Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Friday. Not just any Friday but Good Friday. I hope you're having a better Friday than Jesus did. And children, behave today, the Easter Bunny is watching you through his magic Easter egg. You have to be really good today if you want candy and presents on Sunday.
The 448-page version Mueller Report finally dropped and folks, it's nice to have all the puzzle pieces that have been appearing over the past two years assembled into one PDF. I hate to be the one to break it to you guys but, despite claiming "complete and total exoneration," and dispatching his Attorney General to spin it like a DJ, the president is not the saintly beacon of virtue he claims to be. The special counsel's report paints a picture of a campaign welcoming assistance from the Russian government with open arms, and scrambling to keep their stupidity under wraps as soon as they won the presidency. Here's what you need to know. Mueller's team didn't look for "collusion," but rather "coordination," as defined by conspiracy law. "In evaluation whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of 'collusion,'" the prosecutors explained. So there was NO COLLUSION after all, but only because it is not a legal concept. Trump was in contact with Russians as early as 2015. That's more contacts with them than with Tiffany. In spring 2016, campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos heard from a London-based professor with connections to Russia that the Russian government had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton "in the form of thousands of emails." Papa blurted out to a foreign government official "that the Trump Campaign received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton." That's... exactly what ended up happening. The FBI opened an investigation into Trump because of Papa's big mouth, not because of "spying," as the president claims. On October 7th, 2016, the day the "Grab Them By The Pussy" tape dropped, WikiLeaks released hacked emails they got from Russian intelligence. WikiLeaks stated that the drop was "intended to interfere with the U.S. election process." Campaign chairman (and now-convicted felon) Paul Manafort briefed a Russian intelligence-linked oligarch on campaign strategy in battleground states, and even discussed a "peace plan" that allowed Russia to control eastern Ukraine. Jared Kushner would later get involved with this "Russian reconciliation plan," including give copies to Steve Bannon and incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. When then-President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for interfering with the election, incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn called the Russian ambassador and told him not to retaliate. According to Mueller, there was a lot of evidence of "numerous links" between Trump and the Russians, but not enough to bring charges. Throughout the course of the investigation, Trump campaign officials were lying liars who lied... the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference. That sounds a wee bit obstruction-y. Trump campaign officials shared Russian troll material, including both Donald Trumps. Troll activities included getting someone to walk around New York City as Santa Trump. Russian intelligence transferred stolen material to WikiLeaks, and WikiLeaks decided to pretend that they got the emails from a DNC staffer who was murdered in the summer of 2016. The section on the Trump campaign spreading the hacked materials was almost completely blacked out, as is the bit on "Contacts with the Campaign about WikiLeaks." U.S. Department of Justice Deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, however, told prosecutors that Trump "expressed excitement" about hacked DNC emails being released by WikiLeaks in July 2016. Manafort "wanted to be kept apprised of any developments with WikiLeaks and separately told Gates to keep in touch about future developments," according to the report. An "incident" in which Trump and Michael Cohen discussed WikiLeaks has been conveniently blacked out. Trump asked Michael Flynn to ask Republican operative Peter Smith to find Hillary's emails. Smith committed suicide in May 17th, after telling The Wall Street Journal. According to Michael Cohen, Donald Trump Sr. knew about Donald Trump Jr.'s June 9th, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer for Clinton "dirt." Both Don Jr. and Jared Kushner told the Senate Judiciary Committee that that was not the case. Lying to Congress is a crime. Mueller, however, couldn't find evidence either way. Don Jr. allegedly knew that the meeting was a Kremlin hookup. He also DMed with WikiLeaks, and tweeted out links Assange told him to. Mueller almost indicted Don Jr. and Kushner for campaign finance violations at the Trump Tower meeting, but concluded that they were too dumb to know it was illegal. "The Office did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted 'willfully,' i.e., with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct; and, second, the government would likely encounter difficulty in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised information exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation." After Trump won, a meeting in the Seychelles sought to establish a "backchannel" between Russia and the Trump administration. This sounds like a James Bond plot, but it's for real, according to the special counsel. The meeting was between a Russian oligarch and Erik Prince, the CEO of Blackwater and Betsy DeVos's brother. As The Washington Post summarizes, "The meeting was arranged by businessman and lobbyist George Nader, who told Prince in January 2017 that 'the Russians were looking to build a link with the incoming Trump administration,' and proposed an encounter with Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Nader then sent documents about Dmitriev to Prince while he was at Trump Tower meeting with Kellyanne Conway and others for three hours." Bannon and Erik Prince gave conflicting accounts... and their text messages on the matter have mysteriously disappeared. On June 17th, 2017, Trump called White House counsel Don McGahn at home and told him to have Mueller fired. