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How does genius emerge? An exploration of different types of innovation—through the lens of Elvis Costello’s extraordinary song “Deportee,” once utterly forgettable and then, through time and iteration, a work of beauty and genius.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
In nineteen eighty four Elvis Stella released his night, damn good by cruel world bought at the wicked came out, because I bought every Elvis Costello out and back then the wicked came out. There's a theory psychology them. If you listen to it ages, nineteen and twenty as the music get imprints itself most deeply on your consciousness you make a list of your favorite songs. You'll, see what I mean anyway, I was twenty in eighteen. Eighty or so I remember goodbye crew world. I listen. Right away, and this episode, is about one song on that album is called, the deportees club I still have it on. Vinyl goes like this, Oh god, it's awful.
My name, is welcome. Welcome to it in its history? My podcast about things forgotten misunderstood? this week I want to go back to Elvis Costello in nineteen. Eighty four, I should say you dont, have to know anything about Elvis, Costello or even like his music to be interested in this story. About talking about deportees club has a song, but as a symbol, I'm interested in understanding how creativity works and have chosen deportees club, as my case study, for the purely arbitrary reason that I'm obsessed with it- and maybe hopefully you will two points are finished: deportees, is the second to last song in the bees side of good by cruel world. The album cover
a picture of a little mountain top with two trees on with Castello this ban members in very strange poses it's all very eightys the wreck, was produced by two legends of the british music scene at the time Langer and Alan Wind Stanley, you ve prob heard some of the work they do It is madness, night call David Bowie, virtually all of read English New wave hit songs of the nineteen eighties and early ninety nineties, Clive Langer, and when Stanley, with a guy's behind the curtain, don't know if you ve ever heard, come on Eileen by decks midnight runners, come on Eileen! Oh, I swear what he means had. Smoke. You mean everything now a terrible singer, but maybe you can make that out. That's all Langer Winston Clive Langer knows Elvis Costello. Of course they would be. Ben to each other in the way the people in a small world always bump into each other and new,
a music in a nineteen eightys was small world, a one point, Langen has his own band and it was doing a show in a river boat in the river mercy. Castello calls him up, I'll, come up and play a few, before you go on. That's Langer. We met Papa lowest in road and hackneyed North London, he slightly spidery with close cropped, white, hair and oversized glasses and the kind of guy business that only the English seem to possess an absent delightful person, fathers, English and all older. Charming Englishman, remind me of my father. We had some tea It was all very civilised, backed Elvis Costello. He came up employ ITALY's his best songs, unease is hits about and everything
Alison cells first place. Then I had to go and do my first ever showed with the same line, and we want good. So I don't know I didn't know how to take. If you detect a bit of friction in that you're, not wrong advocacy. It was a genius and like a lot of geniuses, he has a really strong personality, a fee. Years pass and Castello record label decides they want to broaden its commercial appeal, has a fan the following among those who know new aid music but the label once a big commercial head They turned to the hit makers Langer and Stanley and the two produce a record for Castello call punch the clock, which has a number of absolutely exquisite songs, including building which lay
a cholera without system, you spot you, collaborate on hunch, the clock and you like that. Yes, he doesn't he doesn't know Why is he unhappy with it? I think it was to commercial that time and that he wanted to write something simpler, more live more, you know moreover, purists than I am Salzburg up, psychedelic popping made sixty sellers do this renewed and he I want it sounds real and live up to their nose, but some and when you get that right, that's amazing, I want to hear a little bit more about punch the clock about whether
perspective. Had an impact on the on the way the record turned out not so much so what we do know we have tension later, which told you what we did have when we did the playback, consequently quite drunk and played it back really loud. Of course they did and how Would you killed, who have been in the room with him and he freetown. Rubbish is: is this terrible terrible, nice item? Calm down of it, we'll carried on The time comes to make the next autumn. Oh turns to language Winstanley again, this time. The first thing he said is, I want to call it could biker world. I think it's going to be my last album if it didn't even tell the band so use confiding in me, they do first run through record Now the songs live longer. The producer. The one is supposed to be running the show, but it
Thirdly, there's an issue Elvis basically takes over, because he's quite forcefully, powerful guy, very eloquent lovely becomes barging in start changing times when you So remember: Santer, thanks for Maybe if you listen to my record but but I think you should go light, I shouldn't be lightness, serves a bit A bit of a stand off any renowned for lodging I asked Langer why Castello said this was going to be his last album, like he was an old man ready to retire. It wasn't even thirty The he's had a law on his back being thrown out. I don't know if you wanted to carry on playing the game at that point. The result is disastrous. Hated goodbye, cruel world. When I first heard it and remember
