The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

Pump 'Em Up! Elvis Costello's Favourite Music
Paul Stokes , October 21st, 2020 08:11

Elvis Costello tells Paul Stokes about his lockdown life and new album Hey Clockface as he guides us through Baker's Dozen tales including being taken under the sinful wing of Iggy Pop and the time he nearly joined Blur. Costello portrait by Ray Di Pietro


Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways
Upon hearing the last six or so minutes of 'Murder Most Foul', in which Dylan unfolds a litany of singers and actors names, song and film titles, I found myself filled with tears but not out of despair but because those named are no more lost to us than hope itself. They weigh in the balance on the side of worth and even a little truth, against all of the viciousness that has taken place since the brutal events in November '63, described in the opening stanzas. This song is "about President Kennedy" in the same way that, Moby Dick is about a whale of a time. Make no mistake, this is a writer and - perhaps more importantly - a singer, operating at the top of their powers. Backed by an ensemble playing with the closest attention to the narrative line, the album is sung with incredible nuance that belies most estimations of what it takes to be a great singer and one which I suspect is informed by Dylan's investigations into so many great American songbooks over these recent years.

To my ear, this is someone making an inventory of what is left that matters; the succour of a muse, a creature made from spare parts, the refusal to throw your shoes into to the crowd in an act of glib showmanship, rather it piles up all these whispered endearments, pleas, citations, asides, villainous threats and one particularly audacious passage in which Generals Grant, Zukhov and Patton are all cited as having cleared a path for "Presley to sing".

I cannot think of another songwriter who would have proposed such a verse and it is such that makes this a record for the hours and the ages. We all of us live in The Time Of Homer… Simpson, that is. Dylan's words and music dwell at the fork in the road where the Other Homer and the roadmaster, Bill Monroe, trade secrets.