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that we would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre. Mueller "obtained evidence" about potential obstruction of justice by Trump as soon as he was appointed. Trump said "I'm fucked" after Mueller was appointed. Sad! According to notes written by a Sessions aide, "when Session told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm fucked." "Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that has every happened to me." For more than a year, Trump refused to sit for an interview with the special counsel. The team decided not to pursue a subpoena fight. Lame. Sarah Sanders told Mueller the truth for once: that she's completely full of shit. Trump tried to influence the investigation, but he was saved by his aides just straight-up ignoring him. The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests. Comey did not end the investigation of Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President’s order. Lewandowski and Dearborn did not deliver the President’s message to Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only. And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President’s direction to have the Special Counsel removed, despite the President’s multiple demands that he do so. With regards to obstruction of justice, the prosecutors concluded that they couldn't reach a conclusion. Mueller and team were working under the Department of Justice tradition that the president can't be indicted, even if he deserved to be. The Trump campaign was are of... and expected to benefit from... the Russian government's illegal activities, but Mueller couldn't prove beyond reasonable doubt that they did more than just milk it. Trump tried to stymie the investigation as much as he could, up until this morning, when he sent the Attorney General to say that everything is just peachy. Mueller says that it's up to Congress whether or not the president who seems guilty and acts guilty, is guilty. Whew. That was a lot.
Donald Turmp Jr. has really upped the ante on how ignorant he presents himself to the general public. On Thursday, special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators revealed they don't plan to prosecute the president's eldest son for collusion because he is "too ignorant to violate election laws." The conclusion expressed in in the Mueller report did not name 41-year-old Don Jr. as innocent, but rather, too dim to knowingly break campaign laws. While most full-grown adults wouldn't feel hot to trot about being officially called too ignorant to commit a crime, Don Jr. took it as a win and immediately posted an all caps rebuttal on his Twitter.
As if to corroborate the Mueller Report's estimation of his intelligence, Don Jr.'s response was exactly what a child would yell after being accused of something by their parents. This did not go unnoticed by the general public. People were quick to point out the irony of him celebrating over being called stupid, while others assumed he didn't fully read the report's estimation of him. Others pointed out how the report in no way makes Don Jr. look innocent, in fact, this will likely not be the last word on his innocence. If anything, Don Jr.'s response to the Mueller Report only supports the conclusion that he is too dim to fully understand campaign laws, but that is still a far cry from lawful innocence.
Ted Cruz, the political embodiment of a "Family Guy" punchline, tried to make a joke about the burning of Notre Dame and got appropriately roasted and flamed by the Internet in response. His attempt at humor came in response to the news that Disney had pledged $5 million dollars to assist in the rebuilding of the cathedral. For Cruz, this presented the perfect entryway to express his unbridled (and likely deeply repressed) love of Disney princesses.
Unsurprisingly to anyone who has been on Twitter longer than fifteen minutes, and likewise anyone familiar with the near universal hatred of Cruz shared by anyone politically left of Trump, including Trump himself, the joke lit the fires of endless roast jokes. Most of the responses to Cruz's tweet are different iterations of people lightly screaming "what the fuck" into the abyss. Suffice it to say, Cruz's attempt at humor wasn't met with much laughter, at least not at the joke itself. But it did temporarily distract people from the despair connected to Cruz's overall existence and influence in the world. In a perfect world, Cruz wouldn't exist, and all the key historical buildings would remain in tact. But alas, we are alive in this bonkers timeline where a senator is attempting to crack mildly creepy jokes about Disney princesses following a massive architectural fire.
