Seeing Elvis Costello's Whitton/ making-of-MAIT timeline

Pretty self-explanatory
sulky lad
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Re: Seeing Elvis Costello's Whitton/ making-of-MAIT timeline

Postby sulky lad » Wed Sep 28, 2016 1:53 am

You're toying with us, erey. Thanks for all the hard work you've put in on this topic, desperately interesting !

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Re: Seeing Elvis Costello's Whitton/ making-of-MAIT timeline

Postby johnfoyle » Tue Oct 04, 2016 5:46 pm

Nothing new to add to the narrative , except for this tending to confirm that the few 'six hour' sessions that MAIT was recorded in were spread over a specific two week period, most likely in Nov/Dec. 1976.

What with Christmas Day being on a Saturday that year , and the tendency for most work places to start slowing down in the week beforehand , I'd bet that the recordings were done by Friday Dec. 17th.

Huey Lewis and The News, A Biography, Robert Draper, 1986, Chapter 3:


To rub salt in the wound, Huey declined an opportunity to participate with the rest of Clover on Elvis Costello's debut, My Aim Is True. At the time, the decision didn't feel all that weighty. "They said, 'You could either back up Elvis Costello or you could go and take a two-week vacation,'" Huey recalled. "There would only be about two or three songs that needed harp on them anyway, so I said fuck it and went to Amsterdam."

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Re: Seeing Elvis Costello's Whitton/ making-of-MAIT timeline

Postby erey » Sat Mar 25, 2017 10:53 pm

Since we're at the 40th anniversary of the release of EC's first single, I thought it was about time to revive this thread.

I don't have any blockbusters to impart, but I did want to follow up on what I last said about ways to figure out the MAIT recording dates. Here are the things that need to be true for dates on which EC was recording MAIT:

1. Pathway Studio is available. Not being used by, say, the Damned.
2. Nick Lowe is available, not known to be somewhere else.
3. Clover is available. Definitely not playing a gig outside London, and probably not playing a gig in London that very day, although London gig might indicate days close to the MAIT sessions.
Bonus: Not necessary but helpful -- Huey Lewis is taking a holiday in Amsterdam.

John Foyle found the quote from the 1986 book on Huey Lewis and the News from the Clover website about Huey's holiday. I google around a bit but could not find anything more precise about the timing. Despite Huey having a much bigger fan base than EC, "surprisingly" (ha!) there's isn't any equivalent of this forum or the EC wiki is terms of tracking the minutiae of his career. At least not that I have found. If anybody knows of any Huey superfans that want to enlighten us, raise your hand! :D

We might have better luck tracking Clovers gigs, if we had access to the UK music papers for late 1976 and early 1977. For example, there's an advertisement included in Gimarc's Punk Diary book, included for the purpose of showing that Sting's pre-Police jazz band, Last Exit, played the Nashville Room on January 21, 1977, that coincidentally shows that Clover played that venue January 25. A few more data points like might be interesting to find.

Relatedly, I want to circle back to something krm said when we were trying to figure when EC might have heard the Modern Lovers "Roadrunner":

krm wrote:In his book "I was a teenage Sex Pistol" Glen Matlock remembers (page 78):
John had a few ideas in that direction. He brought in "Psychotic Reaction" by The Count Five, an original sixties American punk song and "Thru My Eyes" a dreadful psycedelic dirge which we soon elbowed. Somehow Nick Kent came up with a very early tape of Jonathan Richman - this is a couple of years before he had his record out - and we´d play his "Roadrunner".

Now, here's the thing. Unlike the Sex Pistols, EC wasn't a hip, tuned-in guy when punk started to happen. He didn't have Nick Kent or anybody else giving him pre-release tapes or telling him what gigs to check out. His whole experience of punk, early on, was what he read in the music papers. He has always said that.

So, if we looked at the papers of the day, we'd see what EC was reading as he tried to react, in his own songwriting, to this new music that was happening in London, without actually hearing any of it.

Unfortunately, even in our age of everything everywhere all the time, archives of these papers are surprisingly hard to get to, at least in the US. Only a few libraries around the country seem to have complete issues the papers I want to see, none are near me, and all require on-site (not online) viewing. For example, the New Your City Public Library performing arts center seems to have both Melody Maker and NME for the dates I want. But the chances are rather slim that, in the foreseeable future, I might: 1.) be in NYC for a significant period of time, and; 2.) find nothing better to do than look at some old British music papers on microfiche. Even we trainspotters have our limits!

