Tuesday, July 12, 2022

"Veronica" by Elvis Costello

Song#:  3875
Date:  04/22/1989
Debut:  75
Peak:  19
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  Costello's first few albums sold well in the US with even one, 1979's Armed Forces, reaching the Top 10 (#10). He seemed poised for a bigger breakthrough, which did happen in his UK homeland, but in the US Costello sort of remained a revered cult artist that didn't quite fit the mainstream. Up to this point in time, only two of his singles reached the US Pop chart with 1983's "Everyday I Write the Book" doing the best getting to #36. By contrast, he had fourteen Top 40 entries in the UK including three Top 10s. The vast majority of his catalog had been recorded with his band The Attractions, but tensions within the group led to Costello going it solo for his '89 album Spike. It was his first solo billed LP since his '77 debut My Aim Is True. It was also his first effort for Warner Bros., Costello's new home after his contract with his long time label Columbia expired. He would write all the songs for the new album with three of them being co-writes; one with then-wife Pogue's bassist Cait O'Riordan and two with Paul McCartney. This first single from the album was one of the McCartney collaborations. McCartney also played bass on the track. With the aid of a moving video that would end up winning an MTV Music Video Award for Best Male Video, the song began to take off. It would reach #1 at Modern Rock while getting to #10 Rock. That action helped the song move up the Pop chart where it peaked just inside the Top 20. It would be Costello's biggest hit in the US. Unfortunately, it would also end up being his last Pop chart single. The hit helped the album get to #32 and it would go gold.

ReduxReview:  I've always run hot 'n' cold with Costello. A good chunk of the time I just don't connect with his songs. Then he does a song like "Veronica" and I'm all about it. I liked the lyrics of the tune, the urgent chorus, and the baroque-pop arrangement. I immediately bought the single. Still, it didn't move me to get the LP. Costello fell off my radar for several years until he collaborated with one of my favorite composers Burt Bacharach. The pair recorded the '98 album Painted from Memory, which quickly became a huge favorite of mine. I also liked his 2001 collaboration with Anne Sofie Von Otter For the Stars. I tried to keep on with Costello after those two works, but after a couple of albums where I only liked a few minor songs, I jumped off the Costello bandwagon again. I have yet to jump back on, however I have gone back to some of his earlier works and have developed an appreciation for them. Oddly, like songs by Bob Dylan, I have a tendency to like other artists covering Costello tunes such as Everything But the Girl's beautiful take on "Alison." However, "Veronica" still remains one of my favorites from Costello himself.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The Costello/McCartney pairing came about when McCartney was trying to revamp his career after the tepid response to his '86 album Press to Play (#30). McCartney's manager suggested he contact Costello and perhaps write with him. McCartney reached out and in '87 Costello showed up at McCartney's studio. The pair composed twelve songs. Four of the tunes would end up on McCartney's '89 album Flowers in the Dirt while two would be on Costello's Spike including "Veronica." Other songs from the collaboration would appear on the follow-up albums from both artists. The media sort of hailed the pairing as a new Lennon/McCartney team, but neither artist saw it that way. It was a one-time collaboration that bore some fruit and provided each artist with a Pop Top 30 hit; "Veronica" for Costello and "My Brave Face" (#25) for McCartney, which ended up being his final solo Top 40 entry.


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