Elvis Costello Countdown #89: “Having It All”

Sometimes great songs have bizarre origins. In the case of “Having It All,” Elvis Costello wrote it for the movie Absolute Beginners, an only-in-the-80’s type of musical. It was supposed to be delivered by actress Patsy Kensit on top of the Eiffel Tower. As such, Costello wrote a sweeping ballad from the perspective of someone surveying the landscape below them; hence the start of each verse, “Looking down….”

Of course, once the movie was made, there was a song entitled “Having It All” which was sung by Kensit, but instead she was in a nightclub and the song was a jazzy, beatnik kind of thing with a stand-up bass, finger snaps, and the works. I haven’t been able to find out who actually wrote this version, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Elvis; any readers out there who might know, feel free to comment and enlighten me.

Anyway, Elvis apparently kept the song on his personal cutting-room floor with the thought of one day releasing it on his own, but he finally settled for putting it out as an outtake on the Rhino re-release of King Of America, since the demo he did came from around that time. This demo, just Elvis alone at the piano, is fantastic all on its own, and it makes you wonder what those movie producers must have been thinking.

Costello clearly found inspiration from the original movie setting, and the song he composed painted a picture of someone who seems to have lost everything but resiliently vows to get it all back and then some. “If you can’t give me what I want,” he sings, “I’m having it all.” It turns out you don’t need to be on top of some architectural wonder to feel the power of “Having It All.”

(The full Elvis Costello list is now available in e-book form. Here is the link:)


(E-mail the author at countdownkid@hotmail.com.)


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