Still in Rotation: My Aim is True (Elvis Costello)

Still in Rotation is a feature that lets talented writers tell Midlife Mixtape readers about an album they discovered years ago that’s still in heavy rotation, and why it has such staying power.

Where to start with Lisa from She’s one classy dame who, while rocking vintage dresses and tasteful earrings, exudes a persistent vibe of “Oh, the stories I could tell, many involving getaway cars.” Lately on her blog she tells stories about the young man in her life, Bob – a more polite and charming kindergartener, I have never met. But before Bob: there was Elvis.

Still In Rotation: My Aim Is True (1978)

In the summer of 1982, I celebrated my recent high school graduation at a concert at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. I was there to see Elvis Costello. Seven albums deep into his career, he was touring behind his latest release, Imperial Bedroom. I was there to hear so many of my favorite songs and especially those from his very first album, My Aim Is True, specifically to hear my favorite song, Alison.

 I’m not gonna get too sentimental
Like those other sticky valentines
‘Cause I don’t know if you are loving some body
I only know it isn’t mine
Alison, I know this world is killing you
Oh, Alison, my aim is true

At the concert, my hair was cut in a severe chin length bob. I wore black and white saddle shoes that were meant to represent me as one who enjoyed ironic throwback fashion and was sort of into ska. My friend Valerie Marcus and I danced in our vintage pencil skirts. The crowd was young and rowdy and new wave. There was dancing and skanking and someone was kicked out for smoking pot.

Elvis wore a suit and a tie and his signature black framed glasses. He was funny and clever and fiercely intelligent: an amazing musician with one of my favorite voices on the planet.

After the concert, Val l and I sneaked into the bar at the Holiday Inn where we heard Mr. Costello was staying. We giggled as we watched him drinking beer at the bar. When we finally got the courage to say hello, he was kind.

Growing up in a northern California coastal town, music at my high school was Blue Oyster Cult and AC/DC and more Blue Oyster Cult. New wave and punk music hadn’t broken through the pot-fueled haze of weekend keg parties at the beach. Listening to Elvis Costello felt like something “other.” An act of defiance, and freedom, it made me feel grown up. It was mine.

 Oh I used to be disgusted
And now I try to be amused.
But since their wings have got rusted,
You know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes

In college, I was living in LA. I had shaved the left side of my head and was wearing the right side in braids. I was living on a futon in the family room of a friend’s apartment. I borrowed a home made cassette of My Aim Is True from my friend Barry and played it on a small battery operated boom box in my car as I cruised Hollywood in my Toyota hatchback.

I never returned Barry’s tape. It followed me from car to car through the nineties and into the new millennium. The songs were my anthems, seeing me through moves and jobs, marriages and divorces, road trips, bad haircuts and worse outfits. Elvis Costello’s iconic voice and gutting lyrics sustained me.

Waiting for the end of the world.
Dear Lord I sincerely hope you’re coming
‘Cause you really started something.

Two years ago, my husband Jeff and I saw Elvis Costello at the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara. He played alone on the stage with his guitar. My hair had been dyed to cover the gray. I wore a vaguely business casual ensemble with a colorful scarf to keep off the chill. I sat in my assigned seat and clapped appreciatively between songs. The crowd looked like the population of a 30 year high school class reunion. More than one of the men resembled Mr. Belvedere with a ponytail. There was polite applause and singing along and someone got kicked out for taking a picture with his iPhone.

Elvis wore a suit and a tie and his signature black framed glasses. His temples were graying and under his hat, a receding hairline. It was a grand performance. He played my favorite song, “Alison.”

Over time, I finally figured some things out. It’s no mistake that my husband is also funny and clever and fiercely intelligent: an amazing musician with one of my favorite voices on the planet.

After that concert, Jeff and I talked and laughed on the long ride back home. When we got to the house, I tiptoed into the room of our little boy who, had he been born a girl, might have been named Alison.

Lisa Rae Page Rosenberg spent sixteen glorious years in the television comedy business. Her current gig is stay-at-home mom of a kindergartner named Bob. She writes a daily humor blog at Smacksy ( . You can tweet her @smacksy ( if you enjoy that kind of thing. She does.


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  1. says

    Okay, well Elvis Costello is one of my all-time favorites for more reasons than I can list.

    What matters right now is that – no surprise coming from Lisa Rosenberg – this post is sublime.



  2. says

    This is such a sweet memory.

    When people ask me who my favorite writer is I always say Elvis Costello, which can sometimes provoke a spirited debate. But I can’t think of another author who can bend language into feelings as nimbly and concisely as he does. I wish that other guy hadn’t already taken the nickname “The Boss” as I’d much rather share my name with EC.

    You go on with your bad self and your great taste in music.

  3. says

    I love the song “Alison” but I’m sorry to say I’ve never listened to much Elvis. This MUST be remedied. Great post, Lisa, perfect how you weave (pun intended?) your hair and clothes throughout.

  4. says

    What a great idea for a series, and what a great way to bring (the real) Elvis back into the building (although for many of us he never left). The saddle shoes killed me – and I’m sure that Elvis, were he to have noticed, would’ve appreciated them too.
    And can we talk about the fact that he was staying in a Holiday Inn? ’twas a more innocent time…

  5. says

    Love how much you love your husband.

    And Alison, the lines in that song kill me.

    No matter how many times I’ve heard them.

    Right? Nostalgia to the core.


    It gets all the right spots and leaves me feeling like I just finished one of the best books in a very long time.

    Soul satisfying, and good to the last pun.

  6. says

    I love, love, love this post and I love Elvis. One of the best concerts I’ve seen in my entire life was when Elvis and the Attractions played in Asbury Park and they played EVERYTHING! For me, it was instant goosebumps when he played “King Of America”.

  7. says

    I am, at this very moment, wearing a My Aim is True t-shirt. What do I win? I love me some Elvis and have seen him more times than anyone else. I remember when he used to get pissed at the audience if they weren’t attentive, so you were always afraid he’d end the show if people were jerks. And how he actually did used to wear red shoes. What a great treat to read Lisa Rosenberg on your blog, Nancy. Smacksy and Midlife Mixtape. It’s like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of blogdom. My only issue is that Allison is so not a love song. “I know this world is killing you; Oh, Allison, my aim is true.”

    • says

      You win my everlasting respect, and grateful thanks for calling me the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup of anything. Are you saying there is no pain in love? Lisa I’m letting you handle that one…

  8. says

    Not saying no pain in love; I just always took those lines to mean he’d shoot her and put her out of her misery. Goodbye Cruel World (not the best album) and all. As for the Reese’s reference, I meant you were chocolate and Lisa was PB. Two great bloggers that taste great together. Er, read great. Whatev. Also: I loved the Imperial Bedroom/King of America back-to-back era. It is like Woody Allen: Hannah and her Sisters/Crimes and Misdemeanors v. “the early funny ones.” Love both My Aim is True, Armed Forces, etc., AND the denser, more ambitious, less wordplay/snide mid-period Elvis.


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