ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS  “You Little Fool” b/w “Big Sister” & “The Stamping Ground” (F-Beat Records UK #XX26, 1982)

“A pretty prime cut,” it says, etched in some unknown stranger’s messy handwriting on the inner groove of this imported 7-inch.  I’d have to wholeheartedly agree, given the 3 great tracks to which we’re being treated on this week’s edition of 45 RPM.  International raconteur and talk-show host Declan MacManus needs no introduction, so let’s just dive right in, shall we?

See the video for Elvis Costello\’s \”You Little Fool\” on YouTube

Early MTVophiles will recall this video, starring The Impostor himself as the dismissive, scowling headmaster.  I nabbed this imported copy of “…Fool” a few weeks before the release of Imperial Bedroom, up to this point the most ambitious of EC & The A’s full-lengths.  Initially, I was stunned and a bit taken aback by the track’s rich, lush production, atypical of Costello’s previous Nick Lowe-helmed output.  Though the 45 artwork was misleading, it proved to be Geoff Emerick, the former Abbey Road engineer made famous by his legendary work with The Beatles, who was responsible for EC’s new and vibrant sound.  A big step in a great new direction, or at least it seemed at the time.  I’d have to wait ’til street date for the hotly-anticipated Bedroom to bring the fruits of this laborious collaboration full-circle.  Meanwhile…

Side B features two tracks, first of which is “Big Sister,” an outtake from the sessions that became 1981’s Trust LP.  Those familiar with that album know its finale, the spooky and lyrically similar “Big Sister’s Clothes.”  Well, this is apparently an earlier version, produced by Nick Lowe and showcasing that hard-rocking Stax/Volt bar-band side of The Attractions so well-explored on albums like Trust and Get Happy!!  EC himself later referred to the track’s lyrics as an “unsubtle commentary on (Margaret Thatcher)’s enthusiasm for Cold War posturing.”  In-dubitably!

Play “Big Sister” by Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Our Liverpudlian friend is no stranger to aliases.  (Hell, he even recorded under the name Napoleon Dynamite nearly 20 years before the famous Jared Hess flick.)  Blithely credited to The Emotional Toothpaste, “The Stamping Ground” gives us 3-plus minutes of tremolo guitars and Everly Brothers-style harmonies in 3/4 time.  In other words, it’s an EC solo demo.  A sad elegy to the tired old singles-bar scene, this warbling, bleary-eyed and beer-soaked track would not have sounded out of place being growled by Shane MacGowan on a mid-period Pogues album.  Some seriously emotional toothpaste, indeed.

Play “The Stamping Ground” by The Emotional Toothpaste

To this day, you can always count on Elvis Costello to be up to something.  His most recent full-length, Momofuku (Lost Highway Records), was one of the few albums that blew me away in 2008.  You can keep up with his crafty doings at http://www.elviscostello.com.

NEXT WEEK: You’ve been told what I’m after.  On see-thru red plastic, no less.