That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.
At the dawn of the ’80s, Elvis Costello was the guy you’d least expect to release a cover version as a single. He was one of the most successful songwriters of the “New Wave,” fresh from a run of six self-penned top-30 hits in the UK (five with the Attractions) that stretched from “Watching The Detectives” in 1977 to “Accidents Will Happen” in 1979. He was at the top of his game as a composer and lyricist, who drew from a seemingly infinite pool of anger, cynicism, and bitterness. He might easily be supposed, therefore, to have written “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down,” a UK #4 for him in March 1980. Two reasons: (1) because the original was so little known, and (2) because he injected it with his own compelling brand of nerdy desperation and punk-rock intensity.
Costello, in fact, reinterpreted a Sam & Dave B-side as the sixth consecutive single with his breathtaking backing band, the Attractions. Yet few knew he’d plucked the song from the illustrious catalog of Stax Records in Memphis, in an effort to incorporate some deep Southern soul into his punk-fueled sound. Few knew he’d adopted it to stimulate his first major shift into a new genre as a songwriter and arranger. Few, indeed, knew he’d covered the song to serve as the advance single for an album, Get Happy!!, that was packed with an incredible 18 Costello-penned tracks embodying ’60s R&B/soul and ska, an act which proved to be more than a little bit political.