Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Pretty self-explanatory
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Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby johnfoyle » Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:41 pm

One of the more industrious contributors to the wiki site e-mailed me -

At some point, I've been meaning to ask in the forum for someone who types more then 10 words per minute to type those up and post the text
on the forum where I can copy it to replace the blurry composite columns.

(but if the request came from you instead of me, we might more likely get volunteers)

He has been able to post tidied up scans of old clippings , like this - ... y_16,_1978


Great as it to be able to read the text , it's not in a format that can be readily extracted from if you wanted to quote from it. He, like myself, just does not have the typing skill or the time to make transcriptions.

Perhaps someone here can help out. I'll leave this link and scan up here , someone transcribes it and posts same here, it gets pasted into the wiki site and another link gets put up etc. And so on.

The scans posted , so far, are linked within this - ... bliography

If anyone wants to seek out a scan & post a transcription here , great!
Last edited by johnfoyle on Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:07 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby DrSpooky » Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:58 pm

For those who want a kick start at this, Google Drive (e.g formerly Google Docs) can be used to scan images and convert them to text.

We used this for a number of RTEMS tasks for the students who participated in Google Code-In this time. We had old paper documents we needed to have the text in electronic form for.

If they can do it, you brilliant music loving folks can. :)

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby edney » Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:59 pm this?

Until June of last year, Elvis Costello was a computer analyst in Acton, England. Now he’s s a rising star in what is generally known as “punk rock” but which, at least philosophically, is closer to “Prufrock”. Shall I eat a peach? Shall I sing a hard-as-nails rock song? The punk theme was boredom; the Costello theme is “bitterness”. The common denominator is disillusionment. Which, of course, is hardly new, least of all in music. And which is deceptive in the matter of Elvis Costello who says he’s 22 (but I wanna see the birth certificate, notarized please) Once Willie Alexander, the world’s worst warm-up group, left the stage, Costello and his three-piece band, played a lively if not terribly noteworthy concert at the Leona Theatre in Homestead Sunday night. How Costello got into the punk rock category is something of a mystery, because he bears no physical – and little musical – resemblance to the movement personified by, say, The Sex Pistols or Kiss. Costello, in fact, is one of the most ungainly and incongruous figures ever to “make it” in rock. A Mick Jagger he’s not. On stage he punctuates his basic knock-kneed stance with occasional spasmodic two-steps. For threads, he prefers sensible jacket and slacks, plus JFK skinny necktie. The haircut is your standard $3 barber-shop job. He’s the rock world’s equivalent of Icelandic Airlines – a no-frills performer who looks like a magazine salesman, a cross between Buddy Holly and Woody Allen. Leaving aside the charmless masochism of his motivations (“guilt and revenge”), Costello has at least one thing going for him; a well-crafted first album called “My Aim Is True” from which most of his brief (70-minute) Homestead concert was drawn. Chief songs among these; “Red Shoes” “I’m Not Angry” “Miracle Man” and “Less Than Zero” (aimed nicely at the old British fascist leader Oswald Mosley) – all performed with excitement and power – too much power actually, resulting in a decibel level sufficient to drown out those “endearingly elusive” lyrics (to quote the cloyingly evasive “Rolling Stone”) for which he is celebrated. Sadly Costello live is less impressive than Costello recorded. At the Leona, we lost the careful studio modulation which balanced vocals and instrumentals. We also lost “Alison” (his album’s title song) a gorgeous and incisive ballad which the singer declined to sing. What we didn’t lose was Elvis’ demonic and deafeningly amplified rhythms which more or less sufficed to bring the thrills-without-frills gig to life in one of the most splendid old theatres in Pittsburgh. (the peeling grandeur of the Leona has to be seen to be believed. The Marquee! The Chandeliers! The Falling Plaster! It must be preserved and rehabilitated) Elvis Costello’s music is original, despite comparisons with Van Morrison, Graham Parker and Bruce (Terminal Hype) Springsteen. Though his guitar playing is grade B, and his band grade C, in his better moments he is fun to listen to. Still, it’s hard to resist some cynicism about his “bitterness”, recently crowned by the revelation that he wants to die before he gets old. “I’d rather kill myself, I’m not going to be around to witness my artistic decline” Talented though he may be, Mr.Costello ought to focus on the incline first. Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Took this from the Wiki earlier today. It just so happens that I am painstakingly typing out some of these scans for my own personal use. Will post a few more when I get around to it.

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby edney » Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:03 pm

and another....

It was intermission at the Jai-Alai Fronton last Saturday. Nick Lowe and Mink DeVille had finished their sets, so while the roadies furiously were setting up the stage for Elvis Costello, tape recorded music blared over the public address system. It gave one time to let his mind wander and wonder what could be expected from the 23-year old English “new wave” rock artist. It was only last year that his debut album “My Aim Is True” hit our shores, and he had recently released a second “This Year’s Model”. Costello resembles a “before” picture of a Charles Atlas ad. But a quick listen to either album draws a picture more illuminating, more graphic and more explicit than any photograph could ever be. And the songs fly off the turntable with a frenetic urgency – literate putdowns of fashion and women, of frustrations and sex and of his own doubts about inadequacy. All are a mixture of cynical wit combined with the best rock rhythms of the 60’s. This is Costello’s record image, but he could seize and expand upon it in person? The road crew finished and Costello and his three piece backup band, The Attractions, took the stage. On the sparse, uncluttered platform, the scene was reminiscent of those early days of music. Costello went to centre stage with his Fender rhythm guitar, with Bruce Thomas laying down the bass lines, keyboardist Steve Nieve supplying the bright undertones and drummer Pete Thomas holding the group together. Elvis walked up to the microphone, violently grabbed it, turned to the members of the band, shook his hand and the music started with “Mystery Dance”. When the song ended, Costello didn’t say a word. The band moved into “Pump It Up”, and Costello was strumming and jumping frantically around the stage, creating an image of incredible contrast. The singer who resembled a bookworm had the crowd in a frenzy. The next three songs “You Belong To Me”, “Less Than Zero” and “Red Shoes”, all showed the same breakneck speed. Costello hadn’t yet said a word, and the songs followed one after the other as though they were being played from an album. The only emotion the singer showed were his leering glances at photographers who snapped pictures at every movement he made, from wiping his forehead to loosening his shirt. Finally Costello spoke. “This is for all you girls” he said with an exaggerated contempt. The band broke into “This Year’s Girl”. He plowed on song after song, continuing his pattern of not talking between tunes. Before the last song of the night, Costello looked out over the audience and spoke to them for the last time. “You’d better tell your friends about us” he screamed. “the next time we come back here, we want this place filled”. Most of the audience was silent, not knowing whether they’d been assaulted or insulted. To Costello, the challenge is a private joke. Then, the band started “Radio Radio”, which lambasts the music industry and the whole Top 40 group thinking process. After playing 14 songs in about 50 minutes, the group left the stage. The lights stayed dim as the crowd caught it’s breath after witnessing an extraordinary performance by the man many reviewers are calling one of the most gifted rockers of the 70’s. They vainly screamed for an encore, but there was none. Costello had already left the building. Daytona Beach Morning Journal

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby Azmuda » Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:54 pm

Oh duh. Another member told me about these OCR scanning websites:

I had no idea.

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby johnfoyle » Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:49 am

Result! Thanks for all the help.

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby sulky lad » Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:49 am

Thanks so much , Edney, these are wonderful finds and great reads :D

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby edney » Fri Jan 11, 2013 12:39 pm

And another.....

Elvis Costello deals in greens. Not the pretty greens of spring that will soon be upon us, but the ghastly greens of vomit and ghouls. Thus it was perfect that so much of the rock n’roll show he brought into Masonic Temple in Detroit Friday night was lit by unearthly green lights. Elvis has always seemed an alien in rock, much stranger than David Bowie’s character in “The Man Who Fell To Earth”, but Friday night he seemed determined to prove it once and for all with his devious lighting schemes. Everything stood out in vivid contrast; when Elvis and The attractions were glowing green, lamps were tinted purple, red or blue shot out from the back. When he was red, his backdrop was white, blue or green. We were not prepared for the angry purple search lights that flashed on at the beginning of “Lipstick Vogue”, sending the stage into an eerie, smoky darkness not unlike the final sequence in “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”. Many of us felt attacked; a friend later told me she thought a car had rolled on to the stage. I’ve always been reminded of Pink Floyd’s “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” by this song; this time Elvis’ spaceship lighting and Steve Naïve’s lyrical organ made the illusion complete. I write first about the lighting not because it was the most striking aspect of Friday night’s show, although it was, but because it seems to capture Elvis’s contradictory personality even better than his music does. He is a man of many emotional extremes, running from impassioned rage one moment to sensitive tranquillity the next. He sings of hate and love, mostly hate, but his vicious songs, like “Oliver’s Army” are upbeat pop tunes, while “love” songs like “Two Little Hitlers” are more sombre. Elvis was in surprisingly good humour, sprinkling mild remarks between songs as he ran through an hour’s worth of material taken mainly from “This Year’s Model” and “Armed Forces”. He opened with a slowed-down version of “Hand In Hand”, that seemed more uninspired than anything else, but the pace picked up quickly as he jolted into “Goon Squad”. By the end of this pessimistic number, Elvis and the band, Steve Naïve on breezy keyboards, Pete Thomas on drums and Bruce Thomas on bass, were kicking out torrents of evil sound. “I’d like to do a song dedicated to all the boys in no-man’s land working behind enemy lines” Elvis muttered before a disappointing version of his song about mercenaries, “Oliver’s Army”. While the version on “Armed Forces” sports a sprightly keyboard line of which The Beach Boys would be envious, here it was lost in a plodding din of brass and guitar. “Green Shirt” on the other hand, was Elvis at his best, putting the band through carefully arranged patterns as he, washed in bright green lights, attempted to find meaning in utter desolation. The evening was very playful, as Steve Naïve’s stray keyboard riffs added a sense of amusement to almost every song. “What’s So Funny Bout Peace Love & Understanding” benefited from this lightness, and other tunes like “The Beat”, “Watching The Detectives” and “Pump It Up” gained from a relaxed attitude that permitted short instrumental forays. Fast songs like “Radio Radio”, “You Belong To Me”, “Less Than Zero” and “Accidents Will Happen” were the order of the evening but “Alison” in all it’s breathtaking glory, more than held it’s own against these speed demons. The audience was surprisingly subdued, but even this didn’t seem to bother Elvis. He merely joked at the beginning of “Pump It Up”, the finale, “We have heard over in England, that Detroit is a rock n’roll town. The only thing puzzling to me is I have never seen a lot of rock n’roll done sitting down. This song is called “Pump It Up”, as in standing up” The crowd, seemingly bewildered, rose to it’s feet and made a feeble attempt to dance. Elvis must have been laughing behind his stoic veneer, but if he was, he wasn’t letting us know. The Michigan Daily

I've tried the "free OCR" scanning websites but they don't seem to work too well so I have painstakingly copied another scan. I did own my own OCR software but I can't find the disc for it. Incidentally, I have a considerable library of interviews, concert reviews etc. that I have already scanned and transcribed that are not on the wiki, though I do not have the original source from which it was taken. If azmuda is interested, I could easily make these transcriptions available.



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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby Azmuda » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:02 pm

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby Azmuda » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:37 pm

edney wrote:Incidentally, I have a considerable library of interviews, concert reviews etc. that I have already scanned and transcribed that are not on the wiki, though I do not have the original source from which it was taken. If azmuda is interested, I could easily make these transcriptions available.
That would be great, thanks.

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby edney » Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:14 am

Here's another for the Wiki. Creem Magazine's review of "Almost Blue" 1982.

I’m reminded of that “Honeymooners” episode where, in Alice’s absence, Ed gives Ralph a hand with the household chores by doing a little ironing. Stretched out on the board is Ralph’s beloved bowling shirt with “Hurricanes” stitched across the back. Ed gets distracted, leaves the iron sitting on the shirt and before you can say “Bang! Zoom! It’s presto scorcho time. Just before he throws one of his gargantuan fits, Kramden inquires of Norton; “is this your idea of a joke?” To which America’s favourite engineer of subterranean sanitation replies; “No, that’s my idea of a burn” “Almost Blue” is my idea of a burn. It’s certainly no joke. Costello has always had a soft spot in his solar plexus for country music; after all, the flip side of his first Stiff single was a C&W lamenter called “Radio Sweetheart”. And even king weeper George Jones thought enough of Elvis’s “Stranger In The House” to record it himself. But they were side trips, not the sort of main roads an angry young rocker like Costello was meant to go careening down. “Almost Blue” is one big side trip. The main problem is that he didn’t write any of this stuff. Every damn song’s a cover…although this shouldn’t really be cause for any initial alarm. Recall the verve he implanted in Sam & Dave’s “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down” and Betty Everett’s “Getting Mighty Crowded”. But they were from the realm of soul music which is only a stone’s throw from E.C.’s original rock n’roll base. But these country cuts, whilst sharing lyrical kinship with fave EC themes like betrayal and rejection, are musically turgid strangers in town. It didn’t have to be that way but it appears that producer Billy Sherrill cowed The Attractions into submission – they’ve never sounded so docile or sluggish with pianist Steve Nieve particularly asleep-at-the-wheel. Add to this “special guest” John McFee’s pedal steel ying-yang twangs, occasional syrupy string arrangements and embalmed female back-up singers and you’ve got musical mildew up the drain pipe. None of which would have if Costello had taken the trouble to put some conviction in his crooning. Time after time he comes off like some hack lounge singer coming to fingertip grips with heartbreak. Only thing is, the heartbreak’s drowning in a sea of clichéd saphead angst vocal mechanisms. Somebody shoulda hacked that whine right outta his voicebox. There’s at least a half a dozen classic songs here by people like Merle Haggard, Charlie Rich, Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, Don Gibson, Big Joe Turner (token blues) and (surprise!) George Jones. All are available in their original (and far superior) versions as either 45’s or assorted album cuts. Especially bad is Costello’s trampling stampede job on Hank’s “Why Don’t You Love Me (like you used to do)” and the flattened out dixie cup-depth he brings to Gram’s mournfully sad “Hot Burrito #1”. So pass this by unless you’re a diehard Costello fan (and even then you should think twice) and go score copies of The Burrito Bros “Gilded Palace Of Sin”, “The Fabulous Charlie Rich” or a good greatest hits set by Hank Williams or Patsy Cline. And wait for Elvis’ next set of covers, one that sticks to nothing but R&B and soul standards. Working title; “Almost Black” Craig Zeller – Creem Magazine

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby seanpointblank » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:33 am

Here is the CREEM Close-Up. ... _July_1983

Growing Up Angry: Elvis Costello
By Iman Lababedi

"I'd like to be a funeral director..." -Elvis Costello, 1980

The memory is a funny thing; it plays tricks on us. We clothe it in make believe-if we want sympathy, only seeing the bad; if we want relief, remembering the good, and always erasing those parts that don't keep with the way we view ourselves. Elvis Costello showed an excellent memory on his '77 debut album, My Aim Is True, reviewing the predicament of teenage lust for an average angry young misfit. He doesn't care about small pleasures. Rather, he totals it through a rage against his youth, a rage not entirely cloaked in solipsism and misanthropy, a rage easily shared by those of us who never got the girl.

