Elvis Costello, the famed and iconic English singer-songwriter and producer, has experienced quite a career over the years. Releasing material since the late 1970s, Costello has won Grammy Awards on more than one occasion. It’s safe to say that his name is etched into the annals of music history.
However, even icons have favourites of their own—and who better to look up to than the greatest rock band of all time, The Beatles? Even for those who aren’t major Beatles fanatics, almost everyone has a Beatles track that hits just right for them, and Elvis Costello revealed his favourite, speaking in-depth about his love for a track featured on Revolver.
Costello said: “It might seem a little obvious, but I would pick ‘For No One’. Rubber Soul was the first album I remember thinking, ‘This is something about a world I don’t know.’ Up until then, all the Beatles songs had seemed very happy. Then there were darker things, more grown up things on Rubber Soul. Paul’s songs tended to remain quite joyful, but Lennon’s songs like ‘Girl’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’ had grown dark. Then Revolver comes out. That’s still my favorite of all Beatles records. It has both things. It has incredible choruses, but wild, innovative stuff.”
He continues, “You think about the moments that contradict everything we know. ‘For No One’ is everything that’s great about Paul McCartney in one song — except for the fact that it isn’t a rock ’n’ roll song, which he can do great. But it’s a really beautiful melody. He’s like a fantastic movie actor who doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t over-dramatize. The way he sings, so the slightest hint of emotion in the timbre of his voice — I know this is going to sound weird, but I hear it sounding like records from the ’20s and ’30s almost. There’s no vibrato. There’s some timbre, and I suppose the word people would use is ‘wistful.'”
About the lyrical genius of the song, Costello adds: “To me it’s his best lyric, not that there aren’t many others after that and before. It’s the one where, I think, you could make a case for how unique a lyricist he is. It’s not a song anyone else has written. Not even remotely like a song I can think of. And not really many since, the way it’s laid out. And yet, aside from all that, the telling of the story is like that of a playwright.”
The musician concluded: “The beauty of the McCartney tune is you could just sing along and it not occur to you, but the minute it does occur to you, it’s inescapable.” And it’s tough to argue with that. Like many others, it is the beauty of a McCartney tune, and ‘For No One’ is a great example of exactly what he’s talking about.