SONG TITLE: SHOT WITH HIS OWN GUN
PERFORMER: ELVIS COSTELLO
SONGWRITER: ELVIS COSTELLO
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1981
COMMENTS: Elvis explores the creeping emotional numbness brought on by petty marital infidelity in this unique and unforgettable composition.
Often Elvis' songs have caused people to compare him to the classic Broadway writers, such as George Gershwin or Richard Rodgers. This comes from trying to explain how outstanding he is as a composer of long, classy, well-developed melody, and how sophisticated he is in technical terms, in harmony and key structure. This particular song draws me that way; it is well past the simple basic blues structure of the big majority of rock music.
However, it doesn't sound a bit like any show tune I ever heard. It has a thick, ponderous minor key baroque sound. You can feel the characters trying vainly to keep up a pretense of dignity. The lines of the song sweep compellingly and melodramatically across the slow, deliberate cadence of the piano. He's right in tune with his music when he notes that "playing house seems so melancholy."
The cheating doesn't even provide the thrill you would hope for. She finds herself "so disappointed to find it's no big sin... lying skin-to-skin." Instead, the woman finds herself soiled by a man who "comes without warning, leaves without feeling." Ugh, it's finally just filthy and degrading. It makes me want to take a shower. Right after I hear it again a couple more times.
Not like he'd ever touch such a thing, but Frank Sinatra should have taken a crack at this song. The gravity of his stature and his quiet authority would have, could have, should have made a Mount Rushmore sized monumental recording.
It's his loss. As it is, Elvis is himself one of the greatest vocalists in the history of rock music, and gives a far more than adequate performance. His song, his arrangement, and his vocal performance all give an exceptional insight into the human condition, and the internal toll you pay for breaking the rules.
Elvis Costello Is King
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