I'm a massive Elvis Costello fan a couple of years ago, cost Oh, did a television variety show called spectacle. Gentlemen? Would you please wait a little while ago, in any episode, worry interviews, Niccolo, immature Thompson, the can pansy audience and twice you see me grinning madly, as they said, I'm a massive Elvis, Costello FIN and believe me, when I say good by cruel world was unless Annabelle, especially deportees club angry and loud and upsetting, but I'm not the only one who feels that in nineteen ninety five, the album released by Riker Disk records and L. Stella rights in the liner notes can populations you just pay
is our worst album to kind of admirers. Honesty except on that same release. Castello in a new version of deportees club. The songs of the original album he hates so much he gives it a new melody employ by himself an acoustic version shortened the title to deportee fiddles with some of the lyrics and it never peers anywhere else just it's random released by Riker descriptors whenever that is- and I wouldn't I've heard it accepted. My friend Bruce, ran across it and played it. For me, please, the way was also in the audience. If that Elvis Costello tv show grinning madly anyway Bruce, now used to make mixed tapes for each other, and he puts This new version deportee on a mix tape for my birthday become obsessed with it about. I see,
part of it to myself almost every day, I don't really know why, but be one of my favorite songs. Ever there's a line in it. The jumps into my head whenever I am sad so perfect, a little put about the dissolution of romantic love, and you don't know where start or where to stop all this. Low talk is finally Ta Gang Shop and we play it yet I'm in the pub with Clive Langer. The producer of the original awful version, deportees club. Strangely, he'd, never heard the new, obscure and amazing version of the song. Do so long ago when you hear the his new version, yeah yeah so founded on my phone and Langer leaned his head over the table so that his ear would be right. Next to the tiny phone speaker, This is one
ah, it's kinda consumed the sooner he didn't know at the time. I do the death. What munificent fascinating did neither of you in the moment. No, sometimes you know, if he's not sounding right, maybe I don't know. Maybe we would not focused enough,
making a record, but we'll will away in the end Elvis Costello and his producers or thought they had put something mediocre, they didn't understand until much later was that that media pretty contained a bit of genius. It's just that hadn't become genius. Yet, that's what I want to talk about time and adoration. What happens when genius takes a sweet time to emerge? I know that this is just one three minutes song. Maybe you don't even like it, but every I hear it. I think the same thing which is this is something that gives a lot of people in the world pleasure, including me, and an almost didn't happen if Allison,
doesn't go back and revisit deportees club turn it into deportee? We miss all that beauty and the thought of that. It breaks my heart. There's a theory. Creativity that I've always loved. It's ninety that an economist, named David Gales and came up with gales is an art lover and it still him when looking at modern art there two very different trajectories. A great artist seem to take. On the one hand, There are those who do their best work very early in their life. They tend to work quickly. They have specific ideas that they want to communicate and they cannot take eight those ideas. Clearly they plan precisely and meticulously. Then they execute boom Johnson calls them conception, Oh innovators, because what's a great example, bursts on the scene in his early twenties and elect defies the art world the turn of the last century. I think that some
like Picasso is who we have in mind when we think of that word genius the killings and says wait a minute. There's a a kind of creativity because experimental innovation expense innovators, but who never have a clear, easily articulated idea. They don't work quickly start off. You don't really know where they're going. They were trial and error. They do endless drafts paper. Truly unsatisfied. You can take them I have time to figure out what they want to say. Who is it Example, says on every as famous and important painters, Picasso, maybe the greatest of the impressions who reinvent modern art in Paris and the lady to negotiate with on genius and picassos genius that could not be met. When we start with your favorite, do you have a favorite
maybe my family at the moment- is that one by talking to a man named John Elder field, he's a season expert, and he took me to the gallery the Metropolitan Museum in New York, where they had all their citizens easily. You billion dollars worth of paintings in one room, and it took only about five minutes wandering from picture. To picture the elder field to see experimental genius? Inaction So this is someone one of the many portraits of firm his wife's that says unmade it's one of four pictures done in a short period of time window living together in Paris This is on we're looking at it. Jim a middle aged woman. Seated her head is till. Slightly to the side, As with a lot of citizens portraits, we can see only one of her ears, you didn't, doing the second dear, she said, quietly almost floating in the chair and, I think,
one. Arguably, the greatest one of the greatest one that he did. It's one of a series of force, similar portraits elder, Feel says that the first You are a little smaller, looser may. One traced from another and then a third. Looks like the one we're looking at, but without any background painted in just a figure, is typical of the way he worked, so he just essentially comes back to her four times a year and then you'll get it right. But it's my assumption here. Because what I was thinking when I said that bit about he gets it right, the fourth time was it. If says on, did for versions him two been marching towards some kind of preordained conclusion he has idea and he's perfecting it, but that's not seize on standard practice. Is you do a sketch worker The problems do a finnish version says: kind of starts in the middle what version of citizens portrait of his wife, the one
