32 Years Ago: Elvis Costello Gets Happy!!
On the day after Valentine's Day, 1980, Elvis Costello and the Attractions released Get Happy!! Costello's fourth album in less than three years, it was the first of what turned out to be many stylistic about-faces for the mercurial singer-songwriter. Dejected by the initial sessions for the album, Costello and cohorts Steve Nieve (keyboards), Bruce Thomas (bass), Pete Thomas (drums) and Nick Lowe (producer) got inspired to rework the songs by a stack of vintage '60s soul singles Costello had recently purchased.
Blending R&B with the country, Beatles, '70s singer-songwriter and '60s psychedelia influences that had been Costello's previous stock in trade was seen by many observers as penance for a controversial incident at a hotel bar during an American tour. Increasingly irrelevant musicians Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett, offended by the upstart English punks, started a drunken war of words that unfortunately ended with a drunken Costello using an ugly racial slur while disparaging Ray Charles. (Costello has repeatedly and sincerely apologized for his behavior in the decades since.)
Like all of Costello's albums through 1982's Imperial Bedroom, the sleeve was designed by the great Barney Bubbles. It's one of Barney's finest, its intentionally-dated '60s mod graphics featuring a large scuffed circle in the center, mimicking the ring-wear common to improperly-stored vintage LPs. The back sleeve features one of Barney's trademark deliberate "mistakes": the tracklisting for sides A and B (a whopping 20 songs in a fidelity-testing 48 minutes!) is flipped. Until the official remastered CD first came out in 1994, a generation of Costello fans argued over which was correct: turns out the album starts with "Love For Tender" and ends with "Riot Act."