ICYMI: Chrissy Teigen was named one of Time Magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People of 2019. No doubt, the woman has influence... Teigen has relentlessly called out people in power on Twitter, becoming known for her razor-sharp roasts of the Trump regime, and even getting blocked by the President. Recently, she and her husband John Legend (google him... he makes musics!), attended the Democrats' Issues Conference in Leesburg, Virginia, where they discussed their opinions on current political issues, and Teigen took a brutal swipe at Ivanka. But behind every great woman is a hollow shell of a human with hate, bitterness and ignorance swirling around in the cavernous hole where their soul should be. I am, in this case, talking about talking KKK hood Laura Ingraham. During a segment on her Fox "News" show, "Ingraham Has a Racist"... I mean "Angle," ol' "kids love being in cages" Ingraham tried to take on Teigen by smearing her for the very serious crimes of: 1) liking food, and 2) cursing. "She was chosen according to the profile because, quote: '...all her life, Chrissy Teigen has liked to eat. She's not shy about that... or anything else really.'" said Ingraham in the segment, continuing, "Well that's nice and innovative I guess, eating. But did most Americans like her take on female empowerment during last week's Democrat retreat?" She then criticized Teigen for telling women the two words they should say more often are "fuck you." The clip is making the rounds on Twitter, where it is getting panned. Immediately, people began waiting for Chrissy's response, since dragging dummies on Twitter is kind of her specialty. And let's just say, Teigen did not disappoint. She cooked up the perfect response in no time. Teigen shared the original clip, proving it only makes Ingraham and Fox look bad, along with this caption...
That's what you millennials call a BURN. And, because Chrissy Teigen is a pro at this, she followed up with a second tweet, calling out Ingraham for being the white supremacist that she is. "When time comes out with their 100 most influential white supremacists list, I promise I won't question your worthiness," she wrote. Now that is what you millennials call a SAVAGE burn. The Internet erupted in applause. Sometimes the truth is the greatest burn of all. All hail Chrissy Teigen, our president.
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana and most overachieving boy scout in the troop, is running for president and teaching the world to pronounce his name (it's "Boot-edge-edge.") Boot-Edge-Edge is speaks seven languages (to put that in perspective, the current president doesn't even speak one), went to Harvard and got a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, served in Afghanistan, and is gay. Yes, he is a real person and not an Aaron Sorkin character. In a scene straught outta "The West Wing," Buttigieg's campaign speech in Des Moines, Iowa was interrupted by a hateful, homophobic heckler shouting, "Sodom and Gomorrah" when the candidate started talking about his marriage to his husband, Chasten. Buttigieg stayed calm, cool, and collected on stage, as the crowd drowned out the hate with chants of "Pete! Pete! Pete!" Mayor Pete then unleashed some smooth lines. "The good news is, the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, but the Iowa caucuses are up to you," he said, adding, "Everyone here gets the same voice and vote. Feels like the numbers are on our side." That was Tuesday, but the bigots are following him around the state, this time, with a theatrical production in Marshalltown on Wednesday. Imagine being so homophobic you resort to theater.
If I had a TARDIS I would probably end up on a roof in Sweden or somewhere in the 1930s as a women's kickboxing class was going on...
Look at those cute clothes. Hahaha. If you're thinking about cheating on your loved one you might wanna think twice after reading this...
Ever go to a museum and see a painting that looks just like you? Well, this dude did...
Eerie. So a few weeks ago Trump showed a map of how ISIS was defeated. That wasn't the only thing he showed off that day...
Hahahaha. I don't think so, Donny, but thanks. Hey, Fox News' Lawrence Jones III is back at the war zone today...
Hahaha. So, one of the best things about the Internet is you can see porn for free and so easy. But if you're at work or school you can get in trouble, and I want you to stay here reading the Phile. But if you do wanna look at porn then I have a solution...
You are welcome. My son and I were talking about how we used to watch "Sesame Street" when he was little. Well, either that show has shown over the years or I was a bad dad.
Bert and Ernie explain to the little black girl that she doesn't stand a chance in a "white man's world" and that she should always feel resentful towards western society.
If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Ha. It's really simple, right? Well, something is going on in Laguna Beach with police cars and stuff. I'm not exactly sure but a friend of the Phile does and wants to say something about it. He's a singer, patriot and renaissance man. You know what time it is.
Good afternoon, humans. Laguna Beach, California: a hearing is currently underway to determine if a claim brought by local civil rights activists holds any validity. The claim is that the word POLICE and the American flag are deemed to be “too aggressive and intimidating” and should be removed from all law enforcement vehicles in Laguna Beach. Are you fucking kidding me? Too aggressive and intimidating... to WHO? Criminals? People who detest America? People who hate the police? This is beyond insane, to me. People really need to get a grip on reality. What the hell do you want in an emergency? For a rose colored Prius to pull up with two gender neutral officers getting out and handing soy mocha lattes out to the witnesses of a triple homicide? And to my liberal friends... I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re crowing about. If Mueller had anything, he would’ve brought his A-Game and Trump would be out and gone. He didn’t, Trump’s free and clear, he’s the guy for at least the next two years. What confuses me so, is your hanging on to this and continuing to waste time beating a dead horse when you should be finding, preparing, promoting (and familiarizing the American public with) someone who can actually beat him and win the presidency in 2020. You’re wasting time playing Checkers when you should be playing Chess... and virtually guaranteeing that Trump will win the upcoming election. So, congratulations, you spent so much time trying to get rid of him... you insured that you’ll be stuck with him an additional four years. Well done... superb... out-fucking-standing.
