The fourth album by Elvis Costello, his third with the Attractions, Get Happy!! is notable for being a dramatic break in tone from Costello's previous "trilogy" of commercially successful albums, and for being heavily influenced by R&B and soul music. The cover art was intentionally designed to have a "retro" feel, to look like the cover of an old LP with ring wear on both front and back.
The title may be a reference to gospel music, where "getting happy" is synonymous with receiving the Holy Spirit (a meaning that Costello himself hints at in the liner notes to the 2003 edition of the album). The title may also refer to the Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler song of the same name.
In 1989, it was rated #11 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s.
It has been suggested that the R&B influence on the album was an attempt to atone for his comments, but as Costello writes in the liner notes for the 2002 Rhino version,
It might have been tempting to claim that I had some noble motive in basing this record on the music that I had admired and learned from prior to my brush with infamy. But if I was trying to pay respects and make such amends, I doubt if pride would have allowed me to express that thought after I had made my rather contrived explanation... I simply went back to work and relied on instinct, curiosity, and enduring musical passions.
The band had played some of the songs during the "Armed Funk Tour" and had rehearsed them for the record, but were dissatisfied with the sound, feeling it was too "New Wave" (some of the original versions can be found on disc 2 of the Rhino release). They then went back and re-arranged many of the songs with an R&B hook. On their U.S. tours, Costello had been able to find a number of R&B records of his favourite artists and having been listening to them during the rehearsals, decided to emulate the feel of those songs.
The band recorded the album at Wisseloord Studio in Hilversum, Netherlands, in an attempt to isolate themselves from distractions, but they were still able to keep themselves drunk during the recording sessions. The exception to this was "New Amsterdam" which was recorded solo by Costello in a small studio in Pimlico.
With twenty songs on the original album, the vinyl cutting and pressing process had to be precise to fit all of them on the two sides of the record. A commercial for the album, added as a hidden track on the Rhino Records remaster, jokes about the album's length and number of songs.
The original album sleeve reversed the two sides; side one began with "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down" (the current single) and ended with "Riot Act". The second side started with "Love for Tender" and ended with "High Fidelity". Only on the record labels themselves was the true running order revealed. The album was reviewed in the sleeve order by Charles Shaar Murray of the NME amongst others.
The Get Happy!! sleeve was designed by F-Beat art director Barney Bubbles, who had worked with Costello at Stiff and Radar. He does not receive a credit in line with his insistence on anonymity.
Note: The Rykodisc version has the original tracks and bonus tracks on one CD. The Rhino version has two CDs with the original tracks on the first CD.
|1980||Billboard Pop Albums||11|
|BPI – UK||Gold||March 24 1980|
|CRIA – Canada||Gold||July 1 1980|