Get Happy!! (Elvis Costello album)

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Get Happy!!
Elvis Costello - Get Happy!!.jpg
Studio album by
Released15 February 1980
RecordedOctober 1979
GenreNew wave, soul
LabelF-Beat Records UK
Columbia US
Smash Records Scandinavia
Demon/Rykodisc (29 April 1994 Reissue)
Rhino (9 September 2003 Reissue)
Hip-O (1 May 2007 Reissue)
ProducerNick Lowe
Elvis Costello and the Attractions chronology
Armed Forces
Get Happy!!
Taking Liberties
Singles from Get Happy!!
  1. "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down"
    Released: 8 February 1980[1]
  2. "High Fidelity"
    Released: 4 April 1980[2]
  3. "New Amsterdam"
    Released: 13 June 1980

Get Happy!! is a studio album by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. The fourth album by Elvis Costello, his third with the Attractions, it is notable for being a dramatic break in tone from Costello's three previous albums, and for being heavily influenced by R&B, ska and soul music. The cover art was intentionally designed to have a "retro" feel, to look like the cover of an old LP with ring wear on both front and back.[3]

Like its predecessor Armed Forces, it was commercially successful, charting at number 11 in the US and number 2 in the UK, where it went gold. It was placed at No. 11 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. In 2000 it was voted number 298 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[4]


During the American concert tour for Armed Forces in April 1979, Costello engaged in a drunken argument with Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett in a Columbus, Ohio, Holiday Inn hotel bar, during which he referred to James Brown as a "jive-assed nigger," then upped the ante by pronouncing Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant nigger." Costello apologised at a New York City press conference a few days later, claiming that he had been drunk and had been attempting to be obnoxious to bring the conversation to a swift conclusion, not anticipating that Bramlett would bring his comments to the press.

It has been suggested that the R&B influence on the album was an attempt to atone for his comments,[5] but as Costello writes in the liner notes for the 2003 Rhino version,

It might have been tempting to claim that I had some noble motive in basing this record on the music that I had admired and learned from prior to my brush with infamy. But if I was trying to pay respects and make such amends, I doubt if pride would have allowed me to express that thought after I had made my rather contrived explanation ... I simply went back to work and relied on instinct, curiosity, and enduring musical passions.[6]

The band had played some of the songs during the "Armed Funk Tour" and had rehearsed them for the record, but were dissatisfied with the sound, feeling it was too "new wave."[7] (Some of the original versions can be found on disc 2 of the Rhino release.) They then went back and re-arranged many of the songs using an R&B sound. On their US tours, Costello had been able to find a number of R&B records of his favourite artists and having been listening to them during the rehearsals, decided to emulate the feel of those songs.[6]

The band recorded the album at Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, Netherlands, in an attempt to isolate themselves from distractions, but they were still able to keep themselves drunk during the recording sessions.[6] The exception to this was "New Amsterdam," which was recorded solo by Costello in a small studio in Pimlico.

With 20 songs on the original album, the vinyl cutting and pressing process had to be precise to fit all of them on the two sides of the record.[7] A commercial for the album, added as a hidden track on the Rhino Records remaster, jokes about the album's length and number of songs.

Packaging and artwork[edit]

The Get Happy!! sleeve was designed by F-Beat art director Barney Bubbles,[8] who had worked with Costello at Stiff and Radar. He does not receive a credit in line with his insistence on anonymity.[citation needed]

The original album sleeve reversed the two sides; side one began with "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down" (the current single) and ended with "Riot Act". The second side started with "Love for Tender" and ended with "High Fidelity". Only on the record labels themselves was the true running order revealed.

Original vinyl release[edit]

The original release of the album was on 12-inch vinyl and cassette. It was unusual for a single vinyl record to contain as many as twenty songs because it was thought that what was known in the industry as "groove cramming" would result in a loss of sound quality. Get Happy's producer, Nick Lowe, mentions this issue on the album's back cover:

'You'll have noticed that there are ten (?) tracks on each side of this, Elvis' new LP, making it a real "long player".

Elvis and I talked long and hard about the wisdom of taking this unusual step and are proud that we can now reassure hi-fi enthusiasts and/or people who never bought a record before 1967 that with the inclusion of this extra music time they will find no loss of sound quality due to "groove cramming" as the record nears the end of each face (i.e. the hole in the middle).

Now get happy.

Your friend,

Producer, Nick Lowe'[6]

A 2015 vinyl release from Universal Music spread the content across two LPs, thus avoiding this problem.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[5]
Blender5/5 stars[9]
Chicago Tribune4/4 stars[10]
Christgau's Record GuideB[11]
Entertainment WeeklyA+[12]
Mojo5/5 stars[13]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4.5/5 stars[15]
Uncut5/5 stars[17]

Although Get Happy!! received generally positive reviews upon its release, praise was not as unconditional for the album as it had been for its predecessors. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote that Get Happy! establishes "not his fecundity but his fallibility", noting the presence of "lotsa duds", but observed some memorable "tropes and hooks".[11] Red Starr, writing in Smash Hits, remarked that it was "short on memorable songs" but added that "repeated plays reveal hidden depths".[18] Rolling Stone's Tom Carson felt that "if the new album is hard to get into, it's also difficult to ignore", concluding: "He's succeeded in making his obsessions belong to us. For better or worse, we'll all ride them out together to the end."[19] Sounds' Dave McCullough was highly positive, writing that the album "soars to a pinnacle of Costello's combined creative force, by the end leaving the listener quite breathless."[20] In its year-end list, the NME named Get Happy!! the second best album of 1980,[21] while the album placed seventh on The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop music critics' poll, beating out such better selling releases as Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, Stevie Wonder's Hotter than July and Pete Townshend's Empty Glass.[22]