looking at is less finished than his second and third so. If it's somebody, you can see this unfinished parts of putative Lee unfinished cards made like the area of the dress that, by this light, you can really see the grounds of the convalescent all the way through the love part you can see, he's been putting this dress, strikes down and not actually telling them all together. Seize on didn't work according to some clear linear plan. He basically Just did versions over and again adoration after adoration trying stumble on something that seized his imagination, many of them bones. Paintings are unsigned because he doesn't want to admit to himself that he's done. He just pull of his art dealer Ambrose, Va Lard and he makes him for a hundred sittings hundred hundred. Normally they would be how many now nominally for purchase. It would just be a relatively short number five us and then why do you need a hundred exact
What's so? What's he doing all the time Since I was never finished, this is what Hey begins, in means by experimental genius again It points out that you can see this creative type in virtually every field- Herman Melville publishes Moby Dick. When he's thirty two rights it in a heartbeat he's, Picasso Mark TWAIN publishes Hugson when he's in his late fortys and it takes forever because he ends up obsessively riding in writing the end. He said Orson Welles does Citizen Kane Wendy's twenty four Picasso, Alfred Hitchcock doesn't reach his prime until his mid 50s after he spent his entire career, making one thriller after another playing with the genre over and over again his own, but there's one field
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Featured in countless tv and movie soundtracks. If you ride the New York City Subway on a regular basis, you'll, probably Europe Oscar singing at virtually every day, like a good Canadian, go to a Canada celebration every year at Jos, Parliament Hatton, where local artists sing. Cover versions of canadian songs every year, someone does a version of Hallelujah every year. Brings down the house, and here was interesting about that song. It is so not because it is so text Caesar. A few years ago the music. Alan light. Wrote an absolutely wonderful book and entire book on the song Hallelujah. It's called the holy or the broken. And one of the big seems, is how peculiar Leonard Cohen he's a poet at orchard. He has a writer in that way that he labors over what these
the are line by line word by word throws a lot away spends a great deal of time and how a Louisa, famously out of all of these is probably the song that that he says the devil them the most? That's our light. He came by my house one day to talk about how Louis he saw was chasing Some idea with this song and couldn't find it and just kept writing in writing and and depending when he tells the story, wrote the or sixty or seventy verses, which is for the song, which I don't mean you ve been writing about music for amendment. You have you ever heard of musician who wrote indifferent, I own, I don't think so I mean I don't know what that not enough. That means variations on verses. I don't have. That means entirely like home. Of this is exaggerated, but it doesn't matter it's in a whole other to hold another level. While there is a famous story that torn and Bob Dylan have this kind of mutual admiration thing apparently they met up in the he's at some point. They were both in Paris and they
to meet in a cafe and Dylan said: oh, I like that that's on how which is a fascinating piece of this story that really the first person paid attention to how aluys as an important song was Bob Dylan, but he said so energy like that's. How long do you work on that? and then it said, I told him that I worked on it for two years, which was a lie Cohen later confirmed. It took him much longer then oh and asks Dylan how long it took. Right the song I and I and Bob said yeah. Fifteen minutes Dillon Picasso would lead it's not the first thought best thought school at all and he talks about you. Being a hotel room? Is underwear banging his head on the floor because he couldn't solve the song Hallelujah Leonard, spend five years, in writing our Louis he fell We recorded in nineteen eighty four, it's for an album how various positions when and finishes recording the songs he takes
to his record label, which is CBS to the head CBS who's. This legend figuring Walter, yet knockoff who's, the guy who releases Michael Jackson, thriller and Bruce Springsteen's born new. I say not a dumb guy Yennikhan. Listen to co and songs and says what is this? we're not releasing it to disaster the album ends up being released by the independent label passport records. It bear makes a ripple and if you back and listen to that first Hallelujah and try to forget her beauty, future versions would be The songs failure makes sense. Not very it isn't say written by Michael Marcel about the trajectory of Hallelujah and he The current original version, so hyper serious that it's almost satire
turgid. Isn't it the cones not done he keeps tinkering with it. He play in concert any slows down. It becomes twice as long. He changed. The first three verses leaving on final versus the same. The song becomes eat darker this time around This is not some kind of nights one night. When is playing this version at the Beacon ballroom in New York and the musician John Cale happens to be in the audience Kalen, a legend used to being there. Of an underground a really pay the figure in the rock and roll avant garde.
