Certain Songs #400: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Lipstick Vogue”

elvis-costello-this-years-model Album: This Year’s Model
Year: 1978

It took me awhile to fall in love with “Lipstick Vogue.” At first, it was too hard and shiny for me to get a handle on.

Unlike things like “Pump It Up” or “You Belong to Me” (neither of which I’m not writing about but I very well could), there seemed to be no antecedent for “Lipstick Vogue.”

And that all comes down to the performance of Bruce Thomas, Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve, who were on fucking fire from the first drumbeat.

I mean, seriously, just how great were The Attractions?

Has any other band ever been so ferociously focused as The Attractions are on “Lipstick Vogue?” It’s seriously, one of the all-time terrifyingly intense live-in-the-studio performances caught on tape: up there with “Complete Control” or “Sway” or “Like a Rolling Stone” in the combination of virtuosity and the feeling that at any second somebody could stick out their foot and send the song hurtling apart.

Meanwhile, Elvis is singing one of his all-time great couplets:

Sometime I almost feel
Just like a human being

At some point, after weeks, months, years, centuries, eons, the whole thing just stops because there is nowhere else to go. Or tries to stop. Too much momentum has already been built up, and there is no way for Bruce Thomas to stop, so in a breathless rave up that they all join in almost against their wills, his bass leads them right over a cliff.

Only they aren’t falling down the cliff — they have too much speed force for that — they’re running right down the cliff further and further and further into the abyss until Elvis himself appears to try to pull them out.

Maybe they made it. Maybe they didn’t. All you know is that the only way to find out is to hear it again.

Check out this amazing version of “Lipstick Vogue” performed live in Germany 1978

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