Monday, May 24, 2010

Beyond Belief: Musical Mysteries on Main Street

Three weeks ago I was on Main Street browsing through independent clothing boutique Eugene Choo when my ears picked up this deliciously sly tune coming from the speakers.

You know she has no sins
For all your jealousy
In a sense she still smiles very sweetly

I immediately lost focus of the clothes and began a quest to identify the mystery song. The voice? So smooth, so familiar. I should know this, but I've never heard this before. I know I should know it, but I honestly can't place it.

Charged with insults and flattery
Her body moves with malice
Do you have to be so cruel to be callous

Okay, I really, really like this. What is this?

And now you find you fit this identikit completely
You say you have no secrets
And then leave discreetly

Who is this?!!

I shuffled around self-consciously, pretending to be interested in the clothing (and it was genuinely beautiful clothing, don't get me wrong) but I was so distracted by trying to figure out what the song was, I simply became lost in the song and mentally drifted into my own world of music geekdom.

Being Shazam-less, and well, iPhone-less in general, once I gave in to the fact that I probably wouldn't be able to solve this mystery on my own, I did what I should pretty much always do in these situations: I went up to an available employee and simply asked them.

He walked over to the cash, ducked under the table and grabbed the iPod. By that time a new song had started to play, which was a catchy little number, much more atmospheric and indie rock by nature.

"This is Sound Team", he said.

I had never heard of them.

"The song is called 'You've Never Lived A Day'."

I thanked him and made a mental note of Sound Team seeing how I was liking what I was hearing, but then said that I was actually curious about the previous song. He then interrupted the Sound Team song and switched back to play the song that was driving me crazy. The familiar tune returned to the store's speakers.

History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies, the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues

"This is Elvis Costello", he said.

Elvis Costello?!

You're kidding me.

Really? Wow...

In a million years I would have never pegged that song to be Elvis Costello. It was too suave, too smooth, and too understated. It was even sexy.

Being only slightly familiar with Elvis Costello's older, more-established, more-jangly tunes, this was a side to Elvis Costello that was completely new to me. And I was very intrigued.

Happily satisfied, I ran into the change room and tried on a slinky shirt that I was eyeing while trying to solve the former mystery. I guess I wasn't entirely distracted from the merchandise. And despite being beyond my budget, I bought it. I mean, hey... you never know when you'll need a fancy, haute-coutureish top to wear. I digress.

Driving home, I realized I didn't get the name of the song. "That no matter!" I foolishly thought.

I spent the rest of the night listening to every 30 second clip of Elvis Costello's discography on I must have spent two or three hours. No luck.

Defeated, I typed up an e-mail to Eugene Choo, explaining that it was a silly request, but that I was in the store earlier, and I was the person asking the staff about the music, and that I knew it was Elvis Costello, but I didn't recognize the song, so surely it must be a new track, and that it was driving me crazy, etc. etc. etc.

I received a lovely reply the following morning from owner Kildare Curtis:

not a silly request at all. Being a big music fan, I know how trying to track down a song can make one feel a little crazy. I believe it was "Beyond Belief" and is originally from the album Imperial Bedroom but can also be found on the The Best of Elvis Costello and The Attractions. Here's a link so you can confirm that this is it:

And here we are 3 weeks later and Beyond Belief (an old song, by the way) is one of my most played tracks. A musical obsession if there ever was one. I still can't get enough of it, and I don't know when this infatuation will end. I'm still surprised that I had never encountered the track before. But for a music geek, it does give me hope that there's still a whole lot of really fantastic undiscovered music out there by well-established musicians - songs that I really ought to know by now, but for mysterious reasons, I haven't.

Finally, to throw another Vancouver-related Elvis Costello anecdote out there... everyone knows Elvis Costello is married to BC born-and-raised jazz chanteuse Diana Krall. Everybody knows he's in and around Vancouver, schmoozing as rock stars do. But did you know that Elvis Costello's Vancouver connections go back much further than that?

The proof is in this video, where in 1979, Elvis Costello & the Attractions flaunt around Vancouver's beaches and Stanley Park while singing "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding".

It's not on YouTube, but it's online here:

When it comes to inane musical trivia connected to Vancouver, I am easily amused.


Kate said...

I currently live in NY and am looking to move to Vancouver in January, how would you feel about giving a quick overview of the neighborhoods in and around Vancouver ie. Burnaby, Richmond, etc etc? Thanks, love your blog.

Robert Edmonds said...

Love this story, especially as Beyond Belief is one of my favourite Elvis songs. And kudos to Kildare for his response.

Boutique Empire said...

I just like that it's a story about music. nice one.

Robyn said...

Robe & Boutique Empire - thanks for the comments! Still haven't tired of that song...

Robyn said...

Kate - sounds like a good future blog post, although I'm not sure how accurate I can be about a total overview because my knowledge of, for example, Burnaby, is much more limited than my knowledge of Richmond (where I grew up), although I can certainly try to answer specific questions.

You might also want to overview the City of Vancouver's community profile page.

Erin said...

Perhaps, Robyn, you could do guest editorials? Guests could write about their neighbourhood. You know, a sort of "Why I Love My Neighbourhood" posting. I'm kind of (in)famous amongst my transplanted friends for being a Richmond ambassador, enthusiastic of all things Richmond and constantly defending my home community to those who are scared to venture into the suburbs! But it has opened their eyes to all the beautiful places and little secrets that exist beyond the city centre. It would be interesting to hear from people who grew up in those areas as well as those who relocated there.

This just came to me as I read your response that you don't know much about Burnaby-- I instantly thought of my friend Amanda who grew up in North Burnaby and opened my eyes to it. She loved living just off East Hastings because of all the family-run ethnic restaurants, not to mention the stunning views of the North Shore mountains.

Anyway, just a fun thought-- and I love this posting too!

Robyn said...

Great idea Erin... want to be my first contributor? ;) Seriously, I'm evidently not contributing as much as I used to simply because of other things on my plate, but it would actually be a great idea to gather some locals to provide more local perspectives.