Song of the Day: Aimee Mann “The Other End Of The Telescope”
It is fascinating how different artists can interpret a particular song differently, often changing the meaning of the words as a function of their delivery or which words they choose to emphasize. Such is the case with the wonderful song, “The Other End Of The Telescope”, a track co-written by Aimee Mann and Elvis Costello. The song features a lot of Costello‘s trademark wordplay, but it also brings a lot of the emotional depth that characterizes Mann‘s writing. While both artists recorded a version of the song, the definitive (and first released version) was done by the American New Wave group ‘Til Tuesday (which Aimee Mann fronted before going solo). All three versions of the song are remarkably and radically different in their emotional content, and this despite the songs being interpreted by the same principle actors/ authors.
The three versions of the song represented here then are Mann‘s original demo version (featuring Costello singing backup), Costello‘s solo read of the track recorded for his 1996 album All This Useless Beauty, and finally the ‘Til Tuesday version (which also features Costello as a backup singer). The difference in the three interpretations is interesting. There is a certain world weariness to the Mann demo, that makes the track feel like a reflection on loss. the Costello version emphasizes the wordplay and fits more into the Burt Bacharach/Hal David idiom that Costello would occasionally mine. The ‘Til Tuesday version, despite its gorgeous and rich production, meanwhile feels almost ageless: like it was a folk song passed down from antiquity. A song that speaks for the ages, both grand and strangely intimate.
The Aimee Mann demo version:
The Elvis Costello version:
The ‘Til Tuesday version: