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


Gorillaz – Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez
Pop music invites the donning of disguises and the assumption of aliases. Take a daft handle, don some horn-rim spectacles and you can be anyone you want to be and a few that you don't. I mention this because there was that one night when I was nearly in Blur. We were both supposed to feature on The Frightful Friday Show or one of those pale knock-offs of Ready Steady Go in the 90s.

This was during the first blush of Britpop and I guess the pace had got a little hectic, so one of the band members had gone missing. Someone - perhaps a record company wag or one of the television producers - floated the idea that I might deputise for Graham Coxon. There was no way in the world I could have covered for Graham's excellent guitar playing and I seriously doubt any of their fans would have been fooled by my slightly robust silhouette, whether or not I was wearing similar glasses.

Nevertheless, in the Marvellous World of Showbiz, this narrowly avoided catastrophe was enough to make me feel a certain distant kinship. I observed the on-going, Battle Of The Bands as if it were a boxing match between Freddie Mercury and Freddie Garrity. I loved a lot of Blur's later records and particularly the first album by Damon Albarn's excellent other band, The Good The Bad and The Queen, but most of all, the visual characters of the Gorillaz animations seemed to free the participants to take to the dancefloor and the skies with equal vim and vigour.

Having dug all the early Gorillaz releases, I had truthfully lost sight of much of their output until just the other day, when one of my 13-year old lads told me he had been following the intermittent bulletins from Gorillaz' Song Machine and recited all the lore and backstory of the characters and we sat down to watch a sequence of videos.

Everyone of them knocked me out but I was especially drawn to 'Désolé' with an incredible vocal by Fatoumata Diawara that really lifts it all out of the water and 'Pac-Man' with verses by ScHoolboy Q and the timely refrain of "I'm stressin' out".