Certain Songs #401: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”

Elvis+Costello+I+Dont+Want+To+Go+To+Chelsea+456491 Album: This Year’s Model (U.K.)
Year: 1978

I think I’ve already written how the import soundtrack to an obscure film called That Summer! was a key for me discovering a variety of great songs by punk rock new wave alternative whatever artists.

As it turns out, that soundtrack was where I first heard Elvis Costello & The Attractions twisted “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea,” which was left off of This Year’s Model here in the U.S. Of course, they added “Radio Radio,” so I guess it’s a draw.

In any event, “(I Don’t Want To Go to) Chelsea” is filled with askew rhythms that are reggae-influenced if even further from actual reggae than “Watching The Detectives” was, but providing enough space for Elvis’ guitar and Steve Nieve’s organ to play tug-of-war with the song, stretching it out into opposite directions at the same time.

It never fully breaks, because Bruce Thomas keeps them both from falling off the ends of the universe with his bass and Pete Thomas reins them back in as they suddenly break into a straight-up and sped-up beat halfway through the repeat of the first verse:

Photographs of fancy tricks to get your kicks at sixty-six
He thinks of all the lips that he licks
And all the girls that he’s going to fix
She gave a little flirt, gave herself a little cuddle
But there’s no place here for the mini-skirt waddle
Capital punishment, she’s last year’s model
They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie
I don’t want to go to Chelsea

By the time that verse has finished, they’ve all crashed back into each other, clearly giving Elvis a concussion, as he and his guitar stagger off at the end of the song going anywhere but Chelsea.

Official Video for “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”

“(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” performed live in 1978

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