Spectacle: Elvis Costello With...

Season 1 Episode 8

Kris Kristofferson, Rosanne Cash, Norah Jones, John Mellencamp

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Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Jan 21, 2009 on Sundance Channel
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Episode Summary

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The format of Elvis' fantastic interview/performance show changes yet again as a major, magical musical surprise is pulled from Elvis' hat. And by pulled, I mean as in a "guitar pull". Legend has it that the late, great Johnny Cash would have musicians and writers pile into his Tennessee living room and take turns playing their songs - luminaries such as Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. The musical gatherings were referred to as a "guitar pull". Now, Cash's daughter, Rosanne, joins with long-time family friend Kris Kristofferson and a new group of legendary singer-songwriters for an hour of old and new classics and a lively discussion on the art of songwriting. Norah Jones, the silken voiced daughter of Ravi Shankar, even reveals a new 'old classic' co-written by Hank Williams himself; while the Sundance web site reports that John Mellencamp "strips his music (old and new) down to the bare essentials".moreless

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    • TRIVIA (1)

      • Song List

        Big River (Written by Johnny Cash)
        Performed by Elvis Costello (Guitar/Vocal), Kris Kristofferson (Guitar/Vocal)
        Rosanne Cash (Guitar/Vocal), Norah Jones (Guitar/Vocal)
        John Mellencamp (Guitar/Vocal) and John Leventhal (Electric Guitar)

        Small Town (Written by John Mellencamp)
        Performed By John Mellencamp (Guitar/Vocal)
        With Elvis Costello (Guitar), John Leventhal (Guitar) and Kris Kristofferson (Guitar)

        How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart
        (Written by Hank Williams/Norah Jones)
        Performed by Norah Jones (Guitar/Vocal)
        With Elvis Costello (Guitar/Vocal) and Kris Kristofferson (Guitar/Vocal)
        and John Leventhal (Electric Guitar)

        Sunday Morning Coming Down (Written by Kris Kristofferson)
        Performed by Kris Kristofferson (Guitar/Vocal)

        Seven Year Ache (Written by Rosanne Cash)
        Performed by Rosanne Cash (Guitar/Vocal) and Norah Jones (Vocal)
        With Elvis Costello (Guitar), Kris Kristofferson (Guitar), John Mellencamp (Vocal)
        and John Leventhal (Lead Guitar)

        From Sulfur To Sugarcane (Written by Elvis Costello/T-Bone Burnett)
        Performed by Elvis Costello (Guitar/Vocal) and John Leventhal (Lead Guitar)

        Longest Days (Written by John Mellencamp)
        Performed By John Mellencamp (Guitar/Vocal)

        April 5th (Written by R. Cash/E. Costello/K. Kristofferson)
        Performed by Rosanne Cash (Vocal), Elvis Costello (Guitar/Vocal)
        Kris Kristofferson (Guitar/Vocal) and John Leventhal (Lead Guitar)

        Here Comes That Rainbow Again (Written by Kris Kristofferson)
        Performed by Kris Kristofferson (Guitar/Harmonica/Vocal)

        Me And Bobby McGee (Written by Kris Kristofferson/Fred Foster)
        Performed by Kris Kristofferson (Guitar/Harmonica/Vocal)
        Rosanne Cash (Vocal), Norah Jones (Guitar/Vocal), Elvis Costello (Guitar/Vocal)
        John Mellencamp (Vocal) and John Leventhal (Lead Guitar)

    • QUOTES (14)

      • Elvis: Rosanne, I understand that when you were a girl, your dad used to have his pals around, and when I say your dad, I mean Johnny Cash.
        Rosanne: Oh, my God, he had everybody at these guitar pulls. I think the form, "Guitar Pull", originated in my dad's living room, that … the tradition of passing the guitar around, and each songwriter would try to best the one before him with a better song.

      • Rosanne: I think that …Joni Mitchell sang Both Sides Now for the first time in that living room. Kris Kristofferson sang Me And Bobby McGee for the first time in … Didn't you, that night? Yes. Now, that's history.

      • Kris: Bobby Dylan was there …
        Elvis: Yeah, what did he sing?
        Kris: … and Mickey Newbury … I can't remember what Dylan said. I was so in awe … I was (laughs) just standin' there listening. I can't remember what he sang. But I can't remember what I had for breakfast, so …

      • Elvis: I gotta remind John of something, apparently, I said in an interview : "You know what? That John Cougar Mellencamp, he doesn't want to go around with that stupid name." And … or some words to that effect. Now let me remind you of my stage name. Just think about it for a minute … It's what they say in England is "Brass Neck", you know? The … bold nerve of it.
        John: Okay, so did you come up with that name yourself or did somebody come up with it for you?
        Elvis: No, they just … came … a man came down on a flaming pie and said it … and gave it to me, so …
        John: That same thing happened to me!

