(I Don’t Want to Go to) SavOn

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Wandering the Albertsons/SavOn at Vineyard and Foothill in Rancho Cucamonga the other day, I was surprised to hear Elvis Costello’s “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” on the music system.

This was not a hit. Costello didn’t really have any hits outside the U.K. This was a track dropped when the album “This Year’s Model” was configured for release in America, popping up only on a compilation album of stray tracks, “Taking Liberties,” circa 1980. Urgent, rebellious, spiky in both lyrics and guitar attack, the song was considered New Wave, its singer a typical British Angry Young Man.

I love Costello’s work from that period, although like most of his songs, it’s catchy, but I have no idea what it’s about. (Neither does anyone else.) One section:

Men come screaming, dressed in white coats
Shake you very gently by the throat
One’s named Gus, one’s named Alfie
I don’t want to go to Chelsea

And now, some three decades later, this sentiment was safe enough to be played at a chain supermarket/pharmacy as shoppers loaded their carts with breakfast cereal and frozen pizza. What does this say about music? About us? What would Elvis think?

Walking toward me in the aisle was a thirtysomething hipster in a tweed jacket, beard and jagged haircut. He paused and looked up wonderingly at the ceiling, presumably as baffled as I was.

I compliment the chain’s music programmers on their adventurousness, worry about the commodification of rebellion and wonder what we’ll be listening to in supermarkets in 2039.

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  • Longerboard

    Having been an impressionable youth back in the thin tie era of 1980, I had myself a copy of Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model, and wore the vinyl disc out. I’m always surprised at how well music of the late 70′s and early 80′s holds up when compared to today’s offerings. My now 21-year-old son is a classic fan too, knowing the lyrics to as many Boston hits as anything current.

    I asked him the other day which of today’s artists he thought would still get air time 20 or 30 years hence. He didn’t have an answer. Maybe that era was better? Glory Days, maybe they don’t pass you by.

  • http://diversitown.blogspot.com meg

    I admitted to myself that I was old when I heard the Clash’s “London Calling” in a Wells Fargo.

    [Those anti-capitalists in a bank? Yow. Hey, maybe Albertsons should play the Clash's "Lost in the Supermarket." -- DA]

  • Dennis

    Hi David,

    “Costello didn’t really have any hits outside the U.K.”????

    I’m not a real big fan of his, but it seems to me that “Red Shoes”, “Alison”, “Watching the Detectives”, and “Radio, Radio” were pretty good-sized hits here in the states.

    What do you listen to, Christian rock?

    Dennis

    [I guess it depends how you define "good-sized hits." None of those titles made the Top 40, which was my point. I bought "Trust" in 1981 and my high school classmates thought I was being willfully obscure. Nobody I knew listened to him. -- DA]

  • John Clifford

    Yes, just the other day I heard Twisted Sister’s “We Ain’t Gonna Take It” on one of the ballroom dancing programs. YIKES! Twisted Sister for ballroom dancing? Elvis Costello for Savon Muzak?

    Next thing you know, we’ll be seeing a 60s anti establishment icon selling us retirement plans — Oh, Dennis Hopper is already doing that!

    The times they are a changin’.

  • shirley wofford

    Hi David,

    I had always loved the song, “We are the Champions”, and never thought about or cared who wrote and performed it. “We will Rock You” is played everywhere, and I didn’t know who wrote it either. I was not a fan of anyone particular during the rock- pop eras of the 70′s and 80′s. I did not become aware of the band Queen until recently. When I saw one of its concert videos on public television a year ago, I was wowed.

    When I was getting my hair cut the other day, the salon music system was playing “I’m Having a Great Time”, Freddie singing. The hair stylist didn’t know who they were.

    I hear Queen’s music playing in the supermarket sometimes. I think it’s the type of music that is listenable, but nobody seems to know or care about the group of four musical geniuses behind it all.

    [In the supermarket, it's all just background noise, until a song jumps out at you. -- DA]

  • Robin Young

    When I first heard “China Girl” — in an elevator, no less — I thought “wow, an Iggy Pop song as Muzak, first sign of the apocalypse.”

    [Elvis C. in the supermarket might be the second sign...except there were probably a ton of signs in between (like Meg hearing the Clash at Wells Fargo). -- DA]

  • RK

    This article was horrible.

    When I went to the store this evening, I was consciously listening to the muzak! I was so engrossed with “Nobody But You” by Loggins & Messina that I forgot to pick up the oyster sauce that I expressly went to the store to get!

    [Oh, you kidder. -- DA]

  • Danny Mac

    Hey Dave:

    I think you’re absolutely correct in saying that Elvis was extremely underground in the music world, having been to many of his concerts from Long Beach Arena to Beverly Theater to sitting up at the the top of Universal and singing to the whole crowd in a unplugged setting with 15 other Elvis fans.

    It always amazed me when I threw on a Costello vinyl at my house it seemed to clear the room?

    Yea, back then the party animals wanted to hear Journey, Boston, Kansas and I was into Specials, Graham Parker, and the one of the greatest songwriters of our generation…Elvis!!!

    Thanks for the link on song meanings and thanks to Albertson’s for introducing Elvis to Inland Empire shoppers. Sometimes I sing I don’t wanna go to Rancho.

    What’s so Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding, now that is the theme song for Pomona.

    [Yeah, my classmates were all listening to AC/DC and REO Speedwagon. I loved Graham Parker too, Danny.. -- DA]

  • judi

    A tad off the subject, but in response to John’s comment about odd pitchmen, I saw this commercial early one Sunday morning: https://www.hearingaidtv.com/Default.asp?

    Does he look thrilled to be doing this? It’s just sad.

  • Charles Quinn

    My favorite is the 99 cents store, they play many jam bands including the Grateful Dead.