Backed by American country rockers Clover, My Aim Is True was a '50s LP (think of the Buddy Holly that sang "Not Fade Away") for a current punk audience. And just as punk was the revenge of the guttersnipe, so Costello was the revenge of a male (Brian De Palma's) Carrie wrecking the high school graduation dance with a splattering of vicious puns and Chuck Berry guitar chords. When he sang "I'm the one you see at night/And I don't want to do it all in vain," Elvis caught a frustration of desire and inferiority, an ignored burden on average ugly boys suffering through puberty. And it was a converse rocksex: his namesake was the embodiment of teenage lust; he was the ghost of teenage lust using his music not to get the girl but to get back at the girl.

A brief resume: Born Declan McManus, Elvis Costello was raised in London Catholic schools (hence the "revenge and guilty" quote); his father was a professional musician who divorced his mother in '71, his mother taking him to Liverpool. Costello learned guitar and played in high school bands, leaving for London upon graduation and becoming a computer operator by day and a member of a pub-rock band by night. Elvis got married, went solo, was turned down by all the major labels, and accepted by a young independent record company called Stiff Records, run by Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera. Jake changed Declan's name (several months before the King died), put him in the studio with ex-Brinsley Schwarz guitarist Nick Lowe-who had produced the first punk album Damned Damned Damned (and would produce El's next five albums)-and backup band, Clover.

With the release of My Aim Is True, Elvis went on the first Stiff tour and began tos tretch his hardly complete persona. The performance, though certainly obdurate and hard, included a touching cover of "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself," his ballad "Alison," and the anti-nihilistic story of fascist politician Oswald Mosley, "Less Than Zero." My Aim Is True became the msot popular import LP in America, and Costello made two trips over there. Meanwhile Jake and Dave had a falling-out, so Jake and Elvis formed Radar Records for British releases and signed to CBS in America. Elvis also formed a proper backup band, the Attractions, with ex-Chilli Willi Pete Thomas on drums, Dave Thomas on bass, Stevie Nieve on keyboards, and, of course, Elvis on guitar and vocals.

The vinyl result was This Year's Model, the first masterpiece. Costello would tell Greil Marcus that it was strongly influenced by the Rolling Stones' Between the Buttons. He didn't mean his "The Last Time" rewrite, "You Belong To Me," but a connection between the misogyny and contempt for high society Jagger and Richards displayed on songs like "Backstreet Girl" or "Yesterday's Papers." For Costello, memory no longer played a part. Like the Stones, he was fighting the "lipstick vogue" he had become a part of, and he was aiming at the contemporaries who would make him a mediocre pop star. Pushed by a rock band 10 times harder than Clover, his playful, punishing words remind me most of the Dylan that wrote "Positively Fourth Street" and "Ballad Of A Thin Man," and similarly, the song constructions seem most strongly to come from the mid-'60s. The British version concluded with the anti-National Front (a quasi-Nazi party then garnering many converts) "Night Rally"; the American with "Radio Radio," an indictment of the music business ("I want to bite the hand that feeds me"). Both songs cautiously allowed some compassion within the unreality and hypocrisy of fashion. There was a free 45 with some copies of the album featuring the harbinger of country yet to come, "Stranger In The House," and the Damned's "Neat Neat Neat."

Supported by Rockpile and Mink De Ville, Elvis returned to America a Star, turning down the covers of Rolling Stone and Time with a "Why make life any easier on yourself than you absolutely have to," and leading rockcrit Nick Kent on a merry dance in England for a non-interview on the cover of NME and CREEM. During the tour, he would have a brief affair with the gorgeous "Be My" Bebe Buell. The concerts themselves were a tiring experience, Costello arguing with the audience, insulting them, and using "Pump It Up" (about the Stiff tour where he was playing second fiddle to Ian Dury) for a scathing monologue nobody could understand a word of.

Album number three, Armed Forces, (born Emotional Fascism), began with the "I just don't know where to begin" ended with "I shall return/I shall not burn," and in between found a perfectly flawed Costello tackling the use of force in and out of the boundaries of love. It was his pop album, but with far too much from the Jesus of Cool, especially on big nothings "Mood For Moderns," "Chemistry Class," and big fears "Goon Squad" and "Senior Service." Which is not to say it didn't have its moments; the message was loud, clear and spelled out (on postcards included with the British LP): DON'T JOIN. And on his only English number one, "Oliver's Army," the advice was well put with a Neil Sedaka sweet melody enhancing the lyrics, "All it takes is one itchy trigger/One more widow, one less white nigger" (for which CBS refused to release it as a 45 here). There was also his best ballad since "Alison," "Party Girl" (reputedly for Bebe)-both songs which, incidentally, L.A. songstress Linda Ronstadt was to eventually cover. But if there was a little sign of fatigue on the LP, the tour was different-stories of an arrogant rude Costello ended in a bar in Cleveland, Ohio. A very drunk Costello and Pete Thomas got in a fight with Steve Stills, Bonnie Bramlett, and their entourage. Elvis called Ray Charles a "blind ignorant nigger," for which Bonnie bashed him on the nose. When the story got out, stores began to return his records, there were death threats, Elvis had to get a bodyguard and called a press conference to apologize. It was solely a moment of madness, and proof of the stress he was under.

He didn't tour America with his next LP, maybe my favorite all time album by anybody, Get Happy!!, an ironic title for a deeply touching record. Part of my love is personal. Get Happy!! is a view of America by a successful outsider trying to make sense of himself and a country (and not managing to). I'd lived in the country a scant six months and still felt (and still do) like an exile. But there is more to it than that; Get Happy!! is almost a concept album. The woman who appears in at least four songs is-possible metaphorically-a prostitute. It's not "Man Called Uncle," it's "look at the men that you call Uncle," who want to "sink their teeth into you/For the pride and pleasure and the privilege of having you." And the woman who won't take his love for tender, or another with tears on her blackmail turning to ransom. Which leads me to the second theme: money. The relationships revolve around finance and the ambiguity of being rich in that they are always paying for love. And a lot more. The music itself could fill a story, some 20 songs worth of bedeviled modern Motown, in many ways unkind to their source. The songs are short, clipped off just when you expect the second chorus, and the mood is tense but seldom rock-y, coming from the exemplary production. Nick Lowe would say of the sessions: "Costello was great to work with. I'd tell him 'now whisper the next word,' and he'd know exactly what I wanted." In a sense, you can tell the strength of a Costello album from the outtakes. "Watching The Detectives" and "Radio Radio" from My Aim Is True. The superb "Big Tears" and "Tiny Steps" from This Year's Model. The weak "Talking In The Dark," the awful "Wednesday Week" and the touching "My Funny Valentine" from Armed Forces. From the Get Happy!! sessions in Holland, a splendidly rewritten "Clowntime Is Over"and a cover of Van McCoy's "Getting Mighty Crowded" that should replaced "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" on the album. Anyway, if there is only one Costello album to buy, it's Get Happy!!, and any history I ever write about him will have it as the centerpiece.

Still in 1980 came 16 songs on Taking Liberties, odds and sods from Brit singles and tracks not on the American LPs, plus "Hoover Factory," an oldie yet to see vinyl (although I owned it on the bootleg, 50 Million Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong). Also three new songs on the Costelo-produced New Amsterdam EP, the best being "Just A Memory." The transition of Get Happy!! went one step further with '81's trust, which was something of a comedown. Trust might be considered a rowdy, thinking man's rock LP, but the rowdier it got ("Luxemburg," the Chris Difford duet "From a Whisper To A Scream," "Clubland") the less interesting it became. Yet, it also included his best political song, "New Lace Sleeves," the new Costello, "White Knuck;es," in which he suggests wife-beaters be "hung by their tongues," the Bo Diddley-inspired answer to "Clowntime Is Over," "Lover's Walk," and the oldie-but-not-recorded "Watch Your Step." Sufficce to say that the best song wasn't on the album but the flip of "Clubland," and already covered by Dave Edmunds and Linda Ronstadt, "Girls Talk."

The accompanying tour was much better, his best. "Shot With His Own Gun" was thoroughly disturbing live, and being his first appearance since Armed Forces, his innate sense of dignity and the depth and clarity of his performance made his earlier youth and angriness beguiling, giving it grace and humor. As Jeff Nesin wrot ein CREEM, E.C. had become a Long Term Artist. And was treated as such, being interviewed on Tom Snyder's show, appearing on a George Jones HBO special (though sick with the mumps), in dueting with George on "Stranger In The House" (which was a track on George Jones and Friends), and putting all concerned to shame with is tearjerking rendition of Patsy Cline's "She's Got You." Produced by Billy Sherill and inspired by the late (ex-Byrd) Gram Parsons (he'd also write the liner notes to a Parsons compilation), Elvis released his "tribute" to country music album, Almost Blue. But he was too kind to his country heroes, never transcending the pathos the way Parsons or Jones would have, and it is easily his worst LP.

Costello brought in 1982 with a three hour concert at the New York Palladium, followed it with a London concert backed by af ull orchestra, and gave us album number seven, Imperial Bedroom-a work of briliance by a fully grown man. The album views the many sides of (mainly) marital relationships and the ways in which they break down. The music (produced by Geoff Emerick, who started life engineering for the Beatles) is some sort of pop music peak. The comparison made was Cole Porter, and maybe so, if Cole Porter had been raised on Smokey Robinson, the Beatles, the Kings, even latter day Paul McCartney ("Human Hands"), and worked in the '80s. I think it is a stunner and the best album of '82.

I only saw Costello on the following tour once, and I've never seen him worse, though a friend tells me it was a particularly bad night. I felt he was working hard but pandering to his audience, the reason being that, though he is one of the most respected modern pop musicians, he doesn't sell much compared to say, AC/DC. His albums tend to jump in the charts as the fans buy them, and then disappear without a trace. At the concert, the high spots were the new songs, the Middle Eastern flavored "Imperial Bedroom" (not on the album), "Shipbuilding" (recorded by Robert Wyatt-about the war with Argentina and now his best political song), and the covers of Smokey Robinson and Bobby Blue Bland's tunes. The courting continued with "well well fancy that" interviews in Rolling Stone, New Musical Express and the New York Times, plus TV appearances on the hilarious Entertainment Tonight and less amusing David Letterman Show (why not PM Magazine?). Costello came across as a witty, smart, compassionate man.

A long way from My Aim Is True, his anger's still there but tampered by comprehension and age, possibly one of the reasons he (finally) won the Village Voice "Pazz and Jop" critics poll for the best album of '82. And there's obviously no end in sight, except maybe a personal one. Costello said once he'd never repeat himself. I have grown from being a teenager to being on the wrong side of the 20s with him, and he has never really let me down. In that sense, he has kept his word, and, for better or worse, that makes him the only artist in this Close-Up who can truly claim that.

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby Azmuda » Wed Jan 30, 2013 4:14 am

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby seanpointblank » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:55 am ... tober_1983

Musician, October 1983

From Table of Contents:

Elvis Costello arrived on the British scene six years and nine albums ago with a blast of bitterness and brute honesty that made him the first new wave superstar. As his prolific intelligence moved musically from pub to punk to post-modern, even embracing cabaret and country, his career remained stormy and underacclaimed. Now, basking in a new Costello climate of warmth, honesty and commercial appeal, Elvis relaxes over sashimi with Timothy White.

Elvis Costello: A Man Out Of Time Beats The Clock
By Timothy White

He's sweating like a stevedore, running hard and sucking wind as he traverses a broad, sun-scorched street in London's West End, dodging tourists, spinning free of snippy shop-girls and seeming almost in the clear until two infernal lorry drivers decide to hit their accelerators and aim to flatten him. Truly. Good God, these devils wanna ruin his red shoes!!

"Aaaaye!!!" Elvis Costello wears the fear-frozen gape of a haunted man who's just awakened in a shooting gallery as he jumps back onto the curb. Dressed in a midnight-colored suit and matching tab-collar shirt, his swift reflexes have spared his life but not his smart crimson floaters, as the predatory trucks splash a squalid puddle of black water down upon them. "The cheek of those wankers!" he hisses as they roar past. Only momentarily shaken, he picks up his hectic pace again, hurrying from newsstand to newsstand, searching, searching.

"Damn, damn," he mutters, his unexplained efforts apparently fruitless, and abruptly suggests catching a hack to his favorite Japanese lunch spot. The car is cruising through Covent Garden when Elvis--"Aha!" he whoops--suddenly begs the cabbie to pull over and then he leaps out, returning a few moments later with the new issue of Melody Maker, hot off the presses. "Excuse me a minute while I look into this," he says and whips through the venerable British rock journal until he reaches the record review section. He eases his glasses back up the bridge of his pug nose and peers anxiously at a piece headlined IMPOSTER UNMASKED (The Imposter having been his alias for a limited election-time release of the scathingly anti-Thatcher/ruling class "Pills And Soap" on the independent Demon label).

"Ummm, ummmm--my God!! They like it! They like it!" he exults, waving aloft the magazine's glowing assessment of Elvis Costello & the Attractions' new album, Punch The Clock. When we reach the restaurant, the husky rocker wearing the tinted hornrims disappears into a phone booth and emerges moments later to announce that the first new singled issued in the U.K., the shimmering soul bopper "Everyday I Write The Book," has just hit the top thirty. As a result, a scheduled band rehearsal for an imminent U.S. tour will be shortened tomorrow so that Elvis & the Attractions can hold forth as guests on Top of the Pops. This calls for sashimi.

It's a steamy ninety-degree day in London in the summer of 1983, but it obviously feels like a deep-freeze for the former Declan McManus when compared with the pop purgatory in which he's been roasting since 1979. That was the year that Elvis and company hit the road for the third time in the States, at that stage in support of their acclaimed Armed Forces LP. Cocky and largely incommunicado off-stage, the characteristically taciturn leader of the band got into a drunken bout of fat-mouthing in a Columbus, Ohio ginmill with a belligerent Bonnie Bramlett and other members of the Stephen Stills band, and wound up odd lout out for his highly-publicized racial slurs about Ray Charles and James Brown. Costello has long since apologized for his grievous utterances, stating that he was pie-eyed, perversely petulant and just trying to irk his barmates with the most gratingly nasty remark he could muster. People do a lot of foolishing things at the age of twenty-four, and western civilization rarely takes much notice, but this time a fair chunk of the world was watching, greatly unamused.

It was, of course, a bizarrely self-destructive move for the leading, most critically beloved figure in the new wave hierarchy after the stunning originality of his first two albums (My Aim Is True, 1977; This Year's Model, 1978) had established him as a rising rock craftsman sans pareil (he was twenty-two when he debuted)--and one of the few seemingly destined for mass acceptance. Ironically, he was also one of the few in his sphere of influence who had gone out of his way to reaffirm the enormous debt he and his young colleagues owed to the R&B, blues and soul greats, in addition to being quite active in the Rock Against Racism movement and a sworn enemy of England's fascist, anti-black National Front (his "Night Rally" was an unequivocal denunciation that put him in personal jeopardy with its rabid membership). In short, the Angry Young Man image which Costello cultivated had backfired, severely crippling his career's momentum.