Man down! Man down!
We have over a year until Super Tuesday 2020, but the presidential primary schedules are already taking shape, and with them, people's theories about who the top presidential contenders are. Currently, there are sixteen Democratic candidates who have announced running bids, ten of whom have the pull to become major competitors. Among those are the likes of Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and yes, the problematic uncle Joe Biden. While it's too early in the game for most to make full-on educated guesses, the celebrity star-in-chief already has his bets made, and on Tuesday night he tweeted his predictions with the most ominous word choice possible.
Trump's decision to end this particular word salad with the words "may God rest their soul" stirred up a lot of questions online. Does he intend to murder them both?! Do they share a soul?! Does the loser of the presidential election immediately pass away?! Of course, others were quick to point out that no one is running against the best economy in this country, since we are truly living in an economic slump. Despite all the creepy connotations of the tweet, Sanders, for one, isn't the least bit afraid. If anything, Trump's early prediction means he's eagerly paying attention to the competition out of fear he'll lose his post. Hopefully, when it comes time to hit the polls, that fear is merited.
Charles Van Doren
February 12th, 1926 — April 9th, 2019
For 11 points: who cheated like a punk on game shows in the 50s while disgracing his family name?
The 97th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...
Salman Rushdie will be the guest in the Phile in a few weeks. Yes. That Salman Rushdie. Now for some Good Friday...
Phact 1. Due to its aquatic habitat and behavior, the Catholic Church officially categorized the Beaver as a type of fish, making it acceptable to eat on Good Friday and throughout Lent. This ruling was later extended to the Capybara and muskrat as well.
Phact 2. On Good Friday 1930 the BBC reported that there was no news so instead, they played piano music.
Phact 3. During the Great Fire of New Orleans in 1788, priests refused to allow church bells to be rung as fire alarms because it was Good Friday. As a result, 856 buildings burned during the conflagration.
Phact 4. Many parts of Germany ban dancing on Good Friday. “The strictest bans start at 4 a.m. on Thursday and run through Saturday.”
Phact 5. Radio and TV stations in New Zealand aren’t allowed to play any commercial content at all on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day or they get fined.
I'm soooooooooo excited about this. Today's pheatured guest is is an English musician, singer, songwriter, composer, record producer, author, television presenter, and occasional actor. How latest album "Look Now" is his 30th studio album. Please welcome to the Phile, one of my favorite singers ever... Elvis Costello!
Me: Hey, Elvis, welcome to the Phile. I can't believe you are here on the Phile. How are you?
Elvis: No better place. I'm good, Jason.
Me: I have to say I love the new album "Look Now." I am so glad you are doing pop music again so to speak. Would you call it pop yourself?
Elvis: It's definitely pop music. I don't like labels on things because I think it cuts us off from speaking to one another. I like it better when I get a mixture. Rock and roll is a code word for everything being mixed up. It's a brew and every time we get to make a record there's some kind of story going on. I said to the guys, "We are going to do this." In recent times it's been where we've been. It's a lot to do with we don't have a big piano, we have a little piano. We don't have every guitar sound, we're going to have just this one. That could be the way or we can just use very limited resources and that sort of shapes it. This record is one where we more worked out in advance, I wanted all these sounds. I think it's more like what they did with pop music when I was growing up. There could be a magical sound, it could be some voices, it could be some strings, it could be a horn section, but the most important thing is it's got to have the feeling fro the bass and drums and I got to sing well.
Me: Did you write these songs for the album or did you write them over time? It has even five years since your last album.
Elvis: The songs themselves, I said before some bands go into the studio without songs written so they are playing in a recording environment and they'e building and they get the gem of an idea for a rhythm and the music is added. There's a lot of famous bands who write like that and it's great, great stuff. I've never written like that. The songs are always worked out, so whether we take a simple approach or something more "widescreen" I always got the actual songs, and if I played them on the piano they'll be different. Some qualities of the songs in simple form appeal to some people but they don't speak to a lot of people like that because it's intimate.
Me: The album was recorded in three weeks, right? How was that possible?
