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Another Bottle of Inspiration
That Fatal Mailing List #83: "The Big Light" (1986)
“The Big Light” does not tell a complicated story—it’s a hangover song. If you’ve ever woken up the morning after a solid bender, you know the “big light” of which Elvis Costello writes.
But it’s an incredible hangover song, which Costello wrote in the aftermath of a particularly liquid recording session earlier that year. He nails the details, a series of realizations that cascade through the song with the same racing pace that your mind has when you wake up hung over. The performance is a stunner, two-and-a-half minutes of first-take magic from a group of true musical miracle workers.
For this session, producer T-Bone Burnett recruited members of Elvis Presley’s classic “T.C.B.” band—guitarist James Burton, bassist Jerry Scheff, and drummer Ron Tutt. You can Google these names just as easily as I can; suffice it to say that they’re musicians for whom the term “legendary” seems somehow inadequate.
Or you can just listen to the record and you’ll get why they’re legends immediately. These guys leap into the song with abandon and a natural chemistry that you can hear in every note. Burton’s lead guitar drives the action and Scheff and Tutt seem to gallop behind, but in total concert together, like the front and back legs of a horse. The front legs may pull in the right direction, but it’s the back legs that drive the steed forward.
Stream the song on the service of your choice.