Tag Archives: Elvis Costello

Blue (Howlin’) Monday

My one glimpse of blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin in action was an unexpected pleasure — he appeared onstage during Elvis Costello’s 2005 performance at the Beacon Theatre in New York, and the two performed “Hidden Charms” with the widest possible grins on their faces. It was already a sensational concert, but it was elevated even further by their obvious pleasure in each other’s company and musicianship. The above clip was made only a few weeks ago in Montclair, so Sumlin was clearly making a habit of it.

Sumlin, who just died at the age of 80, was right-hand man to the larger-than-life Howlin’ Wolf, who for obvious reasons tended to suck up all the attention in any room. But you can glimpse him at work in some of these clips.

I hope Sumlin got the chance to see himself played by Albert Jones in the 2005 film Cadillac Records. That’s the formidable Eamonn Walker playing Wolf.

Tagged , , ,

Money bungle

The worldwide economic meltdown has brought out some great, pissed off songs from Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello.

Costello’s song has a great chorus for that next Goldman Sachs meeting:

They’re running wild
Just like some childish tantrum
Meanwhile we’re working every day
Paying off the National Ransom

Go Galt with that, you turkeys.

Tagged , , ,

Robert S. McNamara: Tramp the dirt down

Elvis Costello wrote this song for Margaret Thatcher, but change one or two lines and it would work just as well for Robert S. McNamara, the bureaucratic monster who recognized the futility of the Vietnam War but allowed it to continue chewing up lives:

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
Long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

Leave it to the great war correspondent Joe Galloway (We Were Soldiers Once, and Young) to write the perfect obituary for McNamara:

McNamara was the original bean-counter — a man who knew the cost of everything but the worth of nothing.

Back in 1990 I had a series of strange phone conversations with McMamara while doing research for my book We Were Soldiers Once And Young. McNamara prefaced every conversation with this: “I do not want to comment on the record for fear that I might distort history in the process.” Then he would proceed to talk for an hour, doing precisely that with answers that were disingenuous in the extreme — when they were not bald-faced lies.

Upon hanging up I would call Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam and run McNamara’s comments past them for deconstruction and the addition of the truth.

The only disagreement i ever had with Dave Halberstam was over the question of which of us hated him the most. In retrospect, it was Halberstam.

When McNamara published his first book — filled with those distortions of history — Halberstam, at his own expense, set out on a journey following McNamara on his book tour around America as a one-man truth squad.

McNamara abandoned the tour.

This item from Matthew Yglesias is worth pondering as well.

Tagged , , ,