Elvis: The reason we could do it in three weeks despite the fact you hear it's quite a detailed picture of musically is just because we prepared really well. The rhythm section went on and ran the songs down and sent me demo tapes because we can do all that with these gadgets. Send me the rough recordings and I'd go, "That's great but there's too many fills. Keep it simpler." That way we knew when we went in and the light went on for the real recording we knew what we wanted to do. Because the guys can play well there was none of that mystery of are we going to get are we playing the right tempo, things are not conflicting, because I had a much bigger picture in my head of what the final sound was going to be. I knew the background voices were coming in this part so we better not put a guitar or keyboard in there because it would all just get muddy. That way we were able to get it done really quickly. It sounds like it wouldn't be joyful to do it like that because it'll be like going to the factory and bolting something onto the machine. I think it's more like if you've ever developed a picture in the chemicals when they put it in they'll start to see a bit of it and it's fuzzy and then bang, there it is. It's closer to that because we'll add each piece and see that it's going to work. There's a thrill to that.
Me: Was that always the case with you writing music?
Elvis: No, that wasn't always the case. When I first started doing that sort of approach I kept on going until I filled up all the space. It doesn't always work, but it did for this one.
Me: Carole King plays on the song "Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter" that you both wrote together. How did that happen?
Elvis: That's the other thing, is having the patience to wait for the right occasion to write a song. If I'm writing a song with Carole King I want to get it right. We just happen to be spending time in the same city which was Dublin. It's 25 years ago now and I just invited her over and the producer of that afternoon was that song. Then the next record I made was with Burt Bacharach and it's not like I could turn up and go, "Burt, we are writing a record together so here's a song I wrote with Carole King." Just simple things like that. If you actually go through my catalogue from '98 onwards you couldn't make a case "Burnt Sugar..." could be on any of those records because they all had their own story and the reason of the repertoire of those records was what it was. I just thought one day I'm going to make this record where this kind of song really fits. Then in 2017 we went out on the road playing the songs from "Imperial Bedroom" and it was then I really thought we're not recreating these songs, we're rewriting them in some cases. So why not give the band a group of new songs, these unheard songs and we'll make a record. I hadn't really thought it was urgent to make a record last year. We've been doing pretty well with the live shows, I found a way to find a space for all my songs. One of the problems is if I get a few songs in my bag is how do I make a show out of them that makes sense to me. If it doesn't make sense to me the audience is going to notice it. They might say, "I hope he plays such and such." If I play it like it's a kind of obligation, I'm not going to play it like there's any sense to reality to the emotion of the song I'm going to play it like it's a ritual. I do see bands that do that and that's fine but it's a different thing than I do. I want to find the weight of the song and feel something. So sometimes that's a question of going through a few different songs to get there and that's kind of what I do in concert is I won't say jumble up the pieces randomly but jumble them up in a way a new picture comes out.
Me: Hmmm. What was it like writing with Carole King, who did most of the song writing or was it 50/50?
Elvis: Well, I think all the music in the first part of the song from the beginning from the intro figure on that. The hook line is all hers. I didn't write any of that music but I did come up with the title and it was something about the opening twisted kind of chords made me think of that title "Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter." It was one of those magical things where something she was playing in the music kind of was sweet and yet sharp at the same time. There's something about her music that is like that anyway as she's written some of the most beautiful tunes ever but also she's not someone you can mess about with either. She's got a definite outlook. If she's written "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" it's a very assertive sort of song so the story seemed to just tumble out of the music about this woman who is trying to organize her life. She's gone through a divorce... I didn't know when I wrote that one that I was going to write a bunch more songs where I was going to put myself in somebody else's shoes. That's the way this collection of songs ended up. Not so much things that happened to me but things that happened to other people and try to make a story out of it. Then I got the middle of the song and we go back to the happier time of the relationship that she just got out of and I wrote the bit "once there was a time before he turned strange." I wore that part of the melody, and then it was a proper musical collaboration. I'm hearing that, having heard Carole's first statement, and most things in music when we write together like that they are kind of like a dialogue of musical thoughts. With Burt Bacharach as well, he's known entirely as a melodist, people would be surprised to know how much of our songs I wrote musically, but I'm trying to write in a language that is compatible with his so you can't tell where the joins are. In the case of the two songs on this album which he plays piano he wrote all of the music. But the third one he's credited on he only wrote the bridge, I wrote everything else, though it's in a language which is sort of recognizably like is, I won't say is his. Obviously I can't be him.
Me: What is that song and why did he just write the bridge?
Elvis: "He's Given Me Things." It's a long story and I couldn't figure out how it could go somewhere else. He could hear that how to do that. It's a simple change but it's crucial to the song being successful as a drama.
