Hearing My Aim Is True for the first time was one of those aha moments for me that changed everything. From the opening chord of “Welcome to the Working Week,” I knew this record was something special. By the time I got to track four, “Blame It on Cain,” I knew I never had to listen to Pablo Cruise or REO Speedwagon ever again. Someone out there was making music that spoke to me and it hit me like a punch in the gut. I heard the snarl in Elvis’s voice, the cynicism dripping off every line and for me that was the noise that art made. It was liberation from my small town.
When was the last time you listened to My Aim Is True?
While I was writing the book it was on constant replay but it would not be a stretch to say that barely a week has gone by since I first heard the record that I have not listened to at least part of it. “Welcome to the Working Week” is my unofficial anthem and is in heavy rotation around the House of Crouse.
Does it still give you the same thrill?
It doesn’t. How could it? The first cut, as they say, is the deepest. Very few things have jolted me the way My Aim Is True did on first listen. The more I listen to it the more I am convinced that it is a work of genius. Costello’s raw nerve wordplay and jagged song writing were sprung on us not by a fully formed artist but by someone bursting at the seams to express himself. He’s gone on to make more successful and sophisticated music, but his first record is the one that struck a chord for me.
Have you met Elvis Costello?
I have, a couple of times. The first time I told him that My Aim Is True changed my life. He said, “Thank you,” and moved away from me quickly. I’m sure by now he recognizes the glassy-eyed fanboys who were weaned on his music and has practiced some effective evasive techniques to avoid discussing the finer points of a record he made almost four decades ago.
Is it really true that all rock critics like Elvis Costello because they all look like Elvis Costello?
No comment (but see above picture.)
RICHARD CROUSE is the regular film critic for CTV’s Canada AM, CTV’s 24-hour News Channel and CP24. His syndicated Saturday afternoon radio show, Entertainment Extra, originates on NewsTalk 1010. He is also the author of six books on pop culture history including Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils and The 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, and writes two weekly columns for Metro newspaper. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.