Retrospective reviews have been much more positive, and Get Happy!! has since been considered to be one of Costello's greatest albums, as well as one of the best of the 1980s. On the website Acclaimed Music, it is currently ranked as the 76th most acclaimed album of the 1980s.[23] In 1989, Rolling Stone placed Get Happy!! at number 11 on its list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s,[24] and it has also ranked on other publications' lists of the decade's best albums, including a 2002 list by Pitchfork at number 26,[25] as well as a 2012 list by Slant Magazine at number 68.[26] In a retrospective review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote that Get Happy!! "bursts with energy and invention, standing as a testament to how Costello, the pop encyclopedia, can reinvent the past in his own image".[5] Critic Rob Sheffield, writing in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, dubbed it a "tour de force".[15] In 2008, Chris Jones of BBC Music gave it a rave review, deeming it Costello's "greatest album" and "the greatest coherent statement he ever created."[27]

Squeeze guitarist Chris Difford named the album as an inspiration, stating, "Get Happy!! was a big album for me. I just loved the lyrics. I loved the performances on that record. It’s brilliant." Costello would produce Squeeze's 1981 album East Side Story.[28]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Elvis Costello unless otherwise indicated.

Side one
1."Love for Tender"1:57
3."The Imposter"1:58
4."Secondary Modern"1:58
5."King Horse"3:01
7."Man Called Uncle"2:17
8."Clowntime is Over"2:59
9."New Amsterdam"2:12
10."High Fidelity"2:28
Side two
1."I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down"Homer Banks, Allen Jones2:06
2."Black and White World" 1:56
3."5ive Gears in Reverse" 2:38
4."B Movie" 2:04
5."Motel Matches" 2:30
6."Human Touch" 2:30
7."Beaten to the Punch" 1:49
8."Temptation" 2:33
9."I Stand Accused"Tony Colton, Ray Smith2:21
10."Riot Act" 3:35
  • Note the record sleeve does not match what's on the actual record. The sides are reversed.

Bonus tracks (1994 Rykodisc)[edit]

  1. "Girls Talk" – 1:55
  2. "Clowntime Is Over" (Version 2) – 3:44
  3. "Getting Mighty Crowded" (Van McCoy) – 2:09
  4. "So Young" (Jeff Burstin, Joe Camilleri, Tony Faehse) – 3:23
  5. "Just a Memory" – 2:16
  6. "Hoover Factory" – 1:43
  7. "Ghost Train" – 3:05
  8. "Dr. Luther's Assistant" – 3:27
  9. "Black & White World" – 1:50
  10. "Riot Act" (Demo) – 2:48
  11. "Love for Tender" (Demo) – 1:39 [Unlisted track, intentionally ends abruptly]

Bonus Disc (2003 Rhino)[edit]

  1. "I Stand Accused" (Alternate version) (Colton, Smith) – 3:10
  2. "So Young" (Burstin, Camilleri, Faehse) – 3:28
  3. "Girls Talk" – 1:56
  4. "Human Touch" (Alternate version) – 2:20
  5. "Temptation" (Alternate version) – 2:28
  6. "Motel Matches" (Alternate version) – 2:27
  7. "Clowntime Is Over" (Version 2) – 3:46
  8. "B Movie" (Alternate version) – 2:26
  9. "Girls Talk" (Alternate version) – 2:03
  10. "Getting Mighty Crowded" (McCoy) – 2:09
  11. "From a Whisper to a Scream" (Alternate version) – 2:30
  12. "Watch Your Step" (Alternate version) – 2:02
  13. "Dr Luther's Assistant" – 3:28
  14. "Ghost Train" – 3:07
  15. "New Lace Sleeves" (Alternate version) – 3:47
  16. "Hoover Factory" – 1:45
  17. "Just a Memory" – 2:17
  18. "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down" (Alternate version) (Banks, Jones) – 2:45
  19. "New Amsterdam" (Alternate version) – 2:31
  20. "Black & White World" (Demo version) – 1:51
  21. "Riot Act" (Demo version) – 2:50
  22. "5ive Gears in Reverse" (Demo version) – 2:33
  23. "Love for Tender" (Demo version) – 2:07
  24. "Man Called Uncle" (Demo version) – 2:06
  25. "King Horse" (Demo version) – 2:45
  26. "Seven O'Clock" (Demo version) – 2:00
  27. "High Fidelity" (Live) – 3:17
  28. "Opportunity" (Live) – 2:33
  29. "The Imposter" (Live, also on Concerts for the People of Kampuchea) – 2:11
  30. "Don't Look Back" (Live) – 4:41

Note: The Rykodisc version has the original tracks and bonus tracks on one CD. The Rhino version has two CDs with the original tracks on the first CD.


  • Elvis Costello – vocals, guitar, organ on "Possession,” all instruments on “New Amsterdam.”
The Attractions



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