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It is hard to draw the borderline around musical territory, the roots run deep in the ground, under the ocean and into time and space.

That most American of all outfits, The Band – who seemed at times to be playing Civil War-era music on improbable electric instruments – were four-fifths Canadian.

The great jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson was Canadian too, as is my wife. The jazz pianist, Marian McPartland, who played with all the greats of 52nd St. was born in Slough.

But then the man who wrote, “God Bless America”, Irving Berlin, was born in Russia, so all bets are off.

There are a finite number of themes that all humanity share in song, whether in lament or praise.

I want or love someone or something.

I believe in someone or something.

I’ve lost something or found someone.

And my baby left me…

While country music might stretch to, “The dog is dead” and the modern, more self-regarding era has added, “I am something, I really am”.

Other than this, it is the same old song in different rhythms, accents and languages.

The stop signs and borderlines have always seemed blurred to me, since the days when my 35-year old father was on the radio singing songs from America made by people barely out of their teens.

Time and place, just didn’t act as a prohibition.

It was Zoot Money – organist and leader of “The Big Roll Band” and later, the wonderfully named, “Dantalian’s Chariot” – who I first heard sing Burt Bacharach’s “Please Stay”.

The lyric for that song was written by Bob Hilliard, an earlier Bacharach lyricist, who had written the words of the Frank Sinatra classic, “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning”. He was also the author of “Mexican Divorce”, another song from The Drifters’ catalogue so poignantly recorded by Ry Cooder.

Nick Lowe and I once recorded Burt Bacharach’s “Baby It’s You”, a song I’d first heard on a Beatles E.P. and it is no accident that Nick turns up so frequently in these pages.

The deep feeling beneath his geniality and apparent unwillingness to push himself rudely to the front of the crowd, makes me admire him all the more today.

Latterly presenting himself as gentleman balladeer, I know the rock and roll beast lurks within him still.

To my ear “I’m A Mess” is from the same deep well as Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s “Out Of Left Field” or Charlie Rich’s “Feel Like Going Home”.

The shade of your passport makes no difference to this estimation.

I could not close without mentioning Doug Sahm’s “Be Real”, as just one of the many songs I’ll never be good enough to write or the voice of Tommy McClain, whose incredible version of “Sweet Dreams” made me realize that there were other imaginings of that great song than the more celebrated versions by Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris.

Last year, I helped write a refrain for a song of Tommy’s that you will hear very soon and wrote him another tune called “My Hidden Heart”, that he has cut with the producer, C.C. Adcock, along with his long overdue rendition of the great Bobby Charles song, “I Hope”.

It has been an intriguing parlour game to fill these winter hours in revisiting the paths down which I found or wrote particular songs.

This last list contains many of the songs closest to my heart for reasons that may already be apparent (and at least one improbable hit record) but I don’t need you to agree about their worth, I know what I’ve done.

Anyone who goes into show business looking for people to love them is bound for disappointment or as Willie Nelson recently sang in salute to Sinatra, “You’re riding high in April, shot down in May”

Look at the career of anyone who lasts in the spotlight longer than a summer and you will find some armchair general proclaiming, with either absolute confidence or smug ignorance, that not a one note or word of consequence can be found beyond a certain date or beneath another flag.

Indeed, it might have been better that said performer had died in a fiery catastrophe or faded into humiliated silence.

Yeah, fuck those people.

Thank you and goodnight.

Onward. Elvis Costello

1) HURRY DOWN DOOMSDAY (THE BUGS ARE TAKING OVER) – Elvis Costello from “Mighty Like A Rose”

2) DEPORTEE – Elvis Costello from “Goodbye Cruel World”

3) AMERICAN WITHOUT TEARS – Elvis Costello from “King Of America”

4) AMERICAN WITHOUT TEARS No.2 – Elvis Costello from “Out Of Our Idiot”

5) STATIONS OF THE CROSS – Elvis Costello from “National Ransom”

6) HERCULES – Aaron Neville – from “The Very Best Of Aaron Neville”

7) BULLETS FOR THE NEW-BORN KING – Elvis Costello from “National Ransom”

8) SLEEP OF THE JUST – Elvis Costello from “King Of America”

9) FREEDOM FOR THE STALLION – Allen Toussaint from “The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings”

10) RED COTTON – Elvis Costello & The Sugarcanes from “Secret, Profane & Sugarcane”

11) THE RIVER IN REVERSE – Elvis Costello & The Imposters with Allen Toussaint from “The River In Reverse”

12) DOWN ON THE BOTTOM – Elvis Costello & The Imposters from “Purse”

13) MOTEL MATCHES – Elvis Costello & The Attractions from “Get Happy”

14) RED WICKED WINE – Ralph Stanley with Elvis Costello from “Man Of Constant Sorrow”

15) STRANGER IN THE HOUSE – George Jones with Elvis Costello from “My Very Special Guests”

16) GOOD YEAR FOR THE ROSES – Elvis Costello & The Attractions from “Almost Blue”

17) BABY’S IN BLACK – The Beatles from “Beatles for Sale”

18) THE PEOPLE’S LIMOUSINE – The Coward Brothers from “Out Of Our Idiot”

19) LOVE HURTS – Elvis Costello & Emmylou – “Grand Ol’ Opry Debut”

20) COUNTRY DARKNESS – Elvis Costello & The Imposters – Elvis Costello from “The Delivery Man”

21) INDOOR FIREWORKS – Elvis Costello from “King Of America”

22) THE GREATEST LOVE – Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint from “Treme”

23) I DON’T WANNA GO HOME – Elvis Costello (Demo)

24) THAT DAY IS DONE – The Fairfield Four with Elvis Costello from “I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray”

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