"Alison" by Elvis Costello (1977)
Midway through Elvis Costello's debut LP--a mostly sneering, attitude-heavy punky affair--is this classic ballad, a song that rivals the best of Smokey Robinson in its melodic weltschmerz. (Appropriately, Costello often mashes this up into a cover of "Tracks of My Tears" in concert.) As a songwriter, Costello is comprehensive in his influences, and here he adds a staple to a longstanding sub-genre in male-authored pop songs: namely, the shaking-his-head, oh-girl, I-don't-care-but-of-course-I-do number. (Cf. Dylan, Bob, "Like a Rolling Stone," or Steely Dan, "Reelin' in the Years.") Costello's Alison is, sadly, one mixed-up woman: having married a chump, and recently doffed her party dress with (ostensibly) another fellow-- Amid the chaos, Elvis insists, pleadingly, that his aim is true. She could count on him, if she notices his longing. Or they could both walk away and he could continue to pretend not to care. But, of course, we know he does.