Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I remember a great old Rolling Stone interview with Lou Reed around 77 where he is driving around New York with a journalist listening to The Sex Pistols NEVER MIND THE BULLOCKS, and he's lamenting the fact that the British Punk scene had only ripped off the New York sound but not the intelligence. It's a classic Lou moment that was quite perceptive although I am sure he said it before the first Elvis Costello album landed in the fall of that same year.
One of my favorite Tom Snyder interviews, thankfully preserved on Shout Factory's excellent Tomorrow Show Punk and New Wave collection, is when he sat down for a talk with Elvis Costello for the release of his TRUST album in 1981.
Costello was sandwiched between the odd combination of a clean-television rights activist and the great Frank Capra when he came out and performed a bruising and beautiful NEW LACE SLEEVES, one of the great songs off the undervalued TRUST. Snyder's moments with John Lydon, The Plasmatics and a bloody Iggy Pop might have made for better television, but the Costello interview provided American audiences with one of their first viewings of the man behind one of the most fierce and uncompromising persona's in rock history.
The talk revolves around Costello's time as a Computer operator, battles with record company executives, his lyrical influences (Snyder is obviously impressed by his mentioning Cole Porter and Lorenzo Hart), his father and his infamous Saturday Night Live appearance. Not brought up was the ugly Ray Charles incident that had damaged Costello's career in the late seventies. Snyder was right not to approach it as the issue had bean beaten to death and mostly resolved by February of 1981.
Both Costello and Snyder come across as well spoken intelligent men with sharp sense of humors. There is something so unrehearsed and fresh about this interview, and indeed all of Snyder's interviews, that is sadly lacking from most of today's talk shows. It's to both men's credit that the talk doesn't disintegrate into the combative nature of something like Snyder's interview with Paul Weller (a talk that seemed to bring out the worst in both men) or the infamous Lydon talk.
After the interview Costello would perform the astonishing WATCH YOUR STEP, also on TRUST, and Frank Capra is brought out. Costello's record company was so impressed with the interview that they released a rare promo vinyl copy of it backed with the studio version of WATCH YOUR STEP. An autographed copy is currently up on Ebay and it makes me wish I had 150.00 to spare as it is one of the only Costello records not in my collection. It looks like a great souvenir documenting a nice moment between two individuals who were the best at what they did. I thought of Costello yesterday when I heard the news that Snyder had passed away, and I wonder if the great man sent a clever spiritual quip to the one of the first journalists who bothered looking through his angry persona.