He hears. The song come out of Cohen's mouth blown away, so we going to send in the lyrics he wants to do a version of it. So Cohen faxes, him fifteen pages, who know What the lyrics actually art. This point: chaos the his version. He took the cheeky parts is abusing the first two verses of the original combined with reverses from the lie performance. I'll changes. Some words. Most importantly, he changes the theme and back the biblical references the Kohen had in the album version.
We gotta see that some dry nine its scene, careless really the one who cracks the code of Hallelujah. According to our night, this cover version appears on a Leonard Cohen, tribute, album, put together by a french music magazine. It was called Your fan, came out and ninety ninety one almost nobody, but I'm your fan except weirdly me. I think I found it in the remainder been in a little record store on Colombia, Road in Washington Dc. Another person who bought I'm. Your fan was a woman named Janine who lived in peace slope in Brooklyn she
good friends with a young aspiring singer named Jeff Buckley used to house, sit at her apartment and one time when bucklers there he happens to see the city of I'm your fan. It plays it here's John Calles version of Hallelujah and decide to do his own version of that version. He performs it I need a little bar in the EAST village, called she nay, where he had was to be heard by an executive from Colombia records. So Colombia, I could end up signing Buckley and he will what's his version of Hallelujah for the grace, which ends up being please first and only studio up on it came nineteen. Eighty four
you the whole No I'm guessing bucklers version is the one you most familiar with its defeat. This one, the definitive one, it's not really a cover of Leonard Cohen Hallelujah. It's a cover. On Calles, Cover of Leonard Cohen Hallelujah, only with Calles Piano swap doubt for a guitar and, of course, Buckley Swaps, kills voice for his own extraordinary voice.
Yeah eh subsequent cover and there had been. Hundreds are really covers. A Buckley cover Caille covering Cohen so the evolution finally stops, but wait now really luckily records a song in eighteen. Ninety, four, still, nobody particular pays attention to it. I mean again in retrospect we think of Jeff Buckley. As this important figure in this big influence on radio hadn't coldplay, but nobody bought grace. Nobody just record when it came out. It peaked at number hundred sir stay on the charts or something it was a huge disappointment. After all that, around him, so
didn't make it ahead. Buckley is incredibly handsome man. Looks almost cereal, like Jesus with incredible voice. But None of that is enough until nineteen ninety seven, when some tragic, happens: Barclays in Memphis, any go swimming in one of the channels of the Mississippi he's wearing boots. Knowledge, clothing and singing the chorus of whole lot. Love by leds happen any vanishes. Never seen again. That tragedy suddenly propels his work and hollow Louis into the spotlight. In its really kind of you know, as you hit the new century, that's when the snowball kind of starts the first, You covers the first few soundtrack placements its fifteen years since Leonard Where did this song Fifteen years, think about how many incredible twists and turns that song takes before
is recognised as a work of genius It just happens to the independent label. Passport records releases, the first version after the album, its own is rejected by CBS records. Then, and our common doesn't give up, keeps tinkering and performing new versions of Hallelujah John Caille, one of the most influential musicians of his era happens to hear Cohen doing. He revises the song. Some more calles version goes out on the obscure french city, I'm a fan which goes nowhere except Janine Living Room in park. Slope engineering happens to have a house sitter who happens to play. It happens to like it. Happens to have an ethereal amazing boys Buckley. Goes nowhere until he friends to die under the most dramatic and heartbreaking of circumstances. And then finally, we record as the genius of the sun but think of
How fragile and elusive that bit of genius is, if any of those incredibly random things don't happen, you probably would never have heard Hallelujah. I dont think this crazy chain of happenstance matters so much with conceptual innovations. Paul Simon one says a bridge for trouble water, one of the most Peter pop songs ever written. It came so fast, and when it was done. I said: where did that? Come from It doesn't seem like me. The sun came perfectly You can evaluate it right away. It doesn't choir fifteen years worth of twists and turns and random events, the will is really good at capturing conceptual creations, or at least we dont Miss is many conceptual works because they don't choir that the stars be perfectly aligned. But if you says on first version you produce is just
