Get Happy!! (Elvis Costello album)

Get Happy!! (Elvis Costello album)
Get Happy!!
Studio album by Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Released February 15, 1980
Recorded October 1979
Genre New wave
Punk Rock
2 Tone
Blue-Eyed Soul
Length 48:08
Label F-Beat Records UK
Columbia US
Demon/Rykodisc (April 29, 1994 Reissue)
Rhino (September 9, 2003 Reissue)
Hip-O (May 1, 2007 Reissue)
Producer Nick Lowe
Elvis Costello and the Attractions chronology
Armed Forces
Get Happy!!
Taking Liberties

The fourth album by Elvis Costello, his third with the Attractions, Get Happy!! is notable for being a dramatic break in tone from Costello's previous "trilogy" of commercially successful albums, and for being heavily influenced by R&B 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.[1]

The title may be a reference to gospel music, where "getting happy" is synonymous with receiving the Holy Spirit (a meaning that Costello himself hints at in the liner notes to the 2003 edition of the album). The title may also refer to the Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler song of the same name.

In 1989, it was rated #11 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s.



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 Costello referred to James Brown as a "jive-arsed 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 in order 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[2], but as Costello writes in the liner notes for the 2002 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.[3]

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"[4] (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 with an R&B hook. On their U.S. 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.[3]

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.[3] The exception to this was "New Amsterdam" which was recorded solo by Costello in a small studio in Pimlico.

With twenty 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.[4] 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

The Get Happy!! sleeve was designed by F-Beat art director Barney Bubbles,[5] 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

The original release of the album was on 12-inch vinyl and cassette. It was unusual for a 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'[3]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau (B)[6]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[7]
Stylus Magazine (favorable)[8]

Although the album received generally positive reviews upon its release, praise wasn't as unconditional as it had been for its predecessors. Rolling Stone's original review stated that "if the new album is hard to get into, it's also difficult to ignore"[9] but a later review incorporated into its album guide gave it 4.5/5 stars, calling it a "tour de force".[7] Robert Christgau gave it a B, saying that there were "lotsa duds"[6]. In the Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop music critics' poll, the album placed 7th overall for 1980, 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.[10]

Track listing

All songs written by Elvis Costello unless otherwise indicated.

Side one

  1. "Love for Tender" – 1:57
  2. "Opportunity" – 3:13
  3. "The Imposter" – 1:58
  4. "Secondary Modern" – 1:58
  5. "King Horse" – 3:01
  6. "Possession" – 2:03
  7. "Men 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 Jones) – 2:06
  2. "Black & 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 Smith)– 2:21
  10. "Riot Act" – 3:35

Bonus tracks (1994 Rykodisc)

  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" – 2:48
  11. "Love for Tender" (Demo, ends abruptly, accidentally left on master) – 1:39 (not listed)[citation needed]

Bonus Disk (2002 Rhino)

  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" – 2:28
  6. "Motel Matches" (Alternate version) – 2:27
  7. "Clowntime Is Over" – 3:46
  8. "B Movie" (Alternate version) – 2:26
  9. "Girls Talk" – 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. "Men 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) – 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.



Chart positions

Chart (1980) Position
Australian Albums Chart[11] 25
Canadian Albums Chart[12] 24
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[13] 34
New Zealand Albums Chart [14] 9
Norwegian VG-lista Albums Chart[15] 11
Swedish Albums Chart[16] 6
UK Albums Chart [17] 2
United States Billboard 200[18] 11

Year-end charts

Chart (1980) Position
UK Albums Chart[19] 33


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[20] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[21] Gold 100,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ "Lyric Snippet Quizzes". Laser's Edge Compact Discs. April 3, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-03. 
  2. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Get Happy!! (Elvis Costello album) at Allmusic. Retrieved 20 Jun 2005.
  3. ^ a b c d (2003) Album notes for Get Happy!! by Elvis Costello and the Attractions [Inset]. USA: Rhino Entertainment (R2 73908).
  4. ^ a b (2003) Album notes for Get Happy!! by Elvis Costello and the Attractions [Inset]. USA: Rykodisc (RCD 20275).
  5. ^ "Barney Bubbles". MSN. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  6. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Elvis Costello: Get Happy!! > Consumer Guide Review". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 17 Apr 2006. 
  7. ^ a b Brackett, Nathan with Hoard, Christian, eds (2004). "Elvis Costello". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved 26 Aug 2010. 
  8. ^ Stylus Magazine review
  9. ^ Carson, Tom (April 17, 1980). "Elvis Costello Get Happy!! > Album Review". Rolling Stone (315). Archived from the original on 14 April 2008. Retrieved 17 Apr 2006. 
  10. ^ "The 1980 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. February 9, 1981. Retrieved 27 Aug 2010. 
  11. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  12. ^ Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2011-10-24
  13. ^ " Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Get Happy!!" (in Dutch) (ASP). MegaCharts.!!&cat=a. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  14. ^ " - Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Get Happy!!" (ASP). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand.!!&cat=a. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  15. ^ " Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Get Happy!!" (ASP). VG-lista.!!&cat=a. Retrieved 2011-09-18. 
  16. ^ " Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Get Happy!!" (in Swedish) (ASP). Sverigetopplistan.!!&cat=a. Retrieved 2011-09-18. 
  17. ^ "Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Get Happy!!". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  18. ^ Allmusic - Elvis Costello > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums
  19. ^ "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  20. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Elvis Costello – Get Happy". Music Canada. 
  21. ^ "British album certifications – Elvis Costello – Get Happy". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Get Happy in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go

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