That said, I did manage to liberate one interesting article from behind its paywall. I'll post it separately, following this, in case we get in trouble for violating someone's copyright and it has to be taken down. It's Caroline Coon in Melody Maker, August 7, 1976. We know EC read MM regularly because that's how he found out about Stiff Records opening, in the very next week's issue. Coon describes how, in the emerging London punk scene -- unlike the New York City scene, which EC has also been following in the papers and through the occasional record he could afford to buy -- extreme youth is valued. She even quotes Johnny Rotton as habitually saying, "You're too old!"

Now, I don't know if EC has ever made this connection himself, but I don't think it's a coincidence that just a few weeks later -- say, the bank holiday weekend of August 30, likely time for a young man in London to take the train up to visit his mother in Liverpool -- he found himself suddenly inspired to write "Red Shoes", a song about being offered some kind of Faustian bargain by shabby-looking angels that might somehow save him from being too old. EC has remarked in later years that it seems odd that a 22-year-old would be concerned with such things. Well, not if that 22-year-old was finally getting glimmer of real interest from the music business (Stiff had liked his home demo tape, but nothing much had come of it yet) but had recently read from source he trusted that, in the music trend that was rising all around him, you were over-the-hill at 19.
Last edited by erey on Sat Mar 25, 2017 11:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Seeing Elvis Costello's Whitton/ making-of-MAIT timeline

Postby erey » Sat Mar 25, 2017 11:02 pm

Related to my previous posting (see above). Bolding mine.

Punk Rock: Rebels Against the System

Caroline Coon, Melody Maker, 7 August 1976

JOHNNY ROTTEN looks bored. The emphasis is on the word "looks" rather than, as Johnny would have you believe, the word "bored". His clothes, held together by safety pins, fall around his slack body in calculated disarray. His face is an undernourished grey. Not a muscle moves. His lips echo the downward slope of his wiry, coat-hanger shoulders. Only his eyes register the faintest trace of life.

Johnny works very hard at looking bored. Leaning against a bar; at a sound check; after a gig; making an entrance to a party; onstage; when he's with women. No, actually, then he's inclined to look quite interested.

Why is Johnny bored? Well; that's the story.

This malevolent third-generation child of rock 'n' roll is the Sex Pistols' lead singer. The band play exciting, hard, basic punk rock. But more than that, Johnny is the elected generalissimo of a new cultural movement scything through the grassroots disenchantment with the present state of mainstream rock. You need look no further than the letters pages of any Melody Maker to see that fans no longer silently accept the disdain with which their heroes, the rock giants, treat them.

They feel deserted. Millionaire rock stars are no longer part of the brotherly rock fraternity that helped create them in the first place. Rock was meant to be a joyous celebration; the inability to see the stars or to play the music of those you can see is making a whole generation of rock fans feel depressingly inadequate.

Enter Johnny Rotten. Not content to feel frustrated, bored and betrayed, he and the Sex Pistols – Glen Matlock (bass), Paul Cook (drums), and Steve Jones (guitar) – have decided to ignore what they believe to be the elitist pretensions of their heroes, who no longer play the music they want to hear. The Pistols are playing the music they want to hear. They are the tip of an iceberg.

Since January, when the Sex Pistols played their first gig, there has been a slow but steady increase in the number of musicians who feel the same way – bands like the Clash, the Jam, Buzzcocks, the Damned, the Suburban Bolts and Slaughter and the Dogs. The music they play is loud, raucous and beyond considerations of taste and finesse. As Mick Jones of the Clash says: "It's wonderfully vital."

These bands' punk music and stance is so outrageous that, like the Rolling Stones in the good old days, they have trouble getting gigs. But they play regularly at the 100 Club, which is rapidly becoming the venue at which these bands cut their teeth.

The musicians and their audience reflect each other's street-cheap, ripped-apart, pinned-together style of dress. Their attitude is classic punk: icy-cool with a permanent sneer. The kids are arrogant, aggressive, rebellious. The last thing any of these bands make their audience feel is inadequate. Once again there is the feeling, the exhilarating buzz, that it's possible to be and play like the bands onstage.

It's no coincidence that the week the Stones were at Earls Court, the Sex Pistols were playing to their ever-increasing following at London's 100 Club. The Pistols are the personification of the emerging British punk rock scene, a positive reaction to the complex equipment, technological sophistication and jaded alienation which has formed a barrier between fans and stars,

Punk rock sounds simple and callow. lt's meant to. The equipment is minimal, usually cheap. It's played faster than the speed of light. If the musicians play a ballad, it's the fastest ballad on earth. The chords are basic, numbers rarely last longer than three minutes, in keeping with the clipped, biting cynicism of the lyrics. There are no solos. No indulgent improvisations.