Following the 1979 tour, the Attractions--Steve Nieve, keyboards; Pete Thomas, drums, Bruce Thomas, bass--broke up for a time, while Elvis weathered squalls in his personal life. When the group reunited in 1980 (thanks to manager Jake Riviera) it was to release Get Happy! a twenty-song celebration of rockin' R&B that demonstrated enormous energy and invention but little direction. The same year, Taking Liberties, a score of obscure B-sides, unreleased masters and cuts previously relegated to U.K. LPs, was shipped into the States. Like the previous record, it contained many fascinating tracks and was a testament to Costello's prolificacy, but was too diverse to digest and sold poorly. The year 1981 was a gloomy period that showed an even more reclusive Elvis come together with longtime producer Nick Lowe for their sixth LP, Trust, notable for the single "Watch Your Step," and a duet with Squeeze's Glenn Tilbrook on "From A Whisper To A Scream." The record received no radio response and a lukewarm sales reception in the U.S. market and Elvis shifted gears dramatically, heading down to Nashville in May to do an album with veteran country producer Billy Sherrill. A grossly underrated effort by a canny fan of George Jones, Don Gibson and the best of modern country, Almost Blue did well in the U.K. but only served to confuse Costello's loyal (and somewhat dwindling) following in America.

It took the bold, highly impressionistic Imperial Bedroom, with its elaborate orchestrations by the brilliant Steve Nieve to regain mainstream attention for all of the right reasons. Produced by George Emerick, it was a record that was fierce in its desire to flex new muscles and take freshly focused chances, and even the most dogged detractors were forced to unclench their fists and applaud a noble and sagacious compositional effort.

Now, with Punch The Clock, Elvis Costello has a shot at a full-scale artistic breakthrough as well as total access to the airwaves and a triumph at cash registers on both sides of the Atlantic, and it was clear as he took his place before the sushi bar that he was not going to blow it again. A highlight of the new album is "Mouth Almighty," on which Elvis asserts: "I know I've got my fault/ And among them I can't control my tongue." Candid admissions of weakness are the first signs of real strength, and this year's model plainly has come to like himself for himself. Open, vulnerable--and unescorted-- he exhibits an easy poise leavened with an engaging self-depreciation. Gone are the defensiveness and hair-trigger fulminations of the untempered, ninety-eight-pound weakling who once cooed "my aim is true" behind Coke-bottle lenses. He's been replaced by a broad-shouldered, affable, articulate, acerbic-within-bounds and enormously likable adult who laughs heartily at other people's jokes, offers to share his octopus and squid (no thank you), and during the course of a long, lively talk was at one point unable to suppress--I swear it!--a full-blown blush.

No longer a man out of time, Elvis Costello is learning how to make the most of whatever the clock still holds in store for him.

MUSICIAN: How do you see the evolution of your songwriting style?

ELVIS: Evolution isn't a word I'd use, but I'd constantly move from one style of writing to another as I felt I'd exhausted one or was selling my ideas short. I largely thought that the songs on Armed Forces--which coincidentally is my most successful album to date, and I hope won't be by the time this appears--were rather glib. I've since adopted a style of writing that's a bit more direct and honest. On Get Happy! the songs were shorter, very immediate; I didn't allow as much excess.

I'm a bit of a magpie--I don't play any instrument particularly well, so I do things by feeling rather than by technique. If I think, "Now I'm going to write a Four Tops song or an Erik Satie song" (laughter), obviously it's a bit limited as to how close I can get. But it's not important how close to somebody's musical idea it is. It's only important how well the song works, and if I've gotten something I'm satisfied with because it did the job. So I started using lots of other styles of music, if you like, quite consciously, but always trying to keep my musical identity in them. That culminated in the Imperial Bedroom album, where there are lots of loose ends and lots of potential directions. In each song there's some fake psychedelia or a 40s-style riff or things written with a strict format after the fashion of a standard ballad. I wanted to see what effect I could achieve.

MUSICIAN: Were these later record regenerative projects or exploratory ones?

ELVIS: Well, the last album was exploratory. There are a lot more deliberate obscurities in the lyrics on that one to allow them to work on the listeners' imaginations rather than making a specific point every time. I sometimes like to make an impression rather than a statement. "Kid About It" is an example, and "New Amsterdam" on Get Happy! Almost unconsciously, they give off the feeling of an event without describing it.

MUSICIAN: What was the first song you ever wrote?

ELVIS: I couldn't tell you what it was called. I was writing back when I was fifteen, so I should imagine it was all about the trials and tribulations of being fifteen--not to knock that. I'm just damned glad that I wasn't discovered then. A song I wrote before the first album which didn't appear until later should give an idea of the sort of songs I didn't choose to record at first--it was "New Lace Sleeves," on Trust. The arrangement was a later thing but that less direct kind of song was written in its entirety before my first album. "Ghost Train," which I've done a solo version of, was also written before the first album.

MUSICIAN: You appear to have a very fitful attitude toward the supposed war between the sexes. It's very Thurber-like acting as a jocular conscience of human folly.

ELVIS: James Thurber's one of my favorite writers. I never thought about it all along those lines, but maybe there is an element in that sympathy to Thurber's attitude that comes through. I've read a lot of his writing and I love his cartoons, so it might filter through.

MUSICIAN: Thurber's view is one of "I see you all doing this, and I give up! I don't know who's in charge here, but dammit, I do see patters, so I'm going to throw them all back at you!"

ELVIS: I think that's quite it, really, and people sometimes make the mistake with the songs of presuming that every one is written about my life. They say, "This has happened to him." but it could have been something I just saw in the same way that Thurber did. (grinning) But my life's not a cartoon. For instance, I didn't really meet my wife by finding her crouching on top of the wardrobe!

MUSICIAN: Could you at least detail how one of your better-known songs like "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes," was built up?

ELVIS: That's an odd one to pick, because I occasionally get visions in my head that I just write down, and there's no experience of having worked upon them--that being one of those instances. I wrote it all in ten minutes.

I go into a trance when I'm writing, and can remember very little, like, except sitting down once with the newspaper. It can just be a mass of print, or at other times, a mass of one-liners that stick out as possible parts of songs. With "Pills And Soap," I had written the title down as something that had come off the TV, and it suggested all these ideas. The substance of the later verses came from reading a newspaper, and these other things leaped out at me. It was as mundane as that.

MUSICIAN: That's a pretty angry tune. There's a cutting edge to most of your music that makes it dart and stab out of the radio. Would you say that most of your songs are angry?

ELVIS: Well, even if the emotions in my songs are negative, they are definite emotions. That's the main thing about them. To some extent I'm satisfied with the songs that give onyl an impression of an emotion instead of adamantly saying, "This-is-the-way-I-feel," but they're the ones that are the least memorable. They're passive songs--you have to come to them. The other songs, whether negative, positive, angry or glad about something, come at you.

There aren't any passive songs on this new record. There was one passive song called "The Flirting Kind" which is on the B-side of one of the singles here in England but was left off the album. I made a conscious effort to be as brief as possible lyrically. I try not to have so many superfluous things in a song but also take care not to strip them of any images that make them vivid and exiting to listen to. Chiefly, I want to keep the ultimate point of the song uppermost.

MUSICIAN: To my ears, virtually all the songs on Armed Forces seemed to have a defintive quality to them, while the 1981 country album, Almost Blue, had a passive feel, as if you were basically in the act of warming up to them.

ELVIS: Yes, but it's not so much that on the country album as, "Why am I doing them?" To view somebody being that unhappy, or to be in sympathy with songs which portray that amount of unhappiness requires a degree of resignation on the part of the person carrying that out. You can't go in there and give those songs stink, you know, you can't give them hell.

But I was in that melancholy attitude. I was disillusioned with my own writing and therefore chose to sing those songs. Those songs reflected my frame of mind as well as any others I could have written.

MUSICIAN: You were disillusioned in what sense? You thought you weren't hitting the mark?

ELVIS: I think there was a period of a hangover from the Armed Forces era, which was very successful. So it was on the one hand not enjoying that, making rather a mess out of it in terms of my life and my career, and on the other hand, feeling that I'd squandered an opportunity to have a large audience. I was feeling that I didn't have anything to say for myself, and then when I did have something to say--on the Get Happy! and Trust albums--I no longer had the means of the medium with which to communicate with a larger audience. The fact that the audience was getting smaller at that point sort of led me to the conclusion that I should stop writing songs.

I decided to do a record of other people's songs to bring some other talent, if you like, to the fore--which was the ability to sing rather than just have my words out. It had gotten to where the reviews were just concerned with, "What's he saying on this one? Who's he having a go at now?" I mean, I like to be my own most vitriolic critic about what I'm bleeding on about, 'cause there are always those people who are not convinced by you at all and think you're a terrible sham.

MUSICIAN: Do you think that critics put too much emphasis on your words rather than the total composition?

ELVIS: Sure, but there's no point in being false about the fact that there's more substance to my lyrics than quite a lot of other writers--not to say that there aren't others who write interesting lyrics. But overall, there are a lot of very poor lyrics on records. I always used to say that the minute that the critics found somebody who could string three words together, they immediately called him the new Bob Dylan, they call him the new Bruce Springsteen. It's a very dangerous thing to pay that much attention to someone who perhaps can't withstand it. Whatever happened to Elliot Murphy? Whatever happened to Willie Nile? These people never had a chance because, when they came out, the critics presumed one exalted thing about them and so much was expected. It's extremely unfair.

MUSICIAN: It's been said that the reason so many American rock critics love Elvis Costello is because they look like Elvis Costello.

ELVIS: (booming laughter, blushing) That's quite a good one. But they don't, you know. Again, that's the thing: they look the way the think I look! I don't look anything like they think I look!

MUSICIAN: You spoke to me earlier, in the taxi, about the incestuous, elitist qualities of the British press as opposed to the rock-crit, self-importance of some of the American press. Do you think the music press makes any significantly positive contributions to the overall environment?

ELVIS: If they're not actually informative--which in different ways they are, I guess, on both sides of the Atlantic--and merely negative, then they set up something to work against. Fighting the American press is like disobeying your parents, because they're so pompous. Critiques in the States usually have the tone of book reviews a lot of the time. In live concert reviews they treat you like opera!--"Mister Costello did this"...and so forth.

MUSICIAN: There's the famous isntance of Meat Loaf being referred to in the New York Times as "Mr. Loaf."

ELVIS: (laughing convlusively) Aaah! Mister Loaf! Mister Loaf! That's fantastic! Mister Loaf! (catching his breath, wiping his eyes) The rolling buzzards!

MUSICIAN: It must be incredibly frustrating to constantly have your gradual development, your emerging muse, sharply criticized. A lot of the times, just at the stage when artists are beginning to reach a big audience, they are not necessarily doing their best work.

ELVIS: I felt that I was at the time with Armed Forces, because I hadn't been one who simply stuck around a long time and suddenly gained a massive audience when they'd made their worst record. I actually felt that I w still ascendant artistically, but in retrospect I think that because everything happened so quickly my judgment wasn't at its best. My great enthusiasm for elements of the way my work went in the light of that initial burst of acclaim was misplaced. I'm not tally denying all the work, though. There were some damned good songs in that transitional period.

MUSICIAN: Do you have any absolute favorites thus far?

ELVIS: There are songs I still enjoy playing which are not necessarily our best-known songs. "Big Tears," which was the B-side of "Pump It Up" in England, is probably one of the best songs we've made. I still like "Pump It Up" as well. I couldn't imagine going in and making that record now, but I'm glad I made it then.

MUSICIAN: Your range of focus is an uncommonly wide one. How did you come to put "My Funny Valentine" on the back of the 1979 "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" 45?

ELVIS: I'd always liked the song, since I was a child. My parents played Sinatra's rendition around the house, and the band just needed another B-side, really. It was one of those situations where I was available and nobody else was, so we just did the guitar and voice and it seemed okay to me. I ignored all the criticism of it at the time, people saying that I had a lot of bloody cheek singing a song like that because, after all, I was a punk (sly grin).

MUSICIAN: It seems that you're really concentrating on your vocals this time around. In "The Invisible Man" in particular on the new LP, you seem to be paying a lot more attention to your singing. There's almost a delicacy to the vocal on that track--I also hear a bit of Ray Davies influence in there.

ELVIS: (delighted laughter) That sort of became the standing joke when we were recording it! We were not actually copying anything, but without any conceit at all--just an in joke among the band--a song will often become known as "the Al Green tune" or whatever because it has some little lick in there. While we were recording "Invisible Man" Clive Langer said, "That's like the Kinks!" and once he'd said that, I couldn't get it out of my head. You know, I'm not a bad mimic when I want to be.

On the Get Happy! album we consciously abandoned the arrangements we were working on and rearranged everything based on a load of soul records I'd bought to refresh my memory. "King Horse" had the "Reach Out" guitar part, for example, along with a long "Poppa Was a Rollin' Stone" intro which we chopped off the record. There were a lot of little jokeso n the album, and I think that's quite good fun. You shouldn't be afraid of making those kinds of jokes between yourselves--it helps to deflate any conceit that you have.

MUSICIAN: The horns on "T.K.O. (Boxing Day)" on the new album have a nice Stax soul review quality.

ELVIS: It's funny, in America folks tend to treat Stax as a vaudevillian throwback. We have a lot more...I don't want to say reverence, but more...respect for soul and R&B overall. A lot of big bands in the States seem to be frighteningly ignorant of stuff that is really their own heritage. They have this rock and this heavy metal music in America that doesn't have any roots in rock 'n' roll and soul or anything. It's a creation of the 1970s. I'm talking about the Totos and the Rushes--those groups that sings, "We're a rock 'n' roll band!" or "We're rocking tonight!" And they don't have anything to do with rock 'n' roll, and wouldn't know it if it bit them (laughter). I think there are very true rock 'n' roll bands in America, such as the Blasters. The people who have the least clue of what's really good about rock 'n' roll hold it as a god that must be bowed down to. I think it's so bloody old-fashioned, behind-the-times. I can't understand why anybody would be the slightest bit interested in "We're-going-to-do-it-all-night" kinds of songs.

MUSICIAN: In terms of your style of composing and playing, I sense that you like to hurry the melody and rush the hook. Are you conscious of that? Sometimes it's almost an examination-in-progress of how mannered rock 'n' roll can be.

ELVIS: Well, more recently I tend to sing behind the beat instead of ahead of it, except on some of the uptempo songs. On the last album, I sang very consciously behind the beat, but I don't think I understand what it is you're saying.

MUSICIAN: There's a hurry-up quality to the structural resolution of your recorded material and to its live presentation that makes me as a listener hear with new ears. It's one of the things that I enjoy most about your music.