Me: Could you ever imagine the Attractions accompanying Burt Bacharach?
Elvis: No, but that's not say the Attractions never played great ballads because they're the band on "Shipbuilding," they're the band on "Almost Blue," but certainly live we were impatient to play the songs and the attitude when we were on stage was everything got sped up and the subtitles in the arrangements got lost. Whereas this band can be just as aggressive and ferocious sounding, they can also play like this and that's the point of this record to take advantage of both things.
Me: How would you compare Steve Nieve's piano playing to Bacharach's?
Elvis: Steve can give me lots of notes is deliberately sort of choosing or I asked him to choose to not play so much because the other things that were going to be in the arrangements. I didn't want us to get into conflict. Live when we're playing these same songs you may hear more from him, albeit it'll be another version and that's good. When it's played live it has another character again.
Me: Steve is a great piano player, isn't he?
Elvis: He is, but I have to say that nobody's ideas playing end on end, sometimes I write words down and I look at it and I think that doesn't make any sense at all, it just looks good at first, and then I'm trying to make emotional sense of it. These songs I think the words are really clear and the music is really clear and when I have someone like Burt who has a very particular touch of the piano, I was fascinated to hear my band meet with that. They were the only two songs I sang live in the studio because the timing was necessary to make me sing with Burt. The rest I wanted the joy of going up to the microphone when everything was in place and sort of having the whole picture so I didn't over sing anything. I wasn't trying to create to much heat. Usually I arrange outwards from the initial vocal performance and then add things later, so if we need a harmony here, or another guitar part, or another keyboard part, or whatever it is, with this record I had the whole arrangement in my head. By everyone preparing in advance and everybody showing their best ideas to each other in advance there was a degree in trust that when we played we were only playing things that we wanted to hear. Then when we added the vocal group or the horn section it made complete sense because we allowed for it. I wasn't trying to fill all the spaces up, I wasn't trying to sing with too much aggression, I knew what I had to do. And more importantly I also knew I could hold it closer to myself and sound more intimate. Something like "Stripping Paper" would make no sense if I was yelling it.
Me: Okay, I mentioned Steve, what about Pete Thomas? What would you say about him?
Elvis: If I send a demo tape to Pete Thomas he'd write back and say, "I know what to do on that." He's talking about drum things logically, that's what he is, he's a drummer. But for some reason in this group of songs a lot of the notes the guys gave me back about the music, what to do with the emotional little things that trigger the feeling in them or the recognition with them, I knew we were on to something because we saw them in the same way, it wasn't like I was telling some mysterious story and they were trying to accompany me. They actually made comments about images like on "Stripping Paper." That was one that Pete particularly noticed, and I thought if he noticed it there was a good chance the audience noticed it as well, so we better make sure we don't cover that up.
Me: Have you learnt something about your writing over the years?
Elvis: I learnt in the last twenty years, I love the songs from "Painted From Memory" but they're all dark. There has to be a little bit of light in the room so we could see the other details, that's really the truth of it.
Me: I love the song "God Gave Me Strength" from "Painted From Memory." That was the first song that you and Burt wrote together, right? What was that like?
Elvis: Yeah, we were just finding our way to work together. Did you know one of the things that Burt gets very little credit, people just assume that he wrote all the music and I wrote all the words, is that whether or not it was a huge presumption on my part to suggest music to Burt Bacharach, you got to give him credit after everything he'd written he was curious to see what would happen when he did write with another composer. Because he hadn't really done that before and I think that's pretty amazing. His words always had the right sounds and the right rhythm and my writing was a little more erratic. Sometimes I'll bend the music to the words, and Burt wouldn't let me do that. It was actually exicting for me to write the words, particularly the ones where he had the dominated part of the composition because he wouldn't let me change one single part in the music. Even if I had a good line that made sense. Those little details is what I learnt with working with him. All of the songs from "Painted From Memory" are huge in range, right to the edge of where I could physically sing. Not everybody likes that sound when I get up there, but I'll tell you what, listen to the cover versions of "God Give Me Strength," and tell me anybody could do it better. Because actually speaking there are technically more capable than me who attempted to sing that song and had no more ease.
Me: That last chorus you go really high, sir, is there anybody else you could think of that could sing that song?
