Soundtrack of My Life: “The Beat” by Elvis Costello
I grew up with Elvis Costello’s nasal whinge bleating in my ear. My dad was playing his albums (and later, cassettes) regularly when I was a kid. And I hated it. HATED IT. Primarily, I hated the way he sang. Plus, I was probably instinctively rejecting it because my dad liked it and there was no way that could be cool.
Fast forward to the time I was about 14, coming out of my Wham! and Harry Connick, Jr. phases (yeah, I had one of those), and something changed. My dad was playing the “Girls, Girls, Girls” best of cassettes in the car, and I started to really like some of the songs. “Shabby Doll” came on, and I started paying attention. I may have sung along through my nose a few more times as an irritating imitation, but that was just denial.
Then I borrowed “Mighty Like a Rose” and “Spike” from one of my dad’s friends and absolutely fell in love. That love affair with Elvis Costello’s music – the clever wordplay, the absolutely killer musicians who played with him – continued for years. I devoured his entire back catalog through high school and college, when the Ryko reissues came out. I went to see him in concert a few times, including dragging my dad out to see him play an hour away in New Orleans just before my high school graduation. I made friends because of shared love of his music.
“The Beat” is from my favorite Elvis Costello record, “This Year’s Girl.” It’s not necessarily my favorite Elvis Costello song. There are songs I love more on other albums, but the raw energy and consistent feel of “This Year’s Girl” gets me caught up in the emotion every time. It rocks the hardest.
The last Elvis Costello record I bought was “River in Reverse,” and I don’t listen to his music that much any more, but every time I do, it’s like visiting an old friend I grew up with. I know all the words. And I always sing along, though I try not to sing like him.