ELVIS: The music is built around my singing, and there is a particular tone in my voice at the register I sing at most of the time which tends to sound--some would say urgent, others would say agitated, depending on whether it jars you or is pleasing. So that might be it. My voice is very powerful in that certain register and it's the one that is most effective at harassing the listener (chuckling). You know what I mean? It cuts through backing and cuts through the beat as well, so perhaps that's what creates that effect. I've never really analyzed it.

I try not to get too self-conscious about my singing, for instance, and the only time I'm conscious of my singing is when I feel I've been consciously trying to eliminate sounds I don't like from my style. Over the years, I've dropped certain inflections and phrasings, but getting analytical about it is the worst thing you can do. In a few instances, I've allowed records to go out when I was unhappy with the vocal style, particularly on the last album, on which I indulged my experimentation. Normally, excepting the country records, I've always been produced under the disciplines of Nick Lowe, but because I wasn't producing myself on Imperial Bedroom, I was going overboard.

MUSICIAN: What was it like working with Nick Lowe?

ELVIS: I first knew him as a fan of Brinsley Schwarz, and he was the first person I ever knew who was in a professional group that made records and things. I knew him socially from around 1973, before I was a professional musician. I met him in a pub opposite the Cavern in Liverpool--this sounds like something a press officer would invent but it's true. He was playing there just before the club finally closed. I was in a little group, all of us working under our own names, and I met him at the bar. Then he was the first artist signed to Stiff and became the house producer by the time I was signed.

MUSICIAN: What specific contributions has Lowe made to your sound?

ELVIS: (smiles) when I first knew Nick, his attitude was, "Hell, it's no big deal that I'm in a group! You bang three chords together and you write songs!" Up until then, because I had no experience in recording. I always thought that the more complicated the song was, the more merit it had. To some extent, he was instrumental in making me see the benefit of simplicity--and I adopted that as a creed from there on.

As a singer, I always had an understanding with him that he would let me go so far with a vocal, but if he thought I was going past it and becoming too considered and losing the feeling, he'd stop me and use the earlier, imperfect take. He'd always allow me one or two wild takes beyond what he thought was it, in case I did something extraordinary that he wasn't expecting. He taught me a lot about craft and non-calculation--and that they needn't be in conflict.

MUSICIAN: Is Punch The Clock a title meant to comment on the drudgery of the work week or a rage concerning age?

ELVIS: No, but I like titles with double meanings, like Trust. It's got a great double meaning to it: you could say, "Trust me!" or "Trust them!" Punch The Clock could mean stopping time, or let's punch in and get to work, but it's not a manifestation of rage about getting old. We were going to give a deliberately pretentious title to the last album just to irritate people--we were going to call it Music To Stop Clocks. And then we were going to call it This Is A Revolution Of The Mind, which comes from "King Heroin" by James Brown--but I discovered that he did call one of his albums that! But I'm not a prisoner of time. (crooning) "Time is on my side..."

MUSICIAN: The first time I played "Love Went Mad" from Punch The Clock, I cracked up laughing because I thought I caught a certain ingenious obscenity in the lyrics that I believed I must have heard wrong, but I checked and yes, the lyric read: "I wish you luck with a capital F."

ELVIS: Hmm. I don't think that's a particularly good line. I think it's a lousy one, actually. I prefer the line before it, "With these vulgar fractions of the treble clef." That's just my personal preference. The other one's a bit of an untidy payoff, one of the worst lines on the record.

MUSICIAN: Seriously? I love it! It's a line I'd use in a pub.

ELVIS: Well, yeah. I suppose you're right. See, that's a song about complacency from a comic opera that will never exist. The detail in it about Piccadilly being turned into Brands Hatch refers to a racing car track in this country that's like the Indianapolis Speedway.

The Song is about Mr. Complacency being down in the fallout shelter, totally resigned to his fate just seconds before he's obliterated. There he is down there, playing his family favorites on a tissue and a comb and thanking God he won't have to be tempted by young girls dressed as older women anymore--"There'll be no more lamb dressed as mutton rather than mutton dressed as lamb." (laughter) He's counting his few blessings that are left, 'cause he's lived such a good, saintly life.

MUSICIAN: Your writing has always seemed concerned with a stark kind of political commentary that's almost Kafkaesque. There' s a line in "Pills And Soap that goes, "You think your country needs you but you know it never will." Do you have a sense of cynicism about these things?

ELVIS: First of all, concerning how much you belong to your country or your country belongs to you, definitely so. I think it's a really false belief when they tell you, "Your country needs you." Yeah! A great nonsense, isn't it? They only need you as long as they've got a particular function for you. It's not your country or my country--it doesn't belong to me.

MUSICIAN: Do you vote?

ELVIS: Yes, I do. I voted for the Labour Party in the last election. Why I would not vote for Thatcher is easy: I think that it's an insensitive government, it doesn't have any compassion for people who are not self-made business people. They have no feeling for people who haven't got any money or a job. They're quite prepared to damn large portions of the population to miserable lives. I don't think there's any way that you can justify voting any other way but Labour. I suppose you could say that's a very high-handed attitude to take toward any political party, but I should think it goes beyond politics--it's actually morally wrong to vote for the Tories.

MUSICIAN: Well, I would think that a country is only as good as the quality of life that its working class is experiencing, but do you see yourself as a champion of the working class?

ELVIS: No, I don't see myself as a champion of anybody. I've never stressed it enough that I write from my own point of view. I'm not writing for anybody else. What people identify with in the songs is their business. That's what use they make of the songs, the same way they make use of something they've read in a book or see in a film. I don't make any demands on the audience in terms of them seeing me as a spokesperson or a champion. I don't cast myself in any roles like those. I'm just an individual.

MUSICIAN: I think the atmosphere in the U.K. makes for a much more vital rock scene. In America the scene is so diffuse.

ELVIS: When you live in a spread-out country, you can't have it any other way. Still, you've got little close-knit creative cliques in particular towns and cities, like the new York community that gave us Talking Heads and the Ramones--that's an unusual scene that can spawn both those groups, even though they're both very arty in their way. But I don't put the vitality over in England down to class. Class is a depressing element of this society and I don't think it has any positive aspects except that it gives you something to kick against. And, of course, there's currently a much larger middle class--at least in their own minds--than there's ever been in this country. But in truth there's only three types of people in the world: people who work, people who are not allowed to, and people who don't have to.

MUSICIAN: Speaking of your own work, does it bother you that you haven't had any hit singles in the States?

ELVIS: (pensive) I don't know. It obviously bothers me that we seem to be able to have a degree of success, and the hit single is the key to a larger market. If reaching a larger market means that you have to sound like Christopher Cross, then I'd rather stay the way I am. I'm not going to make a record which I think is consciously intended to get the desired effect of a hit in America, a hot single which is gonna break us through so that we then are up there with Bob Seger and all the good ol' ones. I want to reach there when it's on the terms of making good music. Coincidentally, quite a lot of the people who are held in almost obscene reverence in America, like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, don't sell that many records.

MUSICIAN: What are your feelings on the music video boom and its relative importance to your group?

ELVIS: We've done one video for this record and we'll probably do another. We've done loads of them but you won't see them on MTV--except only at three o'clock in the morning. I don't think we're a particularly visual group, which is a drawback but we've made some quite good videos over the years; at least one for each album since Armed Forces. The're fun, but usually trite; the current English school of the "mysterious video" genre is to wear trenchcoats on them and walk through dry ice smoke--you've got to look like you're in Murder on the Orient Express. Or was that last year? God, I can't take them seriously. I think it's a big mistake to interpret the twenty-four-hour record company and its bored-brat indulgence in the shape of rock videos as some kind of innovation--that's very self-congratulatory. Actually I think it's a retrogressive step. It takes a lot of music out of it all, so you see what ugly, boring bastards most rock chaps are. I'd rather that you waited all week with some feeling of anticipating for one program that was genuinely great, in which you saw good bands that were exciting, than have twenty-four-hour access to a load of idiots with too much money and not enough sense. I'm afraid that's the standard of most of the videos that I saw when I watched MTV. That's not indicative of the idea; it just shows the paucity of imagination and genuine inspiration, and of the vanities of a lot of the groups.

MUSICIAN: Say, were you modest and well-liked as a kid?

ELVIS: (laughter) Oh, I never thought, "My God, I'm so much brighter than everybody else." Or (dreamily), "I knew from an early age I was special"--one of those kinds of remarks, of "I used to see things other people didn't." I did average work at school--but I don't think that's a reflection of intelligence.

MUSICIAN: I'm only curious if you had close companions with whom you could really confer as an adolescent.

ELVIS: I don't have very many friends, period--let's put it that way. I just don't choose to have many. I had few friends then and few now, meaning a few I value a lot rather than a lot I don't value at all. I don't worry about how sophisticated the relationship is, I just worry about whether it matters to me. It can be quite inane, because a lot of things that matter to you generally are things that lack sophistication, or what we laughably call sophistication--which is our ability to drown our real feelings in the cologne of sophistication. There you go! There's a good one! They're rolling off the tongue today, folks!

MUSICIAN: Getting back to music: what role does keyboardist Steve Nieve play in shaping songs?

ELVIS: I think it would be unfair to the other two Attractions, Bruce and Pete Thomas, to say that Steve has a greater say overall. Obviously, he has the most scope with his instrument because he's the main melodic interest on most tracks, and from the nature of his instrument he has more range than the bass or the drums. But I think overall it's a fairly even input. On the last album, we had songs which he arranged for outside players, as in the case of "....And In Every Home" and "Town Crier." That's a different matter. He contributed quite a lot to "....And In Every Home" because I gave him the song, said "give full vent to your imagination," and he gave it this deranged setting. It's marvelous that he has the technical, musical ability to write things down, that he can communicate complicated ideas to players that can only work with written music. I don't have that ability. I don't write or read music at all. I have to describe things to people if I'm working with a writer or arranger; I have to communicate by humming the lines, which can get very tedious.

MUSICIAN: Still, that's a great rock 'n' roll and R&B tradition.

ELVIS: I suppose it is. I wrote all the main horn refrains on this new album. I sang, "da da da da," and the phrasing and the harmonies of it were worked out between myself, Steve, Clive, Langer, Alan Winstanley and the horn section. Other punches, turnarounds and modifications came from a communal effort. With the song, "The Greatest Thing," we left a huge gape where we just vamped from E to C sharp minor in the middle of the song and said that when we did the backing track, we'd put some sort of horn bit in there. We just cannibalized a well known Glenn Miller Tune and threw in a bit of Kool & the Gang for good measure. You can do it literally like that, have fun, instead of thinking, "What are people going to think of this?" or "What's the significance of this?"

MUSICIAN: Is there an album of yours that you believe was the turning point, in terms of doing the work you'd hoped to hear yourself doing?

ELVIS: Get Happy! was it. I'd written about half the songs on it during the 1979 Armed Forces tour, which had ended in a lot of disarray both personally and professionally, for various reasons which I think have been well-covered elsewhere. I took quite a lot of time off to recover physically and emotionally, and I went off and did a bit of production, like the Specials' first album. Meanwhile, I had earlier been writing material for the next album and we rented a studio.

We put about two tracks down and I realized right away that the arrangements we'd worked out on the tour were going to come out sounding very cliched, like a parody of ourselves. The sound we'd developed was rather a rootless new wave sound; it sounded like the very things I criticize modern rock music for, yet it didn't relate to glitter rock, nor any of the modern trends, nothing at all. It completely stood alone. Some of the music for the album dated back to 1975; it was really ancient and the arrangements lacked the character that the songs required. I re-wrote a few and others we just rearranged--to varying degrees of success--after I'd gone out and bought some fifty soul records to refresh what I'd liked about that style and the strength of the vocals. If you have a love for the style, the song will often carry it along. You could cast "Many Rivers To Cross" as a country & western song and it would stand up--providing the singer matches the commitment (smirking slyly). Or you could do a Linda Ronstadt on it and fall flat on your--oh, no, I musn't get into attack her again!

MUSICIAN: Despite your wisecracks. I get the distinct impression from both Punch The Clock and this conversation that you are taking yourself more seriously as a singer--and hope others will too. The growth is there. Is the intent there also?

ELVIS: Maybe I'm getting better as I get more experienced.


Punch The Clock record review by Jock Bairdfrom page 93

Punch The Clock (Columbia)

Many of the writers I know are having trouble with Elvis' newest offering. Oh sure, the manage to swallow it eventually and some have even come to love it a little, but these are not the first instincts of a functioning critic. After all, Elvis has turned his highly charged confessional into a damn Stax/Volt revue, complete with fat horn section and two black female singers (known, in the pun of the year, as Afrodiziak). We're talking airplay here, folks. Elvis himself anticipates the critical dismay when he asks in the very first cut, "Have we come this fa-fa-fa to find a soul cliché?" *All of the Otis Redding fans out there will enjoy that one.) Well, soul much of Punch The Clock may be, but cliché it is not, thanks not only to slippery, smart chord changes and highly skilled arrangements, but, more importantly, to the lyrics' stubborn refusal to sweeten and trivialize.

The dominant theme of Punch The Clock is also sure to give any self-respecting anger-monger a headache: Elvis explores the happiness and hell of domestic bliss, announcing his basic enthusiasm for the concept ("Isn't this the greatest thing?") even as he sees the danger of being permanently housebroken ("Men made into mice") and forever compromised into political passivity ("I was committed to life and then commuted to the outskirts"). Mind you, this version of marriage is a shifting one, with attack ("It's a fight to the finish, let there be no doubt...everyday will be boxing day") and retreat ("I wish I'd never opened my mouth almighty") and the possibility of Elvis' being ultimately untamable ("Trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's arse"). Still there is an unescapable tenderness to many of the songs on Punch The Clock, especially the Smokey Robinson ("Being With You") and Stevie ("Looking For Another Pure Love") touches on the lovely single "Everyday I Write The Book" and the sheer singability of "The Element Within Her." Elvis softens his raspy, bittersweet voice into a haunting, tuneful intimacy and mixes it further back into the warmth of the instruments; ys, Virginia, the man not only has a heart, but a voice as well.

Musically, the fine production polish of Langer & Winstanley (Madness, Dexy's) must further enhance critical discomfort. The LP divides into horn-centered tracks, which do tend at times to sound like Stax Spam ("T.K.O.," "The Greatest Thing," "Invisible Man" and "The World And His Wife"), the middle ground of pop invention, (the reggae-ish "Charm School" and the neo-classical "King Of Thieves" are highlights) and two brass-knuckled views of British society that most will find the LP's best tracks. "Pills And Soap" is a remake of an election-campaign single Elvis released under the nom-de-plunder The Imposter; it's sparse, uncomfortable keyboard accompaniment thrusts bitter images of sacrifice on the altar of sugarcoated pills and squeaky clean hypocrisy (including a wonderful characterization of Charles and Lady Di as "Lord and Lady Muck"). The transition from this searing dissection into the transcendently superficial beginning of "The World And His Wife" takes the breath away. The second masterpiece in miniature is a ballad that Elvis and co-producer Clive Langer penned for singer Robert Wyatt, "Shipbuilding." This achingly beautiful rendition finds Elvis' voice (kissed by Chet Baker's trumpet) softly describing the dilemma of feeding a family by building armadas for the Falklands War, "diving for dear life, when we could e diving for pearls." For many, critics and otherwise, the pearls of Punch The Clock will have to be dived for, but their value will be all the more increased for it. --- Jock Baird

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby Azmuda » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:36 pm

Thanks again!