starting point and you never know exactly what you're doing or why or whether you work has finished or not. Stars really do have to be aligned. Susan was his own worst enemy and away. He threw up Barry after barrier. He wasn't thinking of when he painted his paintings. That was John Elder feels point the art of Experimental innovator is elusive. There some of them, which now in museums, which we know he had tried to destroy. We can see in some of them the cases of way slush, that Canada says why We destroy his own canvasses. He had certain
ideas about what you wanted to do and felt that he actually never was actually getting to that point. There are other pain to eastern much later, where peace, employee abundance them, because they said that what actually engaged he says is says and doubt his uncertainty he's he's. Obsessive is absolutely just totally obsessive Elvis Costello Deportee in its original flood form? It comes out in nineteen. Eighty four, the same year by the way that how do you first came in and I'm not sure, that's a coincidence, because nineteen. Eighty four is a very particular moment in pop music. The biggest album of that year was Michael Jackson's thriller partner.
Gloss to perfection, is not a single stray note or emotional that record it's the antithesis of songs like Hallelujah or Deportee, along comes Castelo. He wants to, an album in the midst of that cultural moment he's not interested in glossy perfection. His marriage is breaking up, he's having financial difficulties. He says later that language, when Stanley were ill equipped for dealing with some one of my temperament. At that time, with a large sedative syringe might have been more appropriate rights. A series of dark emotional bitter songs, greedy and spare ouch mood something not nineteen. Eighty four Meanwhile, Langer and Winstanley had been brought on board to produce hits polished scheme. Every little bit pondered over and care thought about and put together very carefully army had been so scrupulously at that time,
Spending nine months on a Solomon. China Horn spending for weeks on the snare, sound, The tribes too I was an album by a hugely pop the Bank of Frank he goes to Hollywood, spend a month just getting a particular drum sound right. So we went about poverty, but we you do to me the world that was, you know, affection. It was through shorter, make pop perfection. You can imagine what happened when that world collides with Elvis Costello. It sounded like the band Gunnar, not very cited by some of the material, so it wasn't Greg Summers where we did it very quickly, but does quickly mean in the time it too who owns a snare sounds two tribes says about three or four weeks now than it was Mass, actionism in a hurry. That's how you to the bitter words can actually you ve just bought my worst album
by cruel world, is not good its admissible it's what happens next? That matters people always say put. Your failure behind you get on with your life, never look back was Castello. Does none of those things because he says on he's, not Picasso. He carries around a little black book where he writes draft after draft after drafted the songs you thinking about, He changes lines in the middle of songs, he's already recorded he rearranges songs a different tempoed or indifferent time signatures. He can valises his own work quitting new songs out of old songs, and I don't know where to start or where to stop he doesn't sign is named the painting and thank God there. But like him and saves on in this world, because with it the obsessive and perpetually dissatisfied and the artists who go back over and over again repainting
others, see as finished. We would never have seen the beauty of deportee and you do stop stop this is now. Yeah you been listening to revisionist history. If you like you ve heard. Do to favour and radius on Itunes. You can get more information about this and other episodes at revision? history, dot com or your favorite podcast. Are always produced by mere Labelle, Roxana and Jacob Smith Editor is Julia. Barton, music is concerned, caused by Luis Kara oh yes, whose our
fly williamsons our engineer and our fact checker is Michel. Sirocco come too patently management team is Laura Mayor, Andy, Bowers and Jacob Iceberg welcome on July. Turn twenty fifteen, a young woman named Sandra Bland was stopped by a police officer on a high in Rural Texas. Then everything went wrong. I've written book called talking to strangers. It starts with that encounter, but I didn't just right. For the page I recorded an audio book as well new kind of audio book that allows you to hear the voices of the people. I talk to and come with me to the places I go because You shouldn't just listen to an audio book. You should experience it
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Transcript generated on 2020-01-12.