Tony reminds me that last night was the induction of the first New Wave class into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Meaning the Clash, the Police, and Elvis Costello. Damn. Oh, yeah, and AC/DC.
Anyway, Elvis Costello and me you know about. Except, like anything else, there’s always more to the story. I had never heard of Elvis Costello until “Veronica.” Sad, I know. But I absorbed Spike through my pores, even “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror.” Then Mighty Like a Rose came along and I slowly got disenchanted. Then The Juliet Letters and I fell back in love. Then Brutal Youth and… well, you get the picture.
The Police? Entirely different story. Synchronicity was one of the first rock albums I ever heard, thanks to a babysitter and my parents’ old turntable. That, and the fact that if you left your house and rode in the car of someone who listened to rock instead of classical, you couldn’t escape “Every Breath You Take,” “King of Pain,” or “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” I learned the lyrics, I learned to sing like Sting. I went on to dig into the Police’s back catalog with Rob, learning about the oddities and the brilliance on Outlandos D’Amore and Zenyatta Mondatta. It was a musical formative event that wouldn’t be equalled until I discovered Nirvana, then Parliament, taking me away from the arch writing of Sting into anarchy and funk.
But I never really left. How could I? Singing like Sting was the first public (non-choral) singing I did. Scenario: talent show at the summer Governor’s School for Science, after my junior year of high school. Sting’s “Sister Moon” from …Nothing Like the Sun. I pull together a guitarist and saxophonist for a jazz trio, but they can’t make it to the rehearsal. An empty auditorium except for the counselor in charge of the talent show…and two attractive girls, talking to each other, who hadn’t been giving me the time of day, and whom I had written off totally. So I put the tape on quietly, grab the mic, and start singing. Nervous because I don’t know how to sing with a mic, until I look up during the second verse and see two attractive mouths hanging open staring at me listening.
After that it was all downhill. The violin had already gone; the piano went soon after. If I could have that effect with an instrument I had with me all the time, why bother with anything else?
Thanks, Sting, for immeasurably improving my social life.
And thanks, Rob, for enriching my back catalog.