Elvis: There's really only one way to get there and the only other person I could imagine singing that song effortlessly would be Luther Vandross. He wasn't around to sing it, and that's the only voice I could hear in my head that could have possibly gone there without any strain. But when I write a song sometimes I have another singers voice in my head, the thing that comes out is the tatty thing I could do. It's got rough edges but the emotion of it is that matters really. Not the technical expertise. It just worked out while we were writing these particular songs the first group of songs were written with the sense of discovery. We were just writing and the final shape of them were just because Burt and I were just adding to each others ideas. And the songs were developing to scale, quite a lot of them were long as well. A lot of them were over the four minute mark, we were not trying to write two and half minute pop records.
Me: When you wrote "God Give Me Strength" was that for the movie Grace of My Heart?
Elvis: Yeah, that was actually the second song I'd written for Grace of My Heart. It was a movie weirdly enough about a songwriting character that was supposed to remind you of Carole King. What's weirder is I ended up writing with Carole King as well. When Allison Anders made that film, it is very big hearted but flawed, it is a flawed film but ambitious to take details of other people's stories and make a fantasy. It's sort of what we call fan fiction now, isn't it? It was obviously done with a huge amount of respect and love. When I was asked to write the first song for that movie it was like, "we are coming to you because we think you understand how to write a song that's in the style of Holland-Dozidr-Holland social commentary" as they used to call them, things like "Love Child" or "I'm Living in Shame," and I wrote "Unwanted Number" for a girl group, an imaginary like they were supposed to be the Supremes or something. I never thought more about it, even though I knew it was a good song. They sang it really well, this vocal group called For Real sang it, in the movie and done a great job. Then about a month later or more they came back to me and said would I write the big emotional ballad and would I write it with Burt Bacharach. I was so shocked, I only met him once before briefly in the studio. I never dreamed I'd have the chance of working with him so it led from that one song to more and "Painted From Memory." That all led to this record, although it's over twenty years afterwards.
Me: You have written so many songs in different genres, is that hard or easy for you?
Elvis: People that use the word "genre" in reviews are over thinkers, they are using those French words to make themselves look clever, but in reality I don't calculate things nearly as much as they think I do. I look at some of the lyrics I wrote in the 80s when I was throwing words around like people throw around paint, and I go what the hell was that about. And then I think is that bad for a while, it's like I go through three doors to the meaning. Is that and or is that good because it leave it for people's imagination, that's why I was thinking like that.
Me: Okay, so, I have to ask you about "The X-Files" album you did with Brian Eno. How did that come about?
Elvis: I said to Brian, "Let's go away and whatever we get that day is the record." We worked for fourteen hours straight and made "My Dark Life," which was a weird record, it was a Warner Bros. commissioned record when "The X-Files" was huge. They commissioned this record of "music inspired by the X-Files." If it had anything mysterious sounding they'd accept it. None of the songs appeared in the show, it was a weird idea but they had the money to let us have fun. Of course that is something that has changed in the twenty years or more since I made that record. Record companies can't afford to do that anymore, there isn't an award for them to say, "Here, have some money, knock yourself out." It just doesn't happen now, the back winners and everybody else... trying to get the money like independent filmmakers. When you go to there pictures to see any interesting film before you ever get to the film there's nineteen producers logos come up because that's how many people it took to make the finances to make the thing at all.
Me: So, do you keep a notebook with titles and lines and ideas when you write?
Elvis: I don't really work like that. I used to carry notebooks all the time and every page wouldn't be full of titles. Some would be. Sometimes it'll just be a least of titles or one line of something that came from the paper or a conversation, a overheard remark. All of those would swirl around and I'd write them out again until they found company in other lines. I also would write the same lyric out over and over again, that was probably realising it editorial. Of course with comers I tend to do that more instantaneously. I think sometimes I've been guilty with just hitting delete and not even keeping the after draft. Thought that maybe a mistake but I can't say there's been a million songs that escaped because of that. I just had lots of opportunities to work with others because I get these other invitations. It's not like I need to have a certain amount of songs at a certain date. I write them when it feels good or the opportunity presents itself to create something.
Me: So, a few months ago I had the honor to interview Sir Paul McCartney here on the Phile. You and he worked together, what was that like and what can you say about him?
Elvis: He has a sort of melodic gift. When we worked together I didn't have time to stop and think about it. I came with some songs prepared, he came with some songs prepared. We wrote a couple to get the rhythm of how we would work together. The first two songs we wrote together was one song of his called "Back On My Feet" and the other was "Veronica." I had maybe more half of it written before he arrived but crucial things about the middle of the song were his. Then we started writing and it was "My Brave Face," "Candy," and "The Day is Done." Then the next five or so songs were so good, they were just coming, they would just appear between us on the table. I got to think although I had experience with songs emerging very quickly when I was working with I was dealing with somebody who just recognises melody really quickly.
