"Veronica" - Elvis Costello
from the album Spike (1989)
Billboard Hot 100 peak: #19 (one week)
Weeks in the Top-40: 6
Today's song of the day comes from British post-punk rock icon Elvis Costello, who was last seen here when he broke through on the American charts in 1983 with the adult-pop reflection "Everyday I Write The Book". The next year, amidst tensions that broke up his backing band the Attractions, he followed it up with the Goodbye Cruel World album, with a collaboration with Daryl Hall, "The Only Flame In Town", that became a minor pop (#56) and rock (#44) hit. Meanwhile, another track, "I Wanna Be Loved" paired with a non-album track "Turning The Town Red", reached the top-40 in the UK (#25). With the cool reception to the synth-driven pop of that album, Costello returned to a more roots-rock sound for his first album without the Attractions, King Of America in 1986. From it a cover of the Animals' rock classic "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" reached the top 40 on the British singles (#33) and American rock radio (#38) charts. He reunited with early collaborator Nick Lowe for his critically heralded Blood & Chocolate album. The set sold respectably but failed to click at the over-produced musical landscape of pop radio. Leaving his long-standing record distributor Columbia for Warner Brothers, Elvis started his tenure there with his Spike album, came during a time that he was writing with Paul McCartney, and two of the tracks from the album are theirs, including the lead single "Veronica". Inspired by his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, was a sweet but sometimes painful look at a woman who has temporary flashes of clarity within a fugue of clouded thoughts...
"Veronica" became Costello's biggest pop hit in the U.S., reaching the top-20 in June of 1989. The song went all the way to #1 on Billboard's Modern Rock radio chart, while also climbing to #10 on the Mainstream Rock list. Internationally, the single was a top-40 hit in New Zealand (#16), Ireland (#22), Australia (#27), and his native Britain (#31). The follow-up single to the record, "...This Town", missed the pop chart both in America and worldwide but landed at #4 on the Modern Rock chart (and #41 Mainstream). He started the '90s with the Mighty Like A Rose album which delved into lush baroque pop, and the single "The Other Side Of Summer" spent a month on top of the US Modern Rock chart, but missed the British top-40 at #43. After a foray with the classical Juliet Letters piece, Elvis reunited with the Attractions for the 1994 album Brutal Youth, which gave him his most recent American radio hit with the punchy "13 Steps Lead Down" (#6 Modern Rock). In 1999 he returned to the British top-40 with the ballad "She" from the Notting Hill soundtrack. He ended with a couple of minor hits on the UK chart from his 2002 set When I Was Cruel, with "45" stopping at #92. However, he continues to record with successful album exploring multiple genres including one with his wife, jazz artist Diana Krall. His most recent studio album, Wise Up Ghost with future Late Show band the Roots, reached the top 20 on the US albums chart in 2013.
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Here's Elvis performing for the studio heads in 1989...
...and again at Woodstock in 1999...
Up tomorrow: A British dance-rock band plays with dolls.