I was digging through some old cd's last night (you can almost track, to the month, the day that I got an ipod and made an almost complete shift to digital music) and came across a cd that a friend made for me of the Elvis Costello/Paul McCartney demos that were recorded in the late 80's, around the time that Costello released his Warner records debut,"Spike." Although a lot of the songs from these sessions aren't especially memorable, there are a few highlights such as the demo (and superior) version of "Veronica" and "You Want Her, Too." The real highlight, however, is a song called "The Lovers that Never Were."
This was the time in Costello's career where his voice was starting to crack on the higher and more plaintive lines in his songs (which peaked for me with the line "well it's his story you flatter" on "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror" where his voice seems to whack into the ceiling). I can't explain why, but every time this happened with his voice it struck a strong, personal note with me. He seemed wiser and more rueful than before, and, for whatever reason, the music from that era fit perfectly with where I was at that time in my life.
Anyway, for about three months in college "The Lovers that Never Were" was was my absolute, without question, favorite song. It was never that far from my thoughts and seemed to pop back in every time there was a gap. I can't even give a good reason for this-though the lyrics are good the rhymes are terrible, there's almost no backing music to speak of, and the only thing that holds it together are the strained voices of Paul McCartney and Costello. Still, it works, if only because when it comes to impassioned vocals, you really can't best either of those guys.
So, here's the song. It gets my vote for the best "lost Costello song" and it really is kind of amazing that with all the (generally superfluous) Costello reissues of the last few years, the tracks from these sessions have still not really made it into the public sphere.