Me: I have to say "Spike" is my favorite album of yours. And one of my favorite songs of yours ever is "Every Day I Write the Book." What can you say of that song?
Elvis: "Every Day I Write the Book" is an exercise writing a pop song. That was a rare example of me trying to write to a known formulate. I was making gags on this idea. It's funny, over the years people have found more depth, if that's the right word, and more feeling than I intended. I always thought it was a trifle. We were on the road with a group called the Bluebells out of Scotland and they had a really attractive sort of jangly sort of pop songs before the Smiths. We were on the road and I thought I like these, I'll write one of these. The first version of "Every Day..." sounds like it should have been played by the Merseybeats or the Big Three or something. It had a straight forward straight beat. When Clive Langer heard it he said, "That sort of rhythm's been done. Why don't we try to make it more of an of the moment sound?" which at the time was sort of electric. It had a drum machine in it along with the drums. "Let's make it like an English R&B record." I wasn't sure at all to be honest. And as he introduced the different elements in the studio. He brought in Claudia and Caron, the Afrodiziak singers, then I could get it. It ended up being a lovely record.
Me: I agree. The legendary producer Geoff Emerick produced the album "Imperial Bedroom." What was he like to work with?
Elvis: We came in for the first few days and just went mad. Five go mad at Oxford Circus, or four. And Geoff just sat there and was "Ugh. Not another group that does this." Obviously he'd seen the Beatles do crazier things than that and been given the job of making sense. Can you imagine if you were Geoff Emerick, trained at Abbey Road and someone walks in and says, "I want to make 'Tomorrow Never Knows.'" And describes the sound of it but doesn't know how to do it. Then they did do it and that's what we call copy is that kind of sonic invention.
Me: Okay, so, I have to ask you about "Oliver's Army." What is the story behind that song?
Elvis: That's a little bit different. The lyric was written after the first time I went to Belfast. Bear in mind my family is from Northern Ireland. It was shocking for me to go to Belfast for the first time and see lads no older than me, lads I could've gone to school with, they got a machine gun and at best they're supposed to be giving the peace. At worst they're not. All the complexities of that, this is not the first or last time this happened. The whole lyric was written on the plane back. It wasn't about Belfast and explained Belfast, this is what my grandad did, both of my granddad's did. They were put in the Army to do someone else's dirty work. That's what the song is about, it's all about that. That's really all what it's about, the trick if you like is the same one that "Under Lime" plays but "Under Lime" is a much longer song and I know it's not going on the radio. At that point we had something of an audience and I knew if I could make a pop record out of it the ideas of the song across to the audience and they were listening to the tune before they heard the words. And if they heard the words after that then they would have their own thoughts.
Me: So, I have to ask you who were your musical influences, Elvis?
Elvis: Burt Bacharach's music has been echoing down since I was a kid and as I call it Tamla, I've never called it Motown, it's always been Tamla... and the Beatles, the Small Faces, and the Who, Ray Davis, the Band and on and on and on. And of course through the 70s particularly I started to become aware of Allen Toussaint. I knew his songs but didn't know he'd written them. Then I got to work with him and he turned out to be a really lovely gentleman. Then the really terrible things happened during Katrina, he was forced out the city.
Me: How did you get to work with him?
Elvis: A friend of mine who was a business colleague of his, they had a little label that they used to record things on, said, "Allen's up in New York, he's starting to play shows, you should come up and see him." I went to see him play at this little club in New York and he's playing his song book and he's never done this before. He'd never performed like that outside New Orleans, he'd play once a year in New Orleans. Most of the time he was producing records.
Me: You and Allen made the record "The River in Reverse" together. Why didn't he produce that album?
Elvis: That's a strange thing, he didn't want to produce the record we made together, he wanted to be IN the band. We could barely persuade him to sing. we said, "Allen, you've got to sing, people want to hear you. They don't want me singing your songs."
Me: So, cool. Elvis, thanks for being on the Phile. It's so cool to have you here. PLEASE come back again.
Elvis: It's been my pleasure. Thanks for the interesting questions as well. Thank you.
That about it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Laird Jim and of course Elvis Costello. The Phile will be back on Tuesday with Anson Williams, who played Potsie on "Happy Days." Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Have a safe and fun Easter weekend.
I don't want you, cook my bread, I don't want you, make my bed, I don't want your money too, I just want to make love to you. - Willie Dixon