      • Elvis: Norah … we've got this concept actually we're working on tonight. It's actually called The Highwaymen - The Next Generation … 'cause obviously we've got a head start, 'cause we've got Rosanne representing the Cash family. And the role of Kris Kristofferson will be played by … Kris Kristofferson. And your occasional group, The Little Willies is named after Willie Nelson, is that right? Yeah … (laughter) And we've got the, we've got … I'll tell ya …
        Norah: I'm glad we made you giggle, that's the best.
        Elvis: Well, I know … The Little Willies is named after Willie Nelson and we've got the pigtails and the weed backstage, so that if you wanna … if you wanna take that role … And Mellencamp and me, we'll arm wrestle for the Waylon role, okay?

      • Norah: I heard a lot of country music. I mean … my grandparents listened to Willie Nelson and Hank Williams and Johnny Cash and (looking at Kris) you … yeah, sorry. Yeah, I heard a lot of that music; and … I did come to New York and I started out singing jazz and wanting to be a jazz musician, but the country … that I heard growing up, it was always there.

      • Elvis: Hank Williams has only ever put me in the mind of Shakespeare. You know, it's that kind of purity and beauty and …
        Kris: But Shakespeare couldn't yodel.
        Elvis: Well, he couldn't yodel … and he looked lousy in a cowboy hat.

      • Elvis: It seems to me that your songs are written with precision, and one always assumes that some of this comes from … something from … our family.
        Roseanne: Yeah, I mean, I would assume part of it is genetic. My desire and drive to be a songwriter was so … relentless. It was … I didn't have a choice. That's what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't necessarily want to be a performer, I just wanted to be a songwriter. And my father had such profound respect for songwriters and for language, the English language. He delighted in the English language, and that was something we shared.

      • Roseanne (introducing Seven Year Ache): I used to say I wrote this song when I was half as old as I am now, but that's not even true anymore. It's like … almost a third as old as I am now. Pretty soon I'll be in quarter time.

      • Elvis (introducing From Sulfur To Sugarcane): This song sort of does … is a little bit of a travelogue. It … imagines … a campaigning politician who, this is gonna go out after the election so we can say what the hell we want. Eh, but it's a campaigning politician, nobody in particular in mind, except he goes around, you know, he's the kind of guy who flatters the women and gooses the men.

      • Elvis: Well, we have a pal in common, Mr. T-Bone Burnett. And T-Bone and I made a record together 22 years ago called King Of America, which was the first time I ever really turned the volume down and, you know, just picked up the acoustic guitar … And you've just made a record with him, which I think is one of … they say one of your very best … He seems to have found, like, a sound around you. You can connect it. It's not like it's a brand-new … you haven't changed your religion or nothin', you know …
        John: No, I'll tell you, Henry is just … has such an authentic, honest approach. You know him, but … you know him better than I do. But, making the record was so easy, but I didn't even care about the record when we were making it. I just enjoyed him, and it's very rare that you make a musical friend. The minute we met, we're on the same … wavelength, and the record was kind of made in between jokes.
        Kris: You said Henry?
        Elvis: Henry, yeah. He's Joseph Henry Burnett. T-Bone Burnett, yeah.
        Kris: I've known him longer than both of you together, and I never knew that …
        Elvis: He's been livin' under an assumed identity all these years.
        Kris: Yeah, you guys all have somethin' in common then.

      • John: I wrote all these songs in like 12-13 days. It was just one, you know, stream-of-consciousness. I wanted to write songs … I thought I was writing songs about politics and the nation, but it turned out to be from the Great American Songbook : songs about Life, Death, Love And Freedom, you know, which are not popular topics in pop music today. So, when I was writing these songs, it was just … I would get up in the morning and I would write, and I would write; and I'd go to bed and I'd write and I'd write - and before long I had like twenty-some songs. And I called up Henry, and I said "You want to make a record in a week?" He said "Yeah, that sounds great." So he came to Indiana … and a year later it was done.

      • Elvis: Rosanne, you've been writing a …
        Roseanne: Blog.
        Elvis: No, I won't say it.
        Roseanne: Okay.
        Elvis: You can't force me. But you write what I would call a journal, being the sort of 19th century kind-of-guy like I am.

      • Elvis: That's a thing that I hear, and it's a thing you share … with Rose and Rose's father, it's the work of a writer … Have you ever thought of writing a book?
        Kris: Well, yes … when I get old.

    • NOTES (3)

      • Elvis Costello's From Sulfur To Sugarcane, which he says is "a little bit of a travelogue" about "a campaigning politician", was written for the 2006 film All The King's Men but did not appear in the final cut. In concert, Elvis often adds different lyrics to this great unreleased tune, depending on where he's performing. The Elvis Costello Home Page on Wikipedia has a whole slew of often hilarious alternate lyrics which were performed in various locales.

      • This weeks guest guitarist extraordinaire, John Leventhal, is not only a Grammy Award-winning guitarist, composer, and music producer, he is the husband of Rosanne Cash.

      • This Week's Guest Musician

        John Leventhal (Guitar)

    • ALLUSIONS (1)

      • Elvis: "… a man came down on a flaming pie …"

        In explaining how he got his stage name, Elvis references The Beatles story about how they got their name. Paul McCartney (with whom Elvis has written some very nice songs) used the line in his tune, Flaming Pie. Paul recollects Lennon's tale of how the band got their famous name : "John joked that the name Beatles came in a vision from a man on a flaming pie, coming unto us … 'You are Beatles with an A.'"

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