Listen now on:
Welcome back to the Elvis Costello Song Of The Week®, our ongoing attempt to drive you ever-deeper into the catalog of the musician who most embodies the Trunkworthy mission. Elvis has spent almost 40 years using every means at his disposal to turn his fans on to the artists, songs, and genres that inspire him. For that reason (and, well, because we can’t think of another artist who has written 500 songs as good as the 500 he’s written), we’re making this our humble attempt to return the favor to an artist who’s inspired us so much for so many years.
The week’s pick: “Jack of All Parades” from King of America (1986)
David Gorman: This comes from King Of America, which, despite being made by a Brit, just might be the first “Americana” album. It ticks all the boxes that have become clichés in its wake: Acoustic, rootsy, a backing band of revered R&B, jazz, and country players from decades past (James Burton, Earl Palmer, Ray Brown, Jerry Scheff . . . all names you might not recognize but, trust me, you absolutely own albums they helped make) and, of course, T Bone Burnett producing—though this was long before T Bone became the king of Americana (apologies for the pun).
Gary Stewart: Yet the album isn’t self-satisfied with its own roots-rock authenticity the way so many others that came after were. “Jack of All Parades” has elements of Americana, but it has the intensity, ferocity, and tension of some of Costello’s earlier songs (due, in part, to the piano work of Steve Nieve, E.C.’s longest-standing sideman). The song goes through many moods, tempos, and textures that underpin its first-person confession from a character who is tired of being the king of the party and is now willing, wanting, and committed to give that up for a real connection to another person. Talk about a soundtrack for growing up!