one hell of a love song to Detroit. Slow dancing with Architecture: “Hoover Factory,” released on Taking Liberties (1980). 

42. Elvis Costello's magical musical London tour guide: “London’s Brilliant Parade,” released on Brutal Youth (1994).

43. This week's pick is so much more than the sum of its parts: lyrics, music, production and musicianship at the level of the highest art. “All This Useless Beauty,” released on All This Useless Beauty (1996).

44. This week’s pick is Entourage directed by David Lynch, peeling back that sun-soaked, hedonistic Hollywood fantasy to expose the crushed dreams, talent and ambition left in its wake: “The Other Side of Summer,” released on Mighty Like a Rose (1991).

45. An immigrant's tale well-told should be ringing in your head as you watch the red, white, and blue fireworks this 4th: “American Without Tears,” released on King of America (1986).

[Note: this edition of The Elvis Costello Song of the Week was published just before the 4th of July holiday in America. If not for that bit of timing, I bet Gary and David might have chosen a different song for this spot on the list.]


46. Sometimes swaying to a world gone wrong is just what you need. This week’s pick: “Tripwire,” released on Wise Up Ghost (2013).

47. This is what it sounds like when a snappy old R&B song is slowed down, torn up, and left crying alone in the dark: “Please Stay,” released on Kojak Variety (1995)

48. For the soundtrack of a biopic loosely based on the life and music of Carole King, Costello honors the master writers of Motown: “Unwanted Number,” released on the Grace Of My Heart soundtrack (1996).

49. This week's pick is an increasingly angry, noisy, caustic, and scary look at the downside of human nature: “Tart,” released on When I Was Cruel (2002).


50. What might have happened if Cole Porter, Tom Waits, and Elmore Leonard wrote a cheating song for George Jones: “Motel Matches,” released on Get Happy!!  (1980). 

51. In honor of Billy Sherrill's passing, here is a "cry in your whiskey" country ballad from a most--or least--unlikely place: “How Much I’ve Lied,” from Almost Blue (1981).

52. An artist at war with himself while seeking reconciliation: “When I Was Cruel (No. 1),” from Cruel Smile (2002)

NOTE: Elvis Costello's birthday is August 25th. In 2014 the eclectic songwriter and musician turned 60, and many music-themed magazines celebrated the event. I searched through the Internet to find them all. In the hunt, I discovered Trunkworthy and their concept of selecting and sharing an underplayed Song of the Week from EC's enormous catalog. For a year, I have archived links to Trunkworthy's selections. I hope readers and fellow EC fans have enjoyed coming to one place for links to all of the selected songs so far. I also hope that Gary and David have something special in mind for next week (and many more weeks to come)! 

Here's to creative genius of Declan Patrick MacManus, and to the brilliant men behind this project.

53. Encore (August 25, 2015). And so we conclude our one-year journey in to the most Trunkworthy songs by the man who inspired Trunkworthy itself: “Just A Memory,” from Taking Liberties/Ten Bloody Marys & Ten How’s Your Fathers (1980), originally the b-side to “New Amsterdam.”

"This week marks the end of our year-long attempt to honor the artist who, more than any other, expanded our own musical minds and record collections. We wanted people who didn’t know Costello’s work to give him a shot, we wanted casual fans to dig deeper, and we wanted deep fans to reconsider songs they might have passed over the first time or offer some reasons to go back and listen to them differently. We hope we’ve done one of those things for all of you who checked into our little listening party each week." --Gary & David, Trunkworthy


Please visit Trunkworthy, sign up for email updates, and join me in supporting and sustaining this project. I'll continue to publish the links here as I get them. but why wait on me? Go direct to the source, and make sure you follow, like, share, etc. Trunkworthy on social media to spread the word.

Let's see if we can sustain this effort for a year. A year of songs of the week? That would be 50 of 500. Wouldn't it be great to see the Trunkworthy Top 10%?