Here’s a clip of indie chanteuse Fiona Apple performing Elvis Costello’s 1986 single ‘I Want You’ ( the original found on the Nick Lowe-produced Blood & Chocolate album, if you’re curious).
I saw Costello perform this once in London’s Astoria in 2002, which was a pleasant surprise as it’s not one I’d heard him do it before, or since. It was magnificent; atmospheric, and very unsettling. I think Apple nails it to the wall here too. She embodies the song, and you can tell it takes it out of her by the end; note the blowing out of air, and the exhausted look on her face.
This tune is probably one of the most dramatic, not to mention disturbing, songs Costello has ever written, just because it catches the listener off guard so skillfully. It starts as a sweet love song, but after a few lines turns much, much darker.
8 thoughts on “Fiona Apple Sings ‘I Want You’ with Elvis Costello”
Wow, she really gives it some…and more. Good spot! I’ve been listening to early Costello albums a lot over Christmas. Looks like I’ll have to pull out two more of his middle period gems over the weekend, “Blood & Chocolate” and “King Of America”.
Yeah, Jeff, she’s got a great ‘bunny boiler’ vibe going on here, doesn’t she. This tune is one that demands a singer’s full commitment and she meets it. Another great cover version of hers is The Beatles ‘Across the Universe’, a sort of somnambulant take on it, which really suits the dreamy lyrics. She’s quite the interpreter, as it turns out. I wonder if she’ll do a Cat Power-type cover record any time soon. If so, I’ve got a couple ideas for her. 🙂
As for mid-80s Costello, B&C was apparently done under the pressures of his record company to return to his roots after King of America. And this was the result, which I think didn’t turn out the way anyone involved thought it would, including the band who wouldn’t record together again under the “Attractions” name until ’96. For that alone, it’s worth checking out. Happy listening!
I’d be interested to know the songs you’d pick for her, maybe “Slow Song” off an album we discussed earlier ? I’m just imagining her belting out that soaring chorus. Thanks for the info on Costello, particularly the continuing problems with the Attractions. I knew they had problems after “Goodbye Cruel World”, but not “B&C”.
Completely off topic, I notice you’re an XTC fan. Were we separated at birth ? They’re in my top 10 all time too. As for a favourite album of theirs, well most fans pick “English Settlement” and I rarely argue, but if push comes to shove I’ll always turn to “Black Sea”.
Good call on ‘Slow Song’ for Apple! Any tune that sort of slow burns like that one would be great, I think. Maybe Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’. Or Sly Stone’s “Everybody is a Star’.
As for XTC, yes I’m a fan. English Settlement is very, very good, as is the standard XTC favourite Skylarking. But I really think their best work is Apple Venus, Vol.1, which is what they were shooting for with those first two albums. I am choked that Colin Moulding hasn’t put out any solo albums, or that he seems to have lost interest in doing another XTC record. He’s a tremendous writer and bassist.
I love Fiona! So anti-commercial, moody, and unexpected. I wrote a short piece here:
Have you heard that album?
By the way, I love your reviews. I’ve not listened to a lot of the people you review (The Pretenders as exception), so it’s an education!
If I can turn at least one person on to some good music, I will have done my job. :D. Seriously, it’s nice that you’re reading. There’s a lot of music out there to explore. To me, it’s always been an exciting prospect, knowing that much of the best of it still remains to be discovered.
Of the records I’ve written about here, the one I’d most heartily recommend to you would be the Bruce Cockburn one, and Cockburn as an artist in general. A lot of the things you yourself write about can be found in his work.
I haven’t heard that FA album you wrote about, but I remember that there was some furore over it’s release – that her label thought it unreleasable, and it ended up doing well anyway. I’ll have to dig up the details on that.
That’s a stunning performance. You can see how much it has taken out of her by her reaction at the end.
This is not a pleasant song. I really disliked it when released as it just made me feel so uncomfortable. But eventually I grew to appreciate it’s amazing power.
I’ve seen him perform it a number of times. The best was in 2002 with the Imposters. He also got totally into the song and ended up bug eyed and overwrought.
It is a stunning performance by Fiona Apple of a song that demands a lot out of the one performing it. I’m not really a performer myself, but I imagine doing this one right, means letting it get into your head first. And Apple seems to do this, although it’s obvious that it’s cost her to do so by the end.
I must have seen a Costello & Imposters show that was on the same tour as the one you saw, David. It was a concert-going highlight for me to have seen them do it, and nail it so definitively. As far as it not being a pleasant song, I don’t know if you’ve heardB&C, but the whole album has a sort of hungover and pissed-off vibe, which came out of record company squabbles and Costello’s marital breakdown. He’s described the album as ‘a pissed off divorcee’s version of This Year’s Model. But, I actually think it’s not as joyous as that! The point is, “I Want You” is very true to the company it kept on that album – which is a great record, but not one you’d put on if you found yourself in love.
Thanks for your comments!