It's a fallacy to believe that punk rockers like the Sex Pistols can't play dynamic music. They power through sets. They are never less than hard, rough and edgy. They are the quintessence of a raging, primal rock-scream.

The atmosphere among the punky bands on the circuit at the moment is positively cut-throat. Not only are they vying with each other but they all secretly aspire to take Johnny Rotten down a peg or two. They use him as a pivot against which they can assess their own credibility.

It's the BSP/ASP Syndrome. The Before or After Sex Pistols debate which wrangles thus: "We saw Johnny Rotten and he CHANGED our attitude to music" (the Clash, Buzzcocks) or "We played like this AGES before the Sex Pistols" (Slaughter and the Dogs) or "We are MILES better than the Sex Pistols" (the Damned). They are very aware that they are part of a new movement and each one wants to feel that he played a part in starting it.

All doubts that the British punk scene was well under way was blitzed two weeks ago in Manchester, when the Sex Pistols headlined a triple third-generation punk rock concert before an ecstatic, capacity audience.

Participation is the operative word. The audiences are reveling in the idea that any one of them could get up on stage and do just as well, if not better, than the bands already up there. Which is, after all, what rock and roll is all about.

When, for months, you’ve been feeling that it would take ten years to play as well as Hendrix, Clapton, Richard (insert favourite rock star's name), there’s nothing more gratifying than the thought, 'Jesus, I could a band together and blow this lot off the stage'.

The growing punk rock audiences are seething with angry young dreamers who want to put the boot in and play music, regardless. And the more people feel that "I can do that too", the more there is a rush on to that stage, the more cheap instruments are bought, fingered and flayed in front rooms, the more likely it is there will be the rock revival we've all been crying out for.

There's every chance (although it's early days yet) that out of the gloriously raucous, uninhibited melée of British Punk Rock – which even at its worst is more vital than must of the music perfected by the Platinum Disc Brigade – will emerge the musicians to inspire a fourth generation of rockers.

The arrogant, aggressive, rebellious stance that characterizes the musicians who have played the most vital rock and roll has always been glamorised. In the '50s it was the rebel without a cause exemplified by Elvis and Gene Vincent, the Marlon Brando and James Dean of rock. In the '60s it was the Rock'n'Roll Gypsy Outlaw image of Mick Jagger, Keith Richard and Jimi Hendrix. In the 70s the word "rebel" has been superseded by the word "punk". Although initially derogatory, it now contains all the glamorous connotations once implied by the overused word "rebel".

Punk rock was initially coined, about six years ago, to describe the American rock bands of 1965-68 who sprung up as a result of hearing the Yardbirds, Who, Them, Stones. Ability was not as important as mad enthusiasm, but the bands usually dissipated all their talent in one or two splendid singles which rarely transcended local hit status. Some of the songs, however, like 'Wooly Bully', '96 Tears', 'Psychotic Reaction', 'Pushin' Too Hard', have become rock classics.

In Britain, as "punk rock" has been increasingly used to categorise the livid, exciting energy of bands like the Sex Pistols, there has been an attempt to redefine the term. There's an age difference too. New York punks are mostly in their mid-twenties. The members of the new British punk bands squirm if they have to tell you that they are over 18. Johnny Rotten's favourite sneer is "You’re Too Old." He's 20.

The British punk rock garb is developing independently, too. It's an ingenious hodgepodge of jumble sale cast-offs, safety-pinned around one of the choice, risqué T-shirts especially made for the Kings Road shop, Sex.

Selling an intriguing line of arcane '50s cruise-ware, fantasy glamour ware and the odd rubber suit, this unique boutique is owned by Malcolm McLaren, ex-manager of the New York Dolls, now the Sex Pistols' manager.

His shop has a mysterious atmosphere which made it the ideal meeting place for a loose crowd of truant, disaffected teenagers. Three of them were aspiring musicians who, last October, persuaded McLaren to take them on. They wanted to play rock'n'roll. They weren't to know what they were about to start and even now no one is sure where it will lead. All Steve, Glenn and Paul needed, then, was a lead singer.

A few weeks later Johnny Rotten strayed into the same murky interior. He was first spotted leaning over the jukebox, looking bored.