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby edney » Sat Feb 16, 2013 7:49 am

Here's another one. Melody Maker March 11 1978. Allan Jones reviews "This Year's Model"




“This Year's Model” - and it's difficult to believe from the maturity of the writing and the performance that it's only The Man's second album! — is an achievement so comprehensive, so inspired, that it exhausts superlatives. It promotes its author to the foremost ranks of contemporary rock writers. Clear out of sight of most of his rivals and comparisons (so long, Bruce baby). Elvis Costello's prodigious talent, we can see in retrospect, was only superficially exposed on his first album. While it is true that "Aim's" specific themes of revenge, jealousy, infidelity, deceit and betrayal are central to this album's most powerful songs — "Lip Service" "Lipstick Vogue" and "Living In Paradise" — these obsessions are forced even more ruthlessly into the spotlight. And, running parallel to these preoccupations, is the vague paranoia and unease of "The Beat" and "Night Rally" which hardens to vicious attack on "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea." a virulent indictment of the superficialities of style and fashion: "Everybody has new orders/Be a good girl, kiss the warders." Nick Lowe's production is easily his finest hour, a firm but sympathetic treatment of the songs, and embellishments that are carefully considered. It brings Elvis' sneering vocal into dramatic close-up — his voice throughout has tremendous presence — as the Attractions, with characteristic razorblade cool, slice across the mix. The themes of infidelity and humiliation are pursued with relentless vigour and imagination. "Hand In Hand" — which has a backward tape fade-in redolent of 10CC and a gorgeously rich and infectious melody — seems to propose love as a criminal conspiracy: ("Don't ask me to apologise. I won't ask you to forgive me/If I'm gonna go down, you're gonna come with me"). The extraordinary "Living In Paradise" is set against a neurotic calypso backdrop, with Elvis phrasing his lyrics with a flippant, disquieting glee. The song unfolds as an epic of suspicion, jealousy and revenge, replete with the kind of dangerous images that elevated "I'm Not Angry" to such chilling peaks: "Later in the evening when the arrangements are made. I'll be at the keyhole outside your bedroom door." sings Elvis, voice twitching and kicking over the jerking rhythm. "You think that I don't know the boy that you're touching but I'll be at the video and I will be watching." Sex is again the theme of "This Year's Girl," a brilliant exposition of the hypocrisy that can be provoked by the exploitation of unattainable objects. Elvis flicks off taut guitar sequences over Steve Naive's swirling keyboard shrouds and a central percussion motif that exaggerates the mounting tension. A similar abrasiveness characterises the paranoid rush of the epic "The Beat," which follows. The fierce tango arrangement has been retained from the live prototype that Elvis has been performing since he formed the Attractions, but the fury has been tempered in favour of a more insidious pulse. Steve Naive's icy keyboard interpolations (imagine a crazed hybrid of Garth Hudson and Can's Irmin Schmidt, if you can) shiver nervously behind Elvis's alarm-central lyrics. The standard of the writing, where the penetration of the language matches the vaulting hysteria of the performance, is relaxed only twice — midway through side one — with "Pump It Up" and "Little Triggers" The former is a routine rocker (I'm sure Nick Lowe told me that this is one of the tracks on which the Clash's Mick Jones played -- "to Keef it up" — but he's not much in evidence): while "Triggers" employs an overly familiar ballad scheme with a predictable melody, a fault that is not overcome by the rather intriguing lyrics. Still, things are quickly whacked back into shape with "You Belong To Me," which brings the side to a roaring conclusion, and by the complete magnificence of side two which includes "Hand In Hand." "Chelsea" dealt with already — as well as "Lip Service." "Lipstick Vogue" and the masterful "Night Rally" "Lip Service" features an especially deft Lowe production job, with acoustic guitars skating beneath Elvis' lead vocal and handclaps punctuating the chorus. "Lipstick Vogue" is altogether more violent, with Pete Thomas' drums careering from speaker to speaker (here recalling the intro to the live version of "Mystery Dance"), and Elvis' scatter-chord guitar knocking the song along at a slashing pace. The arrangement is unusually powerful and imaginative. The instruments, having hit one furious-peak, fall away behind Elvis, then rise again to a final crescendo so deranged that this listener is left quite breathless. Elvis and Basher, however, have left until last the album's most lethal broadside. "Night Rally" is a disturbing comment upon the popularity and potential menace of the National Front that achieves its resonance not from any sensational sloganeering but from the genuine apprehension conveyed by Lowe's discreet atmosphere of impending disaster and Elvis's desolate lyric: "They're putting all your names in the forbidden book/I know what they're doing but I don't want to look/You think they're so dumb, think they're so funny/But wait until they get you running to their Night Rally/Night Rally." It is fitting that such an important song concludes such an impressive album. "This Year's Model." This Year's Masterpiece. The best thing I've heard since the last best thing I heard. Etc.Etc.Etc. ALLAN JONES

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby Azmuda » Sat Feb 16, 2013 9:45 am

edney wrote:Here's another one. Melody Maker March 11 1978. Allan Jones reviews "This Year's Model

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby edney » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:50 am

I just wanna go to Clubland - Paolo Hewitt - Melody Maker Jan 3rd 1981

Elvis Costello leads an all-star cast to Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre; Paulo Hewitt wishes they were all in Clubland.


Saturday night at Birmingham's vast Exhibition Centre was a slap in the face for all of those who had hoped that the day of the New Wave Megagig would never come. It has. Cold and impersonal, it came to life in Birmingham and forced people to pay over five quid to sit over 500 yards away from the stage, and applaud. Bouncers roamed the aisles, punters sat passively, and a succession of bands paraded before them, wondering why no one was keen to dance to the beat. This kind of nonsense should have been buried years ago. More to the point, audiences should have stopped supporting them ages ago, but, then, there's no accounting for taste these days. When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose? Birmingham's massive Christmas festival began with the sight of John Cooper Clarke striding on stage to play MC. The hall itself was only half full, and, backstage, people were dropping in like human puddles, after checking in at the hotel contained within the complex, which itself is about five miles outside Birmingham. If you saw it you'd think it a wonder too. Cooper Clarke chomped characteristically through "Gaberdine Angus" and then introduced Squeeze to the freezing hall, and the massive stage. It's the first time they've played in ages, and with a new keyboard player Paul Carrack, but by any standards they failed dismally. Only Glen Tillbrook, in a snazzy white suit, seemed capable of injecting any energy or passion into the job at hand. The rest of the band were plain anonymous, perhaps too overawed and too anxious to please. Their stage rustiness showed, and their new songs sounded off-colour. Apart from an occasional turn of phrase, their music plodded along dolefully and unimaginatively, failing to spark any real interest. They were nothing more than a superior Chas 'n' Dave, and the Birmingham audience swallowed them with warm applause and approval. Shrugging my shoulders, I went backstage and asked Jake Riviera if I could interview Elvis Costello. He greeted my suggestion with two minutes of verbal abuse: "If you could use words like Elvis you wouldn't be a hack would you?" etc etc etc. He used the word "we" a lot, ("We realise we're minimising our career") vindicating fully critics who point to the part he's played in manoeuvring Costello to the position of playing 11,000 seaters. He refused my request. So who comes first? The singer and the songs? Or the manager and the muscle? Rockpile followed. Edmunds in trousers that looked suspiciously like flares, Lowe with grey hair, and Bremner with a beer gut that pushed his guitar at least a foot in front of him. And if Squeeze are an upper class Chas 'n' Dave, then Rockpile are the toffs above Status Quo. Variations on a theme based around drink, women and the Lowe Life of 12 bar blues. For sure, it's expertly played, with touches of true class, but there's not enough true substance behind it. The riffs and the chords are ancient, the song forms predictable, and the people who play it are experts in the art of self mythology. The "Look At Us/We Get Wasted And Drunk Every Day," sound. W-e-ll, that's fine for a Friday night, but Rockpile work on the theory that every night is Friday night, which is why they will always remain a cult in their own lurchtimes. Their best moments aren't even theirs, a scintillating run through Costello's "Girls Talk", but their roguish charm is undeniable. There's not a lot wrong with Rockpile, but really! Would you pin their pictures on your wall? I thought not; They're far too harmless to really cut it. First blood went to Madness, one of the true successes of the night, and the first band to generate some kind of atmosphere within these cold walls. The reason for their success is simple. Madness understand and possess a sublime visual sense. No-one, but no-one, dances like Chas Smash in his baggy trousers. His arms jerk into weird shapes and sizes, his head tries to butt the microphone, his legs can't stand still, and his whole action provides the perfect counterpart for Suggsy's hunched shoulders and inane grins. But it doesn't stop there. All seven of Madness actually look like they're enjoying themselves up there, and in fact probably couldn't think of a better place to be, thank you very much. Where they succeed is in transmitting that feeling to the audience as well as delivering songs and tunes that are short, sharp, danceable pop. They've also added significantly to pop history, by restoring fun to music, something for which they've been sneered at viciously. What their critics don't realise is that they're busy creating a soundtrack for a generation to grow up to, and that's something Madness and a lot of people (me!) never had. Don't knock it. In Birmingham we got an abbreviated set from their recent tour with the singles, ("Embarrassment" being their best shot, this year, although "Baggy Trousers" got all the applause; not fair!) all tacked on an exhilarating climax, peaked with a fully blown up version of "Madness", dominated by Mike Barson's warm keyboards. It was the proper way for them to finish 1980, and their reason for playing this gargantuan hall was just as genuine. In front of so many different kinds of people, perhaps now at last they'll be taken for what they want to be. A pure pop band (take that Lowe) and one of our best. Afterwards Nick Lowe crashed their dressing room along with Rockpile drummer Terry Williams, with Lowe introducing Woody to Williams with, "I'm no good with names, but this is the Madness drummer."
Williams looked sheepish, opened up his autograph book and said, "Oh. Can I have your autograph please?" A little further up the corridor Elvis Costello had finally arrived and outside his dressing room two bouncers threateningly took guard outside the room. I dropped my Hunter Thompson fantasies and retreated into the auditorium. By now, the crowd had completely filled out the massive hall and thanks to that, and the Madness performance, a real atmosphere and sense of occasion slowly crept through the place. With the Selecter due on next, hopes were rising. Hopes which the Selecter unfortunately killed. In the year or so they've been away, the Selecter have hardened their position considerably. Their music, which has always carried a sense of lightness and fun, has now expanded fully to introduce a more guitar dominated sound. Their lyrics have become much more radical and harsh, and consequently, with two new members, the Selecter who took the stage Saturday night were not the guests who were expected. Or maybe invited. After the fun and games of Madness, you could hear the stadium shudder when Pauline introduced what will become the anthemic "Bristol And Miami," with: "this song is dedicated to the blacks who fought in the Bristol riots earlier this year as well as the blacks who fought in Miami". Real radical eh? Well Birmingham thought so, and as the Selecter intensely piled on their political visions to a backdrop of music that fitted perfectly the moods and designs of the songs, Birmingham withdrew its support and watered it down to lukewarm applause. What was great about it was that the Selecter garnered a reaction just as extreme as Madness before them. Only Birmingham didn't realise it. Personally, I thought that after such a sublime performance of vocal prowess and dance from Pauline the house should have been brought down. Instead everyone clapped once and then waited down the front for Costello. Still when the band's new album comes out, "Celebrate The Bullet", scheduled for release in February, they can undertake their own gigs, forget these massive halls, and their true worth will be seen. Certainly, Selecter are most vividly experienced in a more sympathetic environment. I just hope they remember that. These are still fragile days for them and it showed occasionally on Saturday night when they simply tried just that bit too hard. My money's still on them as future contenders, though. But who's this with the mumbo jumbo, national health specs and silk cravat? Why it's Elvis Costello! Let's give him a section all to himself. 1980 was the year that Elvis Costello finally broke all ties with the music business and went alone. He recorded an album of 20 songs with no fuss, that drew strongly upon a rich Sixties soul heritage but he didn't let it show. His trademark was all over the place and the influences never got in the way. Soon after its release, he went and did what all those brave punk bands said they'd do: play small places which aren't usually played. Then he disappeared, popping up only to play a Rainbow anniversary gig, release a superb single, "Clubland" (which is currently doing zilch sales wise) and play a massive gig like this one tonight. It's exactly that kind of unpredictable behaviour which keeps the interest and adrenalin moving. An infuriating blend of both good and bad. I love him when he’s upsetting all pre-conceptions including his snubbing of the music press, which didn't take full page ads to do, remaining completely unpredictable, and writing classics like "King Horse". I hate him when he's perpetuating big gigs like these and riding about in flash Greyhound buses which contributes and encourages the whole Chelsea scene he once reviled so viciously. Obviously, with Elvis you can't have your cake and eat it, one side has to balance out the other, and to be perfectly honest when he took the stage Saturday night I petulantly hated his guts for not talking to me and encouraging backward gigs like these. After he left the stage Saturday night, I thought him one of the most marvellous things I'd seen all year. Steve Nieve with dramatically short hair and shades, took the stage first and hit some dramatic piano chords to introduce Elvis and a new song called "Shot By His Own Gun," a typical Costello composition, with flashing imagery and dominant theme to hold it all together. Elvis himself looked chuffed and happy at the reception he received, letting out a quick smug smile before the rest of the band joined him and launched into "Hi Fidelity", one of the best neo-Motown songs of the Seventies. After that it was new material, some of which was announced, and a lot more that wasn't. With new material, of course, it's hard to make snap judgements, but one comment from a rare interview of his kept coming back. "I won't be around to watch my own decline," I remember him once sneering, and by the quality on show he's definitely keeping to his word. One number, based around a sparse drum-beat and the simplest of riffs, matched easily such achievements as "Green Shirt", whilst the marvellous "Clubland" came over with archetypal venom and intensity. Standing there watching Elvis Costello, though is half the fun of it all. Costello's movements are so awkward, his jerky, awkward guitar playing never looks so sync with the music; his head bobbing constantly, it seems impossible for him to be actually playing. And how he gets so worked up delivering some of his more obscure lyrics is beyond me, but as always it's up to the listener to make of it what they will. Tonight his set was largely occupied by material from "Get Happy" and the forthcoming album, "Trust" interspersed with such inspired choices as "Big Tears", a classic B-side, and an abbreviated "Detectives", which was so much the better for its brevity. As always, the Attractions themselves provided perfect backings for the horn-rimmed one, though how they manage to remain so miserable onstage whilst pumping out such exciting material will always be a mystery. By the time they'd finished, Costello's aim to warm up the hall had been fulfilled, the crowd was ecstatic, and also worried that UB40 weren't going to play, so Costello wished us home safely and then disappeared into nowhere. The only thing wrong with Costello at present is his increasing weight. But then a good healthy British tour will put that right. For the time being I'm on his side. Last train to London was half past midnight. UB40 finally made it onstage at ten minutes before midnight.
I caught a sensuous "Come Over," and a warming "King" before I kicked my way out of the door, still dancing. My apologies for not staying, it's more my loss than theirs. But then I never did want to go to the Birmingham Super Bowl anyway. It was too big, too much like the Old Days of rock, and too tiring. I'd rather be had in Clubland thank you.

