My first intro to ska or reggae sound was from No Doubt. Of course the genre had been around much longer than that, but I was surprised to discover it influencing the sound a of a late 70’s British rock star. Ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time, Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detectives,” most certainly pulls it sound from this innately island genre.
Costello attributes his writing of the song to a late night binge listening session of the Clash’s first album. Perhaps he had some late night re-runs of old detective shows on while doing this? Or maybe he was up late unable to sleep due to a fight with the girl in the song? Whatever the circumstances, it is widely accepted that the song is about a boyfriend that is frustrated with his girlfriend for paying him no attention while she watches detective dramas on TV.
Even with its quirky storyline, “Watching The Dectives” was certainly a new avenue for the British Punk scene it was inspired by. It is no wonder why it grabbed the critics’ attentions and has remained a hit to this day.