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Re: Seeing Elvis Costello's Whitton/ making-of-MAIT timeline

Postby bronxapostle » Sun Mar 26, 2017 8:21 am ... 57e41.html contribution for my only CLOVER show, 13 months before my first Elvis & Attractions show!!!

sulky lad
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Re: Seeing Elvis Costello's Whitton/ making-of-MAIT timeline

Postby sulky lad » Sun Mar 26, 2017 12:51 pm

Thanks erey, I think your interpretation of the Rotten quote is pertinent, particularly to someone who around that time said he always felt older than he actually was. For those of us who were around at that time, it was the most exciting period in music that we could have imagined. Instead of waiting 18 months for the next big album by whoever you were into musically, EVERY week there was a new single or EP or gig that seemed to blow the last "new thing" clean out of the water. If Elvis was newly married and on a budget, it was unlikely that he would have bought both NME and Melody Maker and would have probably just stuck to the preferred paper of choice. Perhaps the very nature of having a wife and child automatically made him feel out of sync with all the trendy young carefree students and singles who could spend their money without any of Elvis' commitments and responsibilities. I remember some of the uproar after the Bill Grundy malarkey and the phrases "disaffected youths" being bandied around to explain why punk appealed to the Daily Mail and Express readers. It's probably an expression Elvis would have felt was not been appropriate to describe himself or his circumstances.
The timeline for Clover and the recording of MAIT looks pretty spot on and it's a great deduction about the possibility of Elvis travelling to Liverpool over a Bank Holiday weekend to see his mother.
Once again, fascinating detective work. All we need to do now is find the recording studio in Cornwall at Roche , discover some copies of the tapes of the Attractions version of MAIT and persuade Jake not to come visiting !!

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Re: Seeing Elvis Costello's Whitton/ making-of-MAIT timeline

Postby erey » Sat Apr 15, 2017 8:57 pm

sulky lad wrote:Once again, fascinating detective work.

Thanks, Sulky.

The more I think about it, the more it seems likely that EC did write "Red Shoes" on the holiday weekend of August 30. I believe Lilian worked an office job in those days, so it would make sense for him to go up and see her on a weekend when she had an extra day off, too. All the more so if it were close to his birthday.

EC would have just turned 22 on August 25, the Wednesday of the previous week. It can seem silly from the vantage point of middle age, but if we're honest I think a lot of us might recall that sometimes those early-adult birthdays can hit pretty hard. Especially, if -- with all the naivete of youth -- you feel like you aren't where you're meant to be in your life at that point.

I bolded the Johnny Rotten quote to make it easy to find, but I encourage anyone interested to read the whole article. I suspect EC would have related a lot more to Caroline Coon (who, if you can believe what you read in wikipedia, would have been 30 or 31 at the time), with her slightly anthropological tone, than the subjects of her article. You can almost picture EC scratching his head and thinking, "Now, how the heck am I going to fit myself into this?" Just a few months earlier he'd been trying to write songs like Hoagy Carmichael!

sulky lad wrote:If Elvis was newly married and on a budget, it was unlikely that he would have bought both NME and Melody Maker and would have probably just stuck to the preferred paper of choice.

No, I think EC regularly read Melody Maker, NME, and likely Sounds as well. This was a business expense for him, after all, not an indulgence.

We know he read Melody Maker because that's where he saw the article about Stiff Record opening. That issue (August 14) also contained a glowing review of Stiff's first release, Nick Lowe's single "So It Goes", by Caroline Coon.

But we also know he followed Nick Kent -- his man-crush/nemesis :wink: -- in the NME.

The Gimarc book is really great for getting a day-by-day, tick-tock account of what was going on in and around punk at the time, including the hand-wringing in papers like the Daily Mail and the whole Grundy thing as the latter half of 1976 wore on.

If I can find more pertinent articles that EC seems likely to have read as he moved toward and through the making of MAIT, I'll post them.

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Re: Seeing Elvis Costello's Whitton/ making-of-MAIT timeline

Postby erey » Thu Dec 07, 2017 4:26 pm

I turned up another little data point for our timeline here.

To recap: We know EC considers "Hoover Factory" to be a creative breakthrough that ultimately enabled him to write the songs that made him famous. The song was partly inspired by seeing the Hoover Building on his daily commute to and from work, while he was living with his in-laws near Heathrow Airport, so it would be interesting to know when he was living there.

The other day I was flipping through Gimarc's Punk Diary, the font of all secrets of the universe, when I noticed that on May 16, 1976, EC played a gig (as D.P. Costello) in Hillingdon at something called "Unit 3". Throwing that into Google turned up an address that appears to be within walking distance (~2 miles) of EC's in-laws' house. So, safe bet, if not quite a sure thing, that's where he was living at the time.

I suspect "Unit 3" wasn't a proper performance space, even then. The address currently appears to be in a warehouse/low-end retail park. Not the kind of thing even "D.P. Costello" would go out of his way for.

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