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby edney » Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:00 am

The Physical art of conversation - Allan Jones - Melody Maker - "Trust" review - 24th January 1981


TRUST" arrives like a flurry of punches, pinning back your ears as it pins you to the ropes; ducking one punch, you walk into another. Some of the individual blows might lack a decisive impact, but the final combination puts you down for the count. Time was when Elvis would've left you on your knees, bleeding into your tears. "Trust" holds out its hand, hauls you back on your feet. Costello's vision is as fierce as ever, but the malice has gone; he can still rage, but he no longer scolds. Compare the cover of "Trust" with the sleeve of "This Year's Model" or even the furtive smirk of 'Get Happy!!". Elvis looks less malignant: he used to be disgusted, now he really looks amused. Having his albums around the house and playing them so often is still like having someone's abrasive conscience as a lodger, though. No doubt, Elvis will remain too acerbic for comfortable popular consumption. This could explain the outrageous lack of notice suffered by "Clubland" (presently raging up the chart with an anvil around its neck). Taut contemporary lyricism set to an epic beat, "Clubland" is one of Costello's finest ever shots, and works effectively as a giddy introduction to "Trust", its epic sweep indicative of Nick Lowe's clean, spacious production. The single's apparent chart failure is a clue to Costello's erratic commercial success. "Clubland" is just too close to the bone; it has the muddy impetus of actuality. It's a perfect example of Costello panning across the social landscape and zooming in to expose the devious twists of our common lives, the duplicities, emotional conspiracies and petty humiliations that eventually provoke extreme reactions. Here, it's the flight into crime, looking for status, independence, recognition. ("Clubland" is also a brilliant rock-noir song up there with "Watching The Detectives" and John Cale's "Gun"), its drama drawn from its atmosphere, its sinister shadows rather than any clear narrative progression. It bristles with marvellous images; "Clubland" has more quote-able lines than most albums have good songs. And that points to another of Costello's problems as far as some confused spectators and innocent bystanders are concerned: he's so damned prolific. His songs are full of ideas, and there are so many songs; 20 on "Get Happy!!", another 14 here: it makes people so suspicious. Someone must be getting duped somewhere along the line, surely?
The simple truth is that Costello does have a lot to say, and his talent is articulate enough to express every fleeting emotion, image or thought that attracts his attention, to turn them into songs that are often uncommonly memorable. Bob Geldof has a similarly inquisitive mind, but more often than is good for him he turns his fleeting notions into "good copy", eye-catching quotes, and gets crucified. Elvis keeps his lip clipped, commits his energies to song writing and gets away with murder. A professional songwriter, heir to a tradition broader than most rock 'n' roll writers can accommodate, Costello writes well about virtually anything. His songs are rarely as confessional as they appear. Hence the versatility of his writing, the variety of musical settings and styles he deploys. He's an investigative songwriter, probably the best in rock. He owes allegiance only to his own vocation as a songwriter: that's maybe another reason he worries some people. You have to advance towards his songs; they know where they stand, and they stay there. If you want to know more about them — and by implication him — it's your initiative, pal. Get inside them, do some work; start thinking. You don't even have to agree with what he's saying. Costello's songs seem to like nothing better than a good argument: they're meant to sting you into reacting. It's this quality that convinces you that there's a real voice on the end of the line; someone who's put some real thought into the grooves; someone who treats his songs as a dialogue. His best songs are examples, perhaps, of what he describes on "You'll Never Be A Man" as "the physical art of conversation". To the extent that his songs are genuinely crammed with provocative notions, you could sympathise with Jake Riviera when he says Elvis doesn't do interviews because all he has to say is contained in his songs. You can believe that after finishing an album like “Trust", Costello's got nothing left in his mouth but the sweat on his gums. 'Trust" is the work of someone who takes himself and his audience very seriously. He won't be looked up to, he won't talk down to you. There are familiar themes pursued on "Trust", but increasingly his emotional concerns are placed in a broader social context. Fortunately, we're spared the glib social ironies of "Armed Forces", the flippant wisecracks and cheap shots of 'Senior Service" and "Goon Squad". The points here are harder won, the observations are more touching, tinged with a bruised humour, more human. It's the concerned commentary of, say, "Opportunity", than the glossy tirades of "Armed Forces"; there's less of that album's disgust, more of the last record's compassion. "You'll Never Be A Man" has steely tenderness that three years ago would've appeared as bitter rage. A study of someone Costello clearly thinks fails to stand up to the world, it begins with a stark staccato rhythm, opens up to a glorious, tumbling chorus that's currently among my favourite moments in his music. "You'll never be a man," Costello implores with moving conviction, "when you're half a woman and you're half awake/with a face full of tears and a chemical shake/Are you so superior, are you in such pain/are you made out of porcelain . . ."It would be fanciful, probably, to imagine Elvis confronting his own image in a cracked mirror. Set to the same discreet melody as "Secondary Modern", side one's closing cut "Watch Your Step" is another current favourite. Its premonition of universal conspiracies, in which families spy on each other, and are in turn watched over by a superior authority is familiar from "Armed Forces" (notably "Green Shirt"). Initially, Costello is wry, almost casual. The mood, however, grows darker over the closing verses as he anticipates the mindlessly violent consequence of brutal intolerance: "Broken noses hang on the walls/backslapping drinkers cheer the heavyweight brawl/so punch drunk, they don't understand at all... I'll send you all my regards/you're so tough, you're so hard/listen to the hammers fallin' in the breaker's yard/ you'd better watch your step." Costello's voice is intimate, as if he's singing over your shoulder. Steve Nieve's keyboards glow, glistening pinpoints of light in the growing darkness. The rhythm section's disciplined restraint is admirable. This is one of Costello's most poignant performances. Invasion of privacy and the manipulation of the individual by outside agencies (one of Costello's greatest fears) has been approached earlier on "Strict Time", a shuddering spasm of a track, spurred on by Pete Thomas's crackling drumming and great zooming bass lines. The lyric finds Costello effortlessly sharp: "There's a hand on a wire that leads to my mouth/I can hear you knockin' but I'm not comin' out/Don't want to be a puppet or a ventriloquist/'Cos there's no ventilation on the critical list..." Inevitably, some of Costello's shots only wound where others kill. "Lovers Walk", for instance, indulges the current vogue for ethno-pneumatic percussion thrashing. It sounds dramatic, with Pete Thomas giving his kit a hell of a kicking and Bruce Thomas plucking steel cable bass as Nieve stabs at the ivories and Elvis intones a belligerent litany. It seems up to the minute, but off the mark. "Luxembourg" is another roaring juggernaut, with great battering drums and a loony Elvis vocal, drenched in Fifties' echo: it's not major Costello, but great fun anyway. "From A Whisper To A Scream" also finds the Attractions with their sleeves up and their hair down, with Elvis, trading verses with Squeeze's Glenn Tilbrook and Martin Belmont (on loan from the Rumour) adding real rough-house guitar: a real bar-room brawl, this. "Different Finger" is Elvis nodding toward country music. A direct descendant of "Stranger In The House" and a distant relative of "Motel Matches", it's further evidence of his formidable range. As good as anything heard recently from Nashville, it lacks only a Billy Sherrill string arrangement skating across the horizon. The album's least penetrating moments come towards the end of side two. "Shot With His Own Gun" is great drama live, I suspect, with Elvis's voice set against Nieve's thunderous piano accompaniment. Here it sounds oddly hollow, tries too hard to make an impact. It's coldly impressive, but hardly as moving as, say, "Just A Memory", which had a similar setting. "Fish 'n' Chip Paper" briefly recalls "Moods For Moderns". It's an obvious idea, intermittently enlivened by a smattering of clever lines, but I think it really just proves that you can't have your coke and snort it. That leaves us with four tracks. With its overlapping vocal effects, military references and abrupt gear-shifts, I originally had "Pretty Words" pegged as a hangover from "Armed Forces". Carried by an elegantly flowing melody, it's more teasingly sardonic than any of the callous asides found on the earlier album; it's also got one of the best lines on this LP — "there's not much choice/between a cruel mouth and a careless voice." The bitterness revealed in the closing verse is tempered, but not diluted, by Costello's laconic vocal.
The point's more effectively made by his devious restraint. Opening side two, "New Lace Sleeves" is an immediate candidate for the higher echelons of Costello's repertoire. Built around a halting rhythm nudge, the song opens with a painfully accurate account of a soured love-affair: "Bad lovers, face to face in the morning/shouting apologies and polite regrets/slow dances that left no one enough/average glances and indiscreet yawnings/good manners and bad breath get you nowhere ..." Costello's vocal is masterful; closer to Frank Sinatra than any rock 'n' roll voice, he virtually croons the lyric; his phrasing coasting over the melody, snapping at lines, drawing them out. Voice and writing reach a peak with this verse: "The salty lips of the socialite sisters/with their continental fingers/that have never seen working blisters/oh, I know they have their problems — I wish I was one of them." Costello wriggles through the lines and rhymes, drawing out the greatest emphasis, the final line driven in with a slow twist; like a knife in the side, gleefully malevolent, savouring the careful ambiguity. The musical dynamics of "White Knuckles" are familiar — the Attractions negotiating a distinctive, thrusting arrangement with an effortless confidence that makes most groups sound positively clubfooted — but its tone is uncharacteristic. An excursion into the land of territory of domestic friction most successfully charted recently by Squeeze, “Knuckles” has Costello exploring the frustrations of both victim and antagonist with a savage clarity: '"White knuckles came down to put the frighteners on/I believe she's the one that he's got his heart set on ... losing face with the boys while she's whispering in his ear/never found out why they called it laughing gear - white knuckles on black and blue skin/didn't mean to hit her, but she kept laughing..." The rhythm of the lyric is reminiscent of Chris Difford; the couple could even be Difford's "Vicky/Verky", grown up and at each other's throats. "White Knuckles" should join "From A Whisper To A Scream" as a contender for the next single. Finally: "Big Sister's Clothes", an ominous echo of "Night Rally". "Sheep to the slaughter," Elvis swoons over a light, jazz-inflected shuffle, popping bass and twanging guitar, "all your sons and daughters/in a stranglehold with a kid's glove . . . with a hammer on the slap and tickle/ and the goods and the garments/with all the style and finesse in the purchase of armaments/passion went out of fashion/that's all your concern meant..." A brief snatch of accordion (?) filters through the stark mix; the song fades, a nightmare vision in a little over two minutes, a sombre conclusion. If there are such dark days ahead, maybe only "Trust" will see you through. ALLAN JONES.

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby edney » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:00 am

October 30th 1982 - NME - Neil Spencer - Shameless And True

Elvis Costello is a man who has made a habit of teasing
and tormenting the music press, but now after a four-year silence he has agreed to this exclusive British interview. He talks at length about his songs, his life, resolutions and

SOME things you never get used to. It should be no surprise by now that our sundry 'stars' — those individuals of proven talent, inspiration and success — are as prone to self-doubt and uncertainty as the rest of us mortals. Still, when the individual concerned is Elvis Costello admissions of fallibility are not the most expected of events. Nor, for that matter, is an Elvis Costello interview. Ever since the prickly EC persona was unleashed onto the world of popular music some five years ago with the resonant strains of 'Less Than Zero', the man's maintained an uneasy relationship with the gentlefolk of the press, at best maintaining a rigorous silence, and at worst launching some savage salvos against the critics. It's now four years since Costello spoke to the British press, his dialogues with NME's Nick Kent being virtually the man's only forays into print, outside of some soft-core expeditions in mainstream journals like the TV Times and The Observer Colour Supplement. This year, however, Costello has already given Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus an extensive interview, which the increasingly ponderous periodical had front paged as "ELVIS COSTELLO REPENTS" — somewhat to the chagrin of Costello as it transpires. "That interview was specially to clear up that incident in Ohio on the Armed Forces tour," he tells me referring to a bar room run-in with a camp of American musicians fronted by Steven Stills and Bonnie Raitt which had resulted in a racist slur being attached to Costello's name. "It coloured our career over there and I wanted to settle that once and for all," Costello says. No one in Britain ever entertained such notion about Costello or The Attractions - unthinkable given the man's songs like 'Less Than Zero' 'Night Rallies' or his appearance at a massive RAR concert — but few doubted that Costello was a prickly, unruly talent. No one wanted to be on the wrong end of his withering sarcasm or dismissive, offhand style of public relations. And for his part, Elvis seemed to revel in the role as wayward genius, at times showing something little short of naked contempt for his audience. A lot has changed in the three years since what Costello now refers to as his "Armed Forces period". Onstage, on record, and on his occasional radio broadcasts, the Costello we've witnessed has been a more measured, more humble, more appealing type of fellow, while his meteoric ascendancy has been likewise arrested, his records noticeably less dominant in the charts and hearts of the nation. "We were left with a warehouse full of 'Get Happy'," he says with disarming frankness about his follow-up to the phenomenal success of 'Armed Forces'. The uneven 'Trust' and 'Almost Blue', his country and western album, likewise, made little impression on a music scene that was rapidly fragmenting into a new and as yet undetermined pattern. All of which made the arrival of 'Imperial Bedroom' earlier this year particularly impressive, a superb collection of crafted, thoughtful and provocative songs that was both a return to the superlative form of 'My Aim Is True' and 'This Year's Model' (this critic always finding 'Armed Forces' something of a conceit), and an advance into new areas of composition and production. One of the album's stand-outs was 'Man Out Of Time,' a song which Elvis says is "about unemployment — and the person unemployed is me". He talks of "dislocation" and "being out of control" in reference to his unruly, awkward period, and exhibits a charm, honesty and humour for which none of his records had quite prepared me; his intelligence, wit and verbal dexterity have always shone through his songs. We meet in the offices of Warner Brothers records, a location not without its ironies considering Costello's long-running distrust of, and battles with the music business. He's pert and fit, conspicuously trimmer than the overweight 'baggy suit' period of 12 months back. He's wearing a black leather jacket, a silver and black silk scarf, a grey straw porkpie hat ("got it in New York, made the taxi stop when I saw it in a shop window"), black slacks, white socks and black Doc Marten shoes. The three hour conversation traverses his whole career and a lot besides. He rarely shows any reticence, and never seems happier than when music is under discussion — the breadth and familiarity of the man's knowledge of contemporary music is quite startling, and will mention Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and Kevin Rowland in the same sentence whether it's Dexy’s or Julie London that's under discussion. In short, he is a consummate fan of music as well as one of its most subtle and skilful exponents. Apart from the success of 'Imperial Bedroom' he currently has, with producer Clive Langer, half the writing credits on one of the year's outstanding records, Robert Wyatt's 'Shipbuilding', an oblique and telling response to 1982's militaristic tide, so aptly wrapped in one of Stanley Spencer's wartime paintings of the Glasgow shipyards.

