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SPECTACLE REPORT: Elvis Costello's Favorite Songs


Taking questions from Mary Louise Parker, Elvis Costello takes the hot seats on SPECTACLE.

As reported elsewhere, passengers on NYC’s “F” Train have been fleeing in terror after being confronted by a frightening countenance leering from every poster along subway platforms. Some say he’s akin to Spencer Tracy’s “Mr. Hyde.”

At times like this, I feel as if I may have missed my vocation. Perhaps I should have been an Albanian Politburo Chairman or Millennial Cult Leader. Nothing else could possibly justify the kind of coverage SPECTACLE has enjoyed among the advertising space of the five boroughs.

Perhaps these graphic enticements may have even worked, or you might not be reading this now, except to avert your eyes from other horrors.

This episode of SPECTACLE was to have been hosted by our Executive Producer, Sir Elton John, a chance to mirror his Season One “guest host” appearance with my wife, Diana Krall.

Unfortunately, ill health intervened, and at very short notice we were extremely fortunate and grateful to have Mary-Louise Parker take part in an utterly different, but equally enjoyable, conversation.

This is the column in which I have, up until now, listed a few of my favorite cuts by our SPECTACLE guests. In this instance, however, it seems immodest and absurd to propose my own songs.

Thankfully, television is something less grand and permanent than an inscription on a marble slab, and something slightly in advance of, in the words of Winston Churchill, “a tuppenha’ penny Punch and Judy show.”

Meanwhile, “Favorite Records” change like alibis.

So, here are five records you may enjoy. I’ll write quickly before they change again.

Sir Douglas Quintet – “Too Many Dociled Minds” – from The Complete Mercury Masters (2005)

For a brief time I was actually a “Mercury Recording Artist,” and was proud to be in the company of Sir Doug, one of the Great Knights of Texas. In fact, I met Doug Sahm at a Flaco Jimenez gig in London during the last century. He was still full of wit and wonder. I wish I’d had a chance to see him play around the time he recorded fantastic records like this one and “Can You Dig My Vibrations.”

The Unthanks – “Here’s The Tender Coming” – from Here’s The Tender Coming (2009)

My favorite county record of 2009. The county of Northumberland, that is. The supernatural singing from Rachel and Becky Unthank and the lovely arrangements are three reasons to hear this wonderful album.

Val Rosing – “Hush Hush Hush…Here Comes The Boogie Man” – from The Best of Val Rosing

Val Rosing was the voice on Henry Hall’s recording of “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic.” If this were not enough recommendation, this record should clinch the deal. Mr. Rosing also had a hit with an early English recording of “Try A Little Tenderness” with the Ray Noble Orchestra.

Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys – “Thorn In My Heart” – from Boot-Heel Drag: The MGM Years (2001)

My favorite date of the year was the final show of my tour with the Sugarcanes, at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s a venue made famous by Sir Bob and his Playboys. However, it is a dancehall, and the hubbub of the throng doesn’t invite you to drop the tempo that much, so we played every song of a quick tempo that we knew.

Jim Lauderdale and I had written a song that afternoon on the ride from Dallas. It was called “I Lost You,” and we rehearsed and debuted it at the show, so sadly, there was not enough time to also work up our version of “Thorn,” as I had originally planned.

Joe Henry – “Stars” – from Blood From Stars (2009)

From his station in the producer’s chair, my friend Joe was responsible for several of 2009’s great albums. But he also beamed out an incredible album of his own from the basement of the Widow Garfield’s house. The witty saxophone commentary is by his son, Levon Henry.

Albert Ayler – “Deep River” – from Goin’ Home (1964)

Why we don’t need words.