Song of the Day: Elvis Costello & The Attractions “TKO (Boxing Day)”
Elvis Costello is well known as a wordsmith. His song lyrics are often a labyrinth of puns and double or even triple entendres that he spits out with such speed (and occasionally venom) that they can have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quality. “TKO (Boxing Day)” is classic Costello. Here he is riffing on both the Commonwealth Holiday of Boxing Day (the day immediately after Christmas, when servants and domestic laborers used to historically celebrate Christmas with their families) and that of a boxing match and fist fighting. Given that this is an Elvis Costello, there is as always, a subtext of any punches being emotional metaphorical ones.
For this song, Elvis Costello‘s back-up group, The Attractions (Bruce Thomas, Pete Thomas and Steve Naive) are also joined by a bright horn section and backup singers. This gives the song a real Motown quality with hints of ska thrown in. The song was found on Costello‘s 1983 LP: Punch The Clock, which featured him grappling with wider issues of war, peace and socio-economic inequality in Margaret Thatcher‘s Britain. The album is notable for including Costello’s best anti-war song, “Shipbuilding“, which featured a cameo by the soon-to-be late great jazz trumpeter, Chet Baker.
Elvis Costello was born Declan Patrick MacNamus in 1954. For his stage name, he combined the name of one of his musical heroes, rock and roll legend Elvis Presley, with his mother’s maiden name. A former computer programmer, he burst onto the scene in 1977 and was initially lumped in with the emergent punk/ New Wave scene as a result of the attitude of his attack. This was always a weird fit, as Costello always possessed a strong pop sensibility above all else and his music clearly had more in common with classic rock and roll, pop, r&b and country-western than it did with punk. Costello has forged a long career as a singer/ songwriter. Over the years, he has also dipped his toes into a number of musical genres including straight country music, New Orleans R&B, classical music and jazz.
Happy Boxing Day to everyone!