Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Elvis Costello & The Attractions ... Get Happy! & Show # 350
The year 1979 was a busy one for Elvis Costello. He completed the album Armed Forces with his band Elvis Costello & The Attractions was on tour in American on the Armed Funk Tour and produced an album for The Specials. Controversy would be brought into his world, when in April of 1979 while on tour he made some drunken derogatory remarks about James Brown and Ray Charles that were taken out of context during a conversation with Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett at a hotel bar in Columbus, Ohio. Costello apologized for the remarks at a press conference explaining the situation. At the same time The Attractions were working on and rehearsing material for their next album that would be titled Get Happy! The album originally had more of a New Wave sound in the same vein as Armed Forces, but the band were unhappy with the results. Elvis Costello & The Attractions re-arranged the songs in order to give them a Soul and R&B feel. It has been hinted at that perhaps the songs on Get Happy! reflected this influence because of the events that preceded it. Costello had this to say in the 2002 linear notes to the Rhino reissue of Get Happy!
“It might have been tempting to claim that I had some noble motive in basing this record on the music that I had admired and learned from prior to my brush with infamy. But if I was trying to pay respects and make such amends, I doubt if pride would have allowed me to express that thought after I had made my rather contrived explanation... I simply went back to work and relied on instinct, curiosity, and enduring musical passions. “
The band recorded the album in Hilversum, Netherlands at Wisseloord Studios to get away from the distractions and as Costello highlights in the above quotation, the band went back to work. The result was a twenty song canvas of songs painted with a Soul and R&B style. Get Happy! as a term has a few origins. In regards to Gospel music “getting happy” refers to receiving the Holy Spirit, but it is also the title of a song by Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler. The artwork for the album was designed by Barney Bubbles, who had done artwork for Costello and numerous other artists in the past, he worked as an art designer for Stiff Records, Radar, and F-Beat Records to name a few. It was made to reflect a retro worn out feel, complete with ring marks.
Regardless of the events the preceded it Get Happy! is an energetic Soul stomping album with twenty songs, many short, but straight to the point moments reflecting Costello’s rage, humour and Pop sensibilities. Songs such as “Opportunity” ooze with R&B and Soul, while “The Imposter” is an original Soul New Wave rave up. The album features two cover songs “I Can’t Stand Up (For Falling Down)” is a song originally by Sam & Dave and it was released as the first single for this album, and “I Stand Accused” which is a song that was regular feature of the bands early live sets originally by the 60s band The Merseybeats. “New Amsterdam” is a Pop masterpiece equivalent to the Pop stylings of “Oliver’s Army”, while “High Fidelity”, and “Riot Act” all stand on their own as Pop songs based on their own merits. The album features so many moments that highlight Costello’s ability as a song writer venturing in a different direction. The band is dead on, Bruce Thomas’ R&B grooves are amped up on this album and and they adapt well to the Soul inspiration on this record (a Soul groove was always dominant on Attractions records, but not as dominant as this one), while Steve Nieve adds Booker T. styled flourishes on organ and Pete Thomas solidifies the beat. Get Happy! also marked fourth album in Costello’s catalog of five amazing albums that were released in succession (from My Aim Is True to Trust), all of which were produced by Nick Lowe. When released in 1980, Get Happy! went to number eleven on the US Pop album charts and number two on the UK album charts.
This Week's Play List:
1. Television - See No Evil
2. Red Light Driver - Celeste Celeste
3. Starlites - I Can See You
4. The Sherlocks - Stefany
5. The Chessmen - Time Machine
6. Gorillaz - Hillbilly Man
7. Golden Hands Before God - The Ladder
8. Neil Young & The Sadies - This Wheel's On FIre
9. Street Chant - Scream Walk
10. High Mother - Tryin Too Hard
11. The Spys - Watching You
12. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Don't Mess With Cupid (Live At Max's Kansas City 1979)
13. Ramones - California Sun
14. Bok Bok - Misfit
15. Buzzcocks - Paradise
16. Beastie Boys - Lee Majors Come Again
17. The Soles - Broken Ghost
18. The Smiths - Suffer Little Children (Troy Tate Sessions Version)
19. Undertones - You've Got My Number
20. The Kills - Getting Down
21. The Strokes - Taken For A Fool
22. The Doors - I Looked At You
23. Elvis Costello & The Attractions - The Imposter
24. Elvis Costello & The Attractions - I Stand Accused
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for May 3. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.