Wrapping Up Elvis Costello…and What’s Next

Wow. I am overwhelmed by the response that the Elvis Costello list has garnered. I don’t think I realized going into it the level of passion and loyalty that his fans possessed. It has been so much fun interacting with all of you and going back and forth about which songs deserved a better ranking and which I might have overrated and so on and so forth. To a person, all the people who reached out with their opinions via the comments section of this blog, through the message board of the Elvis Costello fan forum, or through e-mail, they have all been knowledgeable, insightful, and respectful. Thank you all who did comment in that manner, and thanks to all who just read along.

Throughout the countdown, many have mentioned songs that they felt deserved to be on the list but didn’t make it. I’ve tried to reply as much as possible about whether these specific songs were close to making it or why they didn’t. I will take the time now to address a few specific songs which got a lot of buzz.

In my other lists, I was surprised by the amount of response to certain songs being left off, but I knew going in that my omission of “I Want You” was going to be the controversial one here. This is a subjective exercise, obviously, but I ultimately felt that the song carries a pretty low degree of difficulty compared to the Costello songs which made the list. I understand what Elvis was doing with the song and he achieves that goal of creating that uneasy gray area where desire turns to obsession and then turns even darker. That said, I think he achieves that a few lines into it and the rest feels like overkill. The best Elvis Costello songs couldn’t have been written by anybody else. I don’t get that feeling about “I Want You.”

Another big bone of contention was my omission of some of the ballads from King Of America. Let me start by saying that King Of America is one of my Top 5 Costello albums, and the reason for this is I feel it achieves a cohesive mood better than probably any of his other LP’s. “Sleep Of The Just” and “I’ll Wear It Proudly” are integral to this cohesion and, thereby, to the success of the album. On their own, they sometimes feel like individual songs taken out of a longer piece, even though there is no narrative involved with King Of America. When I hear them individually, I enjoy them for their tender music and the affecting refrains (especially “Sleep Of The Just,” which just missed) but the lyrics in the verses don’t resonate in the same way without its cohorts on the album.

Off the top of my head, here are some of the songs which came real close to inclusion, and bear in mind I’m likely to forget some:

“Miracle Man,” “Radio Sweetheart,” “Hand In Hand,” “Living In Paradise,” “Big Tears,” “Clowntime Is Over,” “High Fidelity,” “Hoover Factory,” “Worthless Thing,” “Poisoned Rose,” “Suffering Face,” “Crimes Of Paris,””Satellite,” “All Grown Up,” “This Sad Burlesque,” “The First To Leave,” “Clown Strike,” “Rocking Horse Road,” “It’s Time,” “World’s Great Optimist,” “Tart,” “Alibi,” “Radio Silence,” “Still,” “Ascension Day,” “The Sharpest Thorn,” “Go Away,” “Jimmie Standing In The Rain,” “Church Undergound,” “A Slow Drag With Josephine,” “That’s Not The Part Of Him You’re Leaving.”

That’s about 30 off the top of my head that I hated to leave off (along with “Sleep Of The Just” and “I’ll Wear It Proudly.”) Which brings me to my next point: How deep the Costello catalog is. I’ve been a fan for a quarter-century, but I never listened to his albums all at once like this, so it surprised even me when I calculated the sheer number of great songs this guy has written. Simply staggering. And I hope that’s what casual fans will take away from this project.

Now for some good news: I just received word today that this Costello list may live on in another form. Nothing definite yet, but stay tuned and I’ll give you more details when I get them.

As for what’s next on the blog, I’m going to take a brief break, two to three weeks probably, before starting another list. Since I have to get ready to go back to my full-time job in a few weeks, it will be hard to do a list from scratch, so the next order of business will be rehashing a Radiohead countdown from a website for which I used to write. That will just be a matter of editing and adding the songs from The King Of Limbs, so I could have it up and running quick before I decide my next artist (and I’m taking suggestions. I might not listen to them, but I’m taking them.)

I hope this post answers some of your questions about the Costello countdown, and feel free to ask me specific ones, to which I’ll attempt to reply. Again, thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for all the kind words and for being such great fans. Talk to you all soon.

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


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


3 Comments on “Wrapping Up Elvis Costello…and What’s Next”

  1. Knuckles White says:

    I can forgive you every omission except “Hoover Factory.” There’s nothing else quite like it in EC’s catalog, or in any other artist’s that I can think of. Think of it as EC’s response to Simon & Garfunkel’s equally short and haunting “Bookends”, and perhaps you can see HF in a new light as something more than the throwaway piece some mistakenly assume it to be. Definitely belongs somewhere in the Top 100.

    • countdownkid says:

      Interesting comparison there. The only distinction I would make is that I feel like “Bookends” was meant to be a fragment. “Hoover Factory” is just a short song. It might have better served had he put it on the album as a kind of atmospheric, gentle closer. I like the song a lot, but I feel it just doesn’t have enough in that short time to warrant inclusion over more fully-realized compositions.

      I will keep in mind your comments about “Bookends” when I do a Paul Simon list, which is definitely on my agenda.

    • Emmanuel says:

      I certainly agree! When Elvis was in Paris for The Spectacular Songbook Tour, I really was disappointed to see that Hoover Factory was set against Watching the Detectives in a vs battle. I’ll let you guess which of the songs – sadly – won.

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