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 Smacksy.com? 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 (http://www.smacksy.com) . You can tweet her @smacksy (https://twitter.com/smacksy) if you enjoy that kind of thing. She does.