Elvis Costello's second album, his first with longtime collaborators The Attractions, pop chameleons who could mix-and-match Maximum R und B, Beatles, bubblegum, and garage - a change from the Yank bar-band ringers Clover (later to morph into Huey Lewis and the News), who backed Elvis on My Aim is True. It was, perhaps, the apotheosis of his singular Manhattan Project of becoming the poet laureate of venom. And you could dance to it, too.

The US version of the album dropped a couple of songs. Also contains the song "Radio Radio" (about censorship in the media) which, when performed impromptu on Saturday Night Live, got him kicked off the show for some time. Grooving tunes, nasty thoughts, great work overall. Highlights: "Radio Radio", "This Year's Model", aw heck, the entire album. The Attractions still strike me as one of the tighter bands ever to perform.

It took me a while to get used to the thinness of the bottom couple of strings. They were like filament; like fairy wire. How could these barely visible strands hold a tune for any length of time? I began with the huge coils of wire on the old acoustics and had moved my way up to the Martin D-21. That was one sweet piece of work, and I did my best to just use some sort of mic system to become a rock and roll star with an acoustic guitar. You just couldn't do it back then unless you had the wherewithal to run a small signal through a big board and have someone monitor the output to the crowd at all times. Feedback was always a little gnome sitting there ready to jump out and ruin an otherwise excellent piece of work.

Being one to always try and incorporate wildly improbable ideas, instead of jumping right into the land of sensible solutions, I spent years trying to find ways to do what you have to do to please a rock 'n roll crowd with hollow body guitars. It was stupid and it cost me not only a lot of money, but the memory of guitars long gone haunts me now. You see, I couldn't afford to have more than one at a time. The Gibson ES-175 (think of Pat Metheny) cost me my beautiful Martin acoustic. Parting with that one was like watching the best lay you've ever had walk away with a slight turn of the head and a polite wave as she makes her way to someone who'll hold her every night of her life. Someone who will caress her and make sure she's polished and tuned and restrung as much as she needs be.

I dated the 175 for a couple of years. We had our ups and downs. The best thing about her was her looks. She was one classy dame. Blonde and big in the hips and she'd turn an eye when I brought her out of the case. But the feedback gnome was just laughing his little yellow and green ass off when I discovered that in order to try and play rock 'n roll with this good-looking bitch, I was going to have to stuff half a sheet inside her to pacify him. You ever seen someone with toilet paper hanging out the back of their pants? That's what it's like to have a kid in the crowd see the sheet sticking out of your old lady.

Then I let her make a pussy out of me. I started sitting down to play her, and since you can't be a rock star sitting down, I changed my whole MO to suit her. I tried playing jazz instead of rock. That worked for a while, but one too many times of listening to Django Reinhardt soured me on the whole idea. Who did I think I was? If this dame was going to make me try and be someone I wasn't, she'd just have to go. I'd gladly give up the dark seduction of the jazz scene and those long saxophone breaks in order to stand up like God intended, on my hind legs, and make someone's ears bleed.

Having finally learned this lesson, you'd think I would have gone straight to the solid mass guitars like any other sane person would have done, eh? You obviously don't know how stubborn and stupid I am. I sent the blonde 175 into the back room and walked out with a red ES-335 (think B.B. King). Surely this thinner model would solve this ongoing rumble I was having with the loop gnome. Guess what?

It only took stuffing a fourth of a sheet into the Lucille wannabee, but the problem still remained. One little touch too much of that sweet volume knob, and there he was: On my back and screaming in my ear, "You dumbass! Try a little high end!"

I only had the redhead for less than a year when I traded her in for Goldie. You who know guitars should know I'm speaking of that gold-top Les Paul model (think Duane Allman). This is when I came to realize that what it took to please a woman depended not on the size of the tool, but on how the tool was manipulated. Those tiny, tiny pieces of string that said they were the high E? How could something with a number like .009 do any damage? And, if it could, how could it stay in tune long enough to matter?

I kept Goldie long enough to learn how to use these thin knives to cut not only butter but some fine filets as well. And that's when Goldie starting putting on the weight. Putting a ring on that one's finger was like pulling the cord a life raft. Well, to be fair, I suppose she always weighed about the same, but it sure did start to wear on me after a while. She was killing my aching back. Making love to a heavy woman is all it's cracked up to be, but I dare you to not start noticing the thinner ones walking by when you go out at night. And so it was with Goldie.

I finally threw her over one rainy day for a young blonde Fender Stratocaster (think Eric Clapton). Sure, she'd been dating the guitar player for Black Oak Arkansas (Jack Holder, who went on to produce and play bass on the first Tracy Chapman album), but I didn't mind. She had Schecter pickups and she had the tattoos from a hard young life to show me that she was ready for anything I had to give her. All she wanted was the new strings; she didn't give a flying fuck about the makeup and the polish.

We've been together for a long time now, and even though I don't take her out much any more, it's good to know she's down there, waiting . . .

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