“Alison” by Elvis Costello (1977)

This is as pretty as unrequited love songs get. Might be the prettiest unrequited love song ever written.

Is Alison’s husband really treating her like shit, or is Elvis just a pining ex? Can you be a bitter ex and still close out with a line like “my aim is true”? (it certainly makes me feel sympathetic for the song’s protagonist.) How does the story end? A movie script could be written based on these three minutes, and there have certainly been enough flicks made in the last forty years that this song has had to serve as inspiration for one of them.

Whenever I think of my favorite songwriters, Elvis Costello falls slightly under the radio. Maybe it’s because I’m not as familiar with his music as I am Stevie’s, or The Beatles’, or James Taylor’s or Paul Simon’s or Marvin Gaye’s or…you get the picture. Still, he ranks high on my list of amazing lyricists. And while “Alison” wasn’t the first of his songs I became familiar with, it’s definitely where the lightbulb in my head turned on to this guy’s genius.

If there’s not a reggae remake of “Alison”, someone has been massively asleep at the wheel. The tempo is perfect for a Barrington Levy-style lovers rock cover.

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