He's also increasingly involved in production — having recently worked with Scottish popsters The Bluebells and seems proud of his other production work with the likes of Australia's Mental As Anything, and further back, on The Special's debut LP. He's also at work on the title tune of a forthcoming film, though which film he's disinclined to reveal — "It's the most unlikely title though." What he'll do next seems particularly uncertain. 'Imperial Bedroom' marks the end of the second phase of his recording career he informs me, and with even his stage name under reconsideration, Costello's next move remains open to even more speculation than usual.

A few years ago it seemed as though people were turning to Elvis Costello songs to cover — George Jones and Linda Ronstadt say; but that doesn't seem to have continued. Are you disappointed your songs haven't been covered more?

No, I don't think that's true. There never were many covers — I always thought I could have had more. I could never understand the A&R men's lack of imagination in not picking up on some of the songs — and those you mention are about the extent of it. But this year there's been a Kiki Dee, a Shaking Pyramids and a Dusty Springfield version of 'Just A Memory' — and that's just one song this year, more than I ever got before.

Who would you like to see cover your songs?

The two I'd like to start with first in case they stopped recording is Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald; I'd like to hear either of them sing 'Almost Blue'. . . er. . . Aretha Franklin, Randy Crawford ... I dunno. I'll write for anybody. I don't sit round being precious about it. I've got this hack mentality on the other side from the one I take very seriously. I wrote these three songs for Frieda's (of Abba) album, and they turned 'em all down. When I heard about the combination of Phil Collins and Frieda I assumed she was trying to make something less poppy, something meant to be taken more seriously. What you forget is that Phil Collins has moved in more to the centre; his records maybe appeal to people who like the more serious side of Abba, not the 'Fernando' end of it. Actually I sent them two songs, the third was the 'Imperial Bedroom' that appears on the 12" of 'Man Out Of Time'. I thought it would be funny if they put the title of my new album on their record; I was trying to slip one under the wire there but it didn't work out.

Do you consciously relate to the tradition of song writing represented by people like Bacharach/David, Brecht/Weill, George Gershwin and the like?

I'd like to, yeah, Sometimes I throw off a thing that might put me more in mind of a record I heard last week. I don't sit round thinking. Oh God, I gotta be like George Gershwin all the time. That'd be a hell of a weight.

I don't suppose George Gershwin worried about being George Gershwin.

No, that's probably what made him great.

How do you write in fact? Is there a particular place or method you use to get a song out of

I only wish there was some way. Not that I wish I wrote more songs — I write loads — but
sometimes it's frustrating cos it comes when you least expect or want it, when you're trying
to sleep, or walking down the street. I'll hear the most arresting idea in my head and I think
Oh no, here we go.

So there are lots of things scribbled on the back of envelopes?

Yeah, sometimes I sit down deliberately to write, but I've never written many good things like that. Sometimes I sit down and go through old notebooks and a great line will leap out and I'll try and use it, work it in. I used to write a lot on the road, but there’s only so many songs you can write in that situation without getting into actually write about being on the road, which I dread. I wrote one very simple song on this last tour, which we learnt straight away and performed called 'Every Day I Write A Book', and that went really well, so maybe that's sometimes the way to write a song —finish it in half an hour, learn it in half an hour and do it. We did a lot of songs like that at first, but I wasn't thinking enough about the quality. Now I've decided that half the repertoire of the next set is maybe gonna be stuff off the top of my head.

How many songs have you written?

Ever? I've no idea. There were lots before the first album, some of which turned up late like 'New Lace Sleeves' and 'Watch Your Step’. I looked at them again and decided they were alright, whereas before they’d seemed a bit vague.

There's a current revival of interest in the 'classic' song; the era of Billy Holiday and the like. Do you think that the art of song writing is looking up, or is it in decline?

That interest is healthy so long as it’s not insubstantial; so long as it's not a passing fad that's gonna cream off the superficial aspects. What disturbed me was when 2-Tone happened and there was the phoney mod revival thing, there were scores of soul reissues and I thought, great, this is going to re-establish that style as part of the vocabulary. Not so much so we could sit round and dig up Motown records, but there had been this indifferent wave that came out of punk that didn't show any emotion and the soul revival really augured well. It left the way open for us to make 'Get Happy' which was a much more direct, feeling kind of record. Then I was disappointed it was never followed through, it never happened. The clothes survived, and a certain amount of good records were made, but a lot of it was just The Lambrettas doing 'Poison Ivy'. I feel the same thing might be happening again, when it's all just down to copping an attitude in The Face. It might be entertaining and pass the time, but it's not really gonna save the song which will still decline. There are still the people who put the work in. I think Martin Fry is a good songwriter; I like Green from Scritti Politti as well; I like a lot of recent records, but not all of them have got very substantial songs on. When I heard 'Only You' by Yazoo I thought, what a great song, you can play it on acoustic guitar, you can play it with an orchestra. I was kind of disappointed when I got the album that there was nothing good on it, but maybe the next record;

One of the proclamations of the so-called New Wave was that singles wouldn't just be pulled from LPs. You've stuck to that attitude more than most, at least as regards B-sides.

Well, we do still lift singles from LPs, but I'm a big fan of B-sides . . . If I was pushed to put together a 'Best Of' — not that anyone would want to buy it— I'd want 'Big Tears' on it from the B-side of 'Pump
It Up'; I think it's one of the best things we've made. People say, what the hell is this going on the B-side for? — we've done it time and time again. In a company like this, there's a certain amount of stuff that's got to go along with them and you've got to do what you want as well. There's a few examples of things being released abroad and then filtered in: that whole Polydor business; I don't understand that at all, why it's done or anything. There's a lot of mysteries about the music business that I still don't understand. We just carry on ahead. I like to put out good B-sides, a couple of tracks on the 12-inchers, tracks that don't fit on albums and I want them out somehow. I just like to make life more interesting.
I figure if people buy our album and then buy a single already on the album, then they're buying it for the B-side, which I usually try and make as good as the A-side; it just doesn't fit in elsewhere.

That was part of the idea of the 'Ten Bloody Marys' tape?

It was a companion to the American version, the 'Taking Liberties' album, which was to kill the collector mentality. There were these shops in Greenwich Village selling import singles for $30 and people would buy them. Now, I'm a vinyl junkie but not to the point where I have to have it with that different colour sleeve, I don't care what the label looks like, it's what's in the wax. Also those tracks weren't available to people who didn't live in Greenwich Village, who lived in maybe Ohio and were interested in our records.

Do you still feel as disgusted by the music biz as you used to?

Yeah, I do. What I find really amusing at the moment is this 'Home Taping Is Killing Music' campaign. Bad music is killing music, or lack of imagination is killing it. Whether you give the bloody records away in the street has nothing to do with it. People are always making excuses for the massive waste of money. The situation where companies have to hype — and if you don't, you get pushed right out the picture, — has got completely out of hand. You can't call a truce because nobody will agree to it — there's gonna be somebody else doing it. It's got like controlled corruption, the whole thing is sickening. (Shaking his head) I can't think about it, if I did I couldn't operate at all.

Don't you worry about people taping your albums and singles?

It's never occurred to me as being that serious. I wouldn't have one of those signs on my records. I think it's a blind alley, they kick up a fuss to distract people from other shortcomings and failings.

So do you think the business is failing to promote a lot of good music?

Yeah, including mine. (Laughs) I try to avoid reading Billboard and the like. I'll read it if it's on the desk there . . . (Points and picks up a trade paper) Look at this fucking thing here, what's that about?
I mean, EMI, not only do they have that insulting campaign going round -— "Do you realise it's 20 years since Paul McCartney was in The Beatles?" — now we've got to put up with this bloody nonsense, ‘The John Lennon Collection'. It's just a complete accident that it's coming out in November, just before Christmas. It just makes you feel sick.

Would you say that the real artistry and value of music is being devalued by the behaviour of record companies?

I don't think that all that many people who are very interesting regard themselves all that artistically in this business. Most of the people I meet are generally just doing a job, and it's usually the people who haven't got much to say who are trying to make it look artistic. The record companies like to play up that artistic bit so they can pull that stuff about. You get on with the art and we'll get on with the business, and hold that over you. Most of the people I've met, apart from a few who are naive, are not stupid at all, they know what's going on, they get on with their job, they make records, they don't sit round in garrets and fret. I've never understood that. The press are a bit responsible too because they build up a mystique, a romantic image of these sensitive characters that are put upon by the record business.

You've always had a profound mistrust of journalists . . .

Yeah, I have, from bad experience. There are people for whom I have some respect — I think they know who they are — but that doesn't mean you have to do an interview about every single thing you do, because I really don't think it's all that interesting. There really isn't that much to talk about. Most people in groups are dullards anyway. The best thing they can do is make records. There are not that many hidden meanings in my songs that I have to sit down and do an interview to explain them, cos I'd feel the songs have failed if they don't speak for themselves. There may be oblique things in there that I put in and I still wouldn't choose to explain them; they're set in there to work on the imagination of the listener, or work on my imagination when I sing 'em again.

How do you feel about the early albums now?

I feel that that the first three albums are in a group, and then it goes into another gear as it were — not necessarily better than the first three, but a different person made those records. Then the next four records are a group, and then that period ends. Not that the first three are a trilogy, God forbid, but it got more serious in some ways, more emotional, more committed post 'Armed Forces'. I was just a clever-dick up until then. I didn't know anything from anything when I made the first album. I didn't even know if the record I was making was going to come out — Stiff only existed from week to week. The second record we were in making before we knew where we were. By the third one I was that cocky at the time, but we totally thought we were kings of the castle. Whether or not we were, while making it I was completely convinced; I had no doubts. The doubts didn't settle in until after that album. Because of appearing like an idiot, like a clown at that particular time, at the end of the 'Armed Forces' tour of America, we came back to England and I decided, That's it! I've got to get a grip. There's something wrong. The mission's gone wrong somewhere. I didn't like the feeling; I felt completely out of touch with what we were supposed to be doing. By the end of the 'Armed Forces' period I felt completely disillusioned with the whole idea of making records. I remember as early as the British 'Forces' tour — before America, which is where things really got hairy — I had a conversation with Bruce Thomas and saying, look, I don't think I really want to do this anymore. And he said, you've got to think about it more positively; you're just being defeatist about it. And he talked me into it. He said. You can't just leave
it to The Boomtown Rats; you've got to put up a bit more of a fight than that." (Laughs) I was right about it in the long run, that I was disconnected from my original intention. Up until then I thought I was bullet proof. When I realised I wasn't, I made different records from then on. There was more . . . self-criticism, I suppose. That doesn't mean you become introspective because you still throw ideas out to other people. You couldn't be totally introspective and make records; you could, you could make very dull records (Laughs), but. . .

The songs became more vulnerable?

More vulnerable, more questioning. Instead of just saying I can rhyme any word with any word . . . Well, it's a bit glib to look at it like that now because obviously I had more heart in those songs at the time, and I think there were good things on 'Armed Forces', but somewhere along the way it got lost. And it didn't come back until we were actually in the studio making 'Get Happy'. That was a very emotional record to make. Very edgy, lots of drinking.

Were you disappointed by the reception of 'Get Happy' and Trust'?

Erm ... I figure that's when things started to go wrong for us in this country in a business sense. I don't think we ever recovered from the court case — when we tried to leave Warner Brothers; whether or not it's been a conscious decision, I wouldn't like to judge the present hierarchy of this company on the previous one, which I had no respect for whatsoever. But I think we've paid dearly for that dispute. You've got to account for a certain loss of your status and chart placings in changes in fashion. We were the new thing in 1978 and obviously by 1980 there were lots of other things came along. I'm thinking about the time we were a Top Of The Pops kind of group, like Blondie or something. Also, the kind of records we made, we didn't follow up our big commercial success: 'Armed Forces' sold 500,000 copies, we had a gold single with 'Oliver's Army'. If we were to just make another record like that, then we would have followed a formula and those people who liked only that about us, who didn't even know about the first two albums, would have followed on. So I couldn't be disappointed by the comparative commercial failure of 'Get Happy' and 'Trust', because I wilfully made those records like they were. 'Trust' maybe I was a bit more disappointed with in retrospect, because I think there's more bogus stuff on that than 'Get Happy'. We lost the idea of the production halfway through. We set out to make a really simple record with no overdubs without having an over-riding style like 'Get Happy'. We were trying to do the same thing as we did on 'Imperial Bedroom' by taking each song individually, but the production was so low key it was almost non-existent. Only the very best songs survived it. The weaker songs were just like a jolly-up. Even 'Whisper To A Scream', although I had enjoyed it and Glenn sang great, it still rang hollow.

Was 'Almost Blue' something you had long wanted to do, a bona fide country album in Nashville? Because you had that spell in a country and western group before you became Elvis Costello?

No, not really. That's one of the things that got added to the biography. The groups I played in were only country by virtue of using acoustic guitars and playing some country numbers in the usual mix of rock and roll, and what have you. I picked up on those writers like Merle Haggard and singers like George Jones the same way a lot of people did, filtering back through The Byrds and Burritos. Suddenly a whole world opened up, cos we didn't have country as a tradition like they do; which is maybe why they can suffer Barbara Mandrell! — Ernest Tubb and the rest of the original Honky Tonk singers and traditional stylists aren't held in such esteem as they are by the English country and western. It's mainstream MOR now, not what I call real country. My original plan was to do an album of ballads, of covers. I had this idea to do a sad album, cos one of my favourite albums is 'Only The Lonely' by Frank Sinatra, all sad songs. I was even going to do a couple of Sinatra things if I could arrange them right. I had no idea if I had the voice to do it. I thought I did, no one believed I did cos I screeched over a load of guitar things. Then I changed my mind. I thought it would seem like a Bobby Darin album — where he'd do really weird albums, one week a folk singer, the next he'd appear in a tuxedo, each album with a different mood but no real point, they'd be aimless. So I thought we'd do a country album, then it would have a definite style and people would either love it or hate it. And a side effect might be that people who didn't like country music might hear these songs coming from us. When we went to do it, Billy Sherrill couldn't understand why we wanted to do these songs, they were all so old hat to him. I went there in a very depressed frame of mind anyway. I had this sad feeling, I dunno why, it wasn't anything specific in my life, I'd just wound myself up to it. I suppose the records from 'Get Happy' to 'Imperial Bedroom' are linked in a way that they're some form of exorcism, post-the disasters of '79. Looking back now, I can't imagine how I was so miserable sounding. It was a genuine feeling, so I never accepted the criticisms that the singing wasn't authentic.

Was it badly received in the States?

Critically it was 50/50. Some people thought we were incredibly brave and out of our minds, the rest thought it was complete rubbish. Hardly anyone thought it was a good idea:

And the country audience, how did they react?

In America, zero. Nashville didn't do a single thing to promote it. I've heard vague reports that it got played on a couple of obscure country stations, but I guess they thought it was too weird, that an English group at all would do that, let alone an English 'new waver'. Country and western stations, they probably think I'm a punk still; they're that far behind with the press releases — when you imagine that the American record company don't know what we do really.

What was the experience of Nashville like?

It was only eight days. It rushed by really. The fact that we were filming it meant it was all really on edge . . . probably assisted it really — when I saw the indifference of Billy Sherrill on film ... I wasn't aware of it at the time, I was too busy concentrating.
They got a good sound, you can't argue with the sound they got; it's the same sound for George Jones or Tammy Wynette. Sherrill's not interested in 90% of the records he makes, he mixes half of them from his office, he's got an intercom.

There were some bizarre reports about him on his yacht producing from there. . .

Oh, he's an odd character. He doesn't seem to have a lot of love for anything really, least of all music. God knows why he's in it. It seems to be a habit, he can't get out of making million selling records.

From NME's "REVENGE AND GUILT" headlines of '78 to Rolling Stone's "ELVIS COSTELLO REPENTS" a few weeks back, how does it feel to live in block capitals?

I think both headlines are misplaced and irrelevant. I obviously did various things to assist that 'revenge and guilt' image, but I found it frustrating early on. I never really revelled in it, though sometimes I added fuel to the fire by foolish things I said. And the 'repents' thing — well, that's some sub-editor's idea. That's not even Greil Marcus' idea. I spoke to him afterwards and he was actually angry about that. The tone of the interview was nothing to do with repentance and the inner headline — "explains himself" — was much more what I intended that article to be, clearing up specifically that Ohio incident, which in America was much more crucial to our career; it coloured our career. I felt it important to clear that up once and for all.

In 1978 you told NME "This job is not designed to make you nicer or more mature." How do you feel about that now? Do you think you've become more mature?

Not really. I don't think of myself as mature. I don't sit round thinking about myself that much. I have no opinion about that. I don't know whether I'm more mature; I try to be, about things that are important to me, but I don't necessarily disagree with that quote.

But something snapped you out of that ranting, rub 'em up the wrong way phase you've described.

I just got tired of it, it's only fun for so long. Also you become a bit pathetic after a while if you're still ranting on. You can only hit people with rage when they're not expecting it, otherwise they just switch off. You've no divine right to their attention. To hold their attention you've got to be a bit more cunning. You've even got to get them to like you. Maybe later you decide to rub 'em up the wrong way again. I'm not saying that would never happen. If I wanted to make a very aggressive record I wouldn't feel inhibited about it as long as I felt it. It was then that the attitude started to dictate to the music and not the other way round; that's when I got disturbed. When I found what I was saying was making better copy than what I was singing I thought. Well, hang on, I gotta be a bit more. . . not deceitful, but careful and cunning about it.

Do you think it's taken a long time for you to get over that image of negativity?

I'd like to replace it with something that was as powerful but more positive. At the moment we're in an interim period where there are a degree of people who understand what we're about and pay attention, and they number around 50,000 in this country.

Do you have a strong sense of personal history?

(Thinks) Not like The Clash (laughs) I don't have a strong, sense of personal mythology, if that's what you mean. I suppose you qualify everything with hindsight: I go right off records and individual songs, but beyond my work, no, I don't. It's one of the vanities of the business, and bands who play up to that are usually the ones with least to say. When you get up close to people it's hard to dislike them, with a few exceptions . . . like Miles Copeland . . . (Whispers). . . I hate him.

What's the most dangerous thing you've encountered in your profession?

Dangerous in what sense? Losing control of yourself, losing sight of your original objectives, allowing your bloody image to dictate to your personal life — that's dangerous.

Do you ever feel a little schizoid — like, who is this person called Elvis Costello I've created?

Yeah. I've seriously thought about dumping it. Recently I've come to thinking that for this country anyway. I think there's two different time-scales: there's America, where it takes you five years for them to wake up long enough so you can sing to them. Here it's kind of Oh God, it's old hat; that very snobbish attitude.
We went down the Hacienda in Manchester and there were all these people sitting round looking like they should have been in Echo And The Bunnymen very obviously sneering, like. Oh, you're rockist. (Laughs) It was that attitude personified.

Would you ever stop performing?

If we stick around much longer we'll be the only group left from our particular vintage still going. I'd only stop if I felt there were no real point. There are no other people who do what we do. There are a lot of other groups that are popular. We're a one-off; not many groups are formed like that. I'm the odd man out.. I'm the least accomplished musician. I always feel that The Attractions get a rough deal, that they aren't given enough credit for being superb musicians.

There seems to have been a move away from songs written in the first person on 'Imperial Bedroom' to songs written in the third person, with more distance, on things like 'Long Honeymoon' and 'And In Every Home'.

In some cases it's story telling. Other songs it's using more song writing craft rather than just pouring out your own experience carelessly hacked into some sort of metre and set to a tune. You're using more songwriter's craft to make life more interesting for the listener. I had this horrible feeling, even though I didn't write all the songs on 'Almost Blue', of this man tortured by his own soul, wailing away in an abyss . . . That's to be flip and play devil's advocate with your own work, which it's always good to do ... I could be more ruthless than all your cynical critics about all my records . . .it doesn't mean I'd write that way for the next record; it's just what I did with those particular subjects.

I couldn't imagine you writing a song as compassionate as 'Little Fool' a few years ago.

There aren't many songs written from that point of view, slightly disparaging but also sympathetic. Maybe it only seems unusual because I was branded as a misogynist around the time of 'This Year's Model', which I thought was completely wrong. A completely mysterious thing to deduce from that album because the main song, the title track, was saying 'Don't just be another face', and that applies to men and women, so I always thought there was compassion there. Maybe the overall tone of the album overpowered some of the intentions of the lyrics, or I was singing them as if I wanted to murder somebody. 'You Little Fool' was deliberately meant to sound archaic, with a harpsichord and 12-string guitar, this phoney kind of . . I wanted it to sound like Vanity Fair or Left Banke or someone.

The whole LP seems more compassionate, not feeling sorry for yourself but for people caught up in situations over which they have very little control, or which they don't understand.

Maybe. The real horrors were all on 'Get Happy' or 'Almost Blue', that's when the real black moods were. There was some kind of light on 'Trust' . . . I actually thought 'Bedroom' was a light hearted record myself. 'Man Out Of Time' is a pretty grim song, and the bridge of 'And In Every Home', cos it's a song about being unemployed and the person who's unemployed is ME. The bridge at least, I felt 'I don't have any purpose, I don't have a job, I'm disconnected'. . .


I still do feel that way a little bit.

You mean not clocking on?

No, the fact that we make the records and people buy them and appreciate them, and the work that's gone into them, but at the same time, the loss of greater interest in them . . . this is getting to the point of Graham Smith's live review in NME: What is going on? How can they be this good and not sell any records? Which seems to be a very fashionable thing to say in all the papers, it's become the fashionable thing to say. It's something I'd like to arrest. As I said before, I've thought of hanging up the name, or doing something drastic like recording under a pseudonym, cos I'm actually beginning to think that the name is a jinx. I'm actually starting to get superstitious about it because I think, well what more is there I can do? I don't want to put any more in because I don't want to be one of those people like Pete Hammill who's tearing his own head off in private.

Why do you have such a problem getting airplay?

You can't even pinpoint that — we had great airplay on both 'Little Fool' and 'Head To Toe'. I think we have got a problem politically with this company, something that stems from a previous time, it's not the responsibility of the people now, I think they're trying to deal with it. But I do think that reflects our bad relationship between the end of Radar and the start of F-Beat.
F-Beat's never really developed consequently into what I wanted it to be, it's been a disappointment. I wanted it to be a much more important label. I thought it had the ability to be a 2-Tone, to change things. It's been just another sticker on the bloody record, even though it is nice to have control over sleeves and adverts and all the things that people signed to big companies have to put up with. I've got off the point, I was saying something about 'Man Out Of Time' . . . it was about that feeling of not having a job, of making these records aimlessly, might as well be Kevin Coyne or something really. It's very difficult to balance the two things, because on the one hand you make serious records, but on the other you've got to be in competition with Haircut 100. Doesn't mean I'm gonna start wearing leggings or silly yachting caps or act like I'm 18 because that would be embarrassing. But it's important that the next record — if there is a next record, and at the moment I'm weighing up what the next record should be or whether there should be a pause of some kind. Cos on the one hand I'm just a songwriter who sings and does my best and puts my heart into it, on the other hand I understand the business better than a lot of people I know, where I stand in it, that side of me says hang on, what is the point of bashing your head against a brick wall, to throw it away, because you're gonna put all this work in and people are not going to accept it because of who you are? They've decided they don't like you so you might as well not bother to make records and be off like John The Baptist. It's a question of presenting it, the production, the kind of song even . . .

Maybe you're expecting a lot from the pop song. Maybe you're too smart to be involved in an area as dumb as pop music.

No, I can write dumb lyrics like anybody else.

Were you shocked by the success of 'Oliver's Army', considering its subject matter?

No, not really. It was what I always hoped I could do; it's what I hoped to do from the very first single. I didn't choose 'Less Than Zero', but we would never have released it if we didn't think there was a chance of pulling that stunt of having a hit record where the musical content took it into the charts before anyone realised what the lyrics were about.

Nick Lowe's theory of "Subversive Pop"? . .

Yeah. The minute you say it's subversive it defeats the object. We're gonna release a really subversive single folks, are you ready there at the radio? (Laughs). That's what happened with 'Radio Radio'. Radio One realised it was anti-radio and not pro-radio when they listened to the lyrics of the verse instead of just the chorus, radio play stopped overnight and the record dropped like a stone. It was steaming away up until then.

They'll play anything with "radio" in the title.

They even use it as a jingle sometimes, edited down. I don't hold any animosity, I don't really think there are any evil minds at work in British radio; I think there's a lot of under-achievements. But I do think there's a conscious, almost conspiracy in America. It's much more sinister. The American radio by comparison is really sinister. They've got to the point now where they won't play new records. They'll play old records because they know they hold the listener, and the sponsor wants that.

Although it was written two or three years ago, 'Oliver's Army' is about the only record that seems to have any relevance to the Falklands conflict.

Hmmm. That's why when I was going round the radio stations on this last tour I tended to plug Robert Wyatt's record ('Shipbuilding') more than my own, because I had more concern really in the fate of that. I'm really proud of that record, both from writing it and being involved in it. It was great to work with Robert because he's such a great singer, and he's also one of the nicest people I've ever worked with. He was unbelievable to work with. I hate to sound mawkish, but I actually got choked up listening to him. I forgot I was supposed to be producing it. I did the final vocal mix because Clive was away. I just got completely overcome in one take, I couldn't listen to his voice, it's so plaintive, I'd written the lyrics and I was meant to be taking responsibility for it. Clive had done all the work getting the track right, and it was all complete.

How did you come to write it?

During our Australian tour we were getting the Australian version of the Falklands thing. The Australian coverage was really gruesome, going on about napalm and everything; they were really dramatising it. We weren't getting quite so much of the patriotic bollocks you were getting here, it wasn't quite so sickening as the Daily Star, "Sponsor Your Own Exocet Missile", and those really sickly things.
They say that you see your own country more clearly when you're away from it.
Reading these two-day old reports the strangest things flashed in my mind. . . It was a pretty funny feeling singing that song in Glasgow and Newcastle on the tour; I wondered how many people had heard it or knew what it was about, whether it's clear enough to hear the lyrics? And this guy came round, and he actually worked in the shipyards and liked the song. He said. It's right, y'know? Why have we got our jobs back? I was trying to think from the point of view of a father, because the kid's quite young, or so he thinks until the kid's joined up, then the kid's gone away on a ship that he's built. He got his job back, he got his way of life back, only to send his own child to go and get killed. It's like that song 'Two Brothers' about the American Civil War; just a simple war ballad in that tradition. The original idea was like a Brill building songwriting idea, a technical exercise between me and Clive. The tune moved me a lot. Clive had written it with Robert in mind. He'd got in touch with Rough Trade but my involvement wasn't mentioned. I always had the feeling that if my name had been mentioned he might back off, because of what I said about people having this suspicion of me. All those people who treat everything I do with suspicion, they might say oh here he comes, clever dick. I don't think they could hear Robert's voice and think it doesn't sound sincere. He's the only person I can imagine singing the Red Flag and making it into a beautiful song.

How about Chet Baker's 'Memories Of You' on the flip side?

I said to Robert in the studio that one of my favourite singers was Chet Baker. It turned out that he was his wife's favourite, and that she'd always tried to get him to do something in that vein, so ...

I was going to ask you about whether you'd backed away from political songs, but that about answers it.

(Laughs) I see 'And In Every Home' as a political song. It was me writing a song which expressed my own disconnection with the direct communication that, say Paul Weller or Ali Campbell have with their audience. Those people can stand up and sing, "We do this, we do that", some anthemic things, like 'When You're Young'. For all they get knocked — like people say they're the reggae Joan Baez I think UB40 are fantastic: the guy's voice; they can sing 'One In Ten' and it's not self-conscious. If I wrote that song I’d be rightly ridiculed for it. I’ve never established a relationship with the audience like that. I’m not a man of the people. I never tried to be. I just write songs. I never identified with any class thing. I love The Beat’s new record, but it seems they’re caught in a trap because everyone’s saying, why isn’t this about politics? But I think “I Confess” is one of the most beautiful bits of singing I’ve heard all year. So, “And In Every Home” was trying to write a story about hard times, but also relating the song to my own feelings about being on the scrap heap. I identified that your personal pride can be more important than the job itself. I can only comment from the outside, but not from my mansion on the hill. I just live in an ordinary house. Oh, I’ve made money, but I’m not consciously extravagant. Whenever it’s got out of hand, I’ve always found disgust with myself. That song incorporates some of my dilemmas about political writing and perhaps the limitations I think Dave Wakeling is finding these days. Same with Paul Weller; because he wrote “Bitterest Pill” people are critical. What’s the matter with everyone? That’s a great song. So long as the songs are about people, I think that’s what is important.

I tell Elvis about a literary critic who fed all Shakespeare’s plays into a computer in order to analyse the imagery, and what specific images “meant” to the bard (every reference to dogs turned out to be disparaging for example), and how Weberman or some such Dylanologist did the same with the Zimmerman songbook ("boots" coming out with a crucial lead in repeated images). How would the EC songbook fare if it were given the same treatment, I wondered?

(Pause) 'Fingers' feature quite a lot... I wouldn't know really, I hope there wouldn't be any image so predominant or cliched. Like, with Springsteen, take away 'night' and 'highway' and 'car' and 'road' and