Reversing the Numbness

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What I've Learned

Here is one of my true pleasures and monthly rituals. As soon as my new Esquire issue is delivered, I turn to the one feature that never disappoints: What I've Learned. It gives a very cool person every month a page to write whatever and a cool photo of them on the other page. Here is what Elvis has to say in honor of my boy, Sleek. There are tons of other cool folks. I have incorporated some of there life knowledge into my life. Hope you enjoy.

What I've Learned
What I've Learned: Elvis Costello

Songwriter, 48, Dublin

By Tom Junod

10/31/2003, 9:00 PM
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What have I learned? Well, you can answer that on so many levels, can't you? You can answer it on a philosophical level, or you can say, "I know this restaurant," or "Always get the foam pillow."

I was in a room with Chuck Berry once. I said to myself, I don't want to meet you. I just want to look at you. He was scary.

We're all just animals. That's all we are, and everything else is just an elaborate justification of our instincts. That's where music comes from. And romantic poetry. And bad novels. Sometimes when I finish a bad novel, I say, "You wrote seven hundred pages just to say that? Couldn't you have just said, 'I want to fuck'?"

Fruit helps in the middle of the day.

Happiness isn't a fortune in a cookie. It's deeper, wider, funnier, and more transporting than that.

I'm not very good at joyful.

You need to meet Sting. He's a totally charming guy. He's always been a nice guy, very good-looking, he's got a good voice -- it's not a voice I like particularly, but he's written one or two really beautiful songs, and he's been extraordinarily fortunate in many ways. He's some people's idea of sophisticated. He plays the corporate events; maybe nobody invites him to any better parties. But there's always somebody in music who's equivalent to that role, and I think he's easy to hold up as kind of an Aunt Sally. I don't think he's an insincere musician. He just doesn't seem to value the same things about music that I do.

Songs are more powerful than books.

Elvis probably had a little more curiosity than the next kid, and that's why he was him.

In John Lennon's songs, people tend to isolate the lines that sound like epitaphs or greeting cards. It's very odd to drive by the Liverpool airport and see the logo with his drawing and the words "Above us only sky." The sky is full of planes! But everybody becomes a mass-pattern tablecloth in the end.

I've seen a lot of exotic places in my work and all my traveling. But the place I still want to see is the place in somebody's eyes. You know: Travel less, see more.

I don't like that idea, eye surgery. I won't be getting that. It's like penile enlargement or something.

Living a very long time would be a very scary thing.

Eventually we'll need jet packs to get around and space helmets with Ventolin in them to allow us to breathe. Do you know what Ventolin is? It's what asthmatics take. A lot of kids have asthma now. We've done a good job at mucking things up.

Read the magazines at the margins of the music industry. That's where most of the interesting music is.

They used to just get on with things, didn't they? They had the blues then. They understood the idea of the blues.

I used to wear these blue lenses all the time. You really do get depressed if you wear blue lenses. When people say, "You're looking at the world through rose-colored glasses," well, I have no idea what rose ones do, but I know what blue ones do. They make you sad.

I didn't even own a Bob Dylan record until 1971. To me, he was a great singles artist. You heard him on the radio. What a shocking thing to live in a world where there was Manfred Mann and the Supremes and Engelbert Humperdinck and here comes "Like a Rolling Stone." That was a great world, a very exciting time.

The assumption that something is not for you is an assumption that can be undone in time.

It's very important to allow yourself the ability to have a second thought. Because if you put everything into breaking down the door, what are you going to say when you get in there?

Singing with Emmylou Harris: If there is heaven, that's what it's like.

People don't know that music can affect your sense of smell, but it can.

All songs are motivated by revenge or guilt? Did I say that? I must have been full of Pernod.

There are about five things to write songs about: I'm leaving you. You're leaving me. I want you. You don't want me. I believe in something. Five subjects, and twelve notes. For all that, we musicians do pretty well.

Elvis Costello has just released North, his twenty-fourth record.


SleekPelt said...

Elvis Costello singing with Emmylou Harris -- if there's a heaven, that's what it's like.

Thanks for the cool post, RD. It's got me to thinking what I've learned....

Rob Zero said...

I've learned that Esquire needs to fire their editors. Elvis is not 48.

Raoul Duke said...

yeah, he is 53 now, but I think this interview was done 5 years ago. I chose Elvis because Sleek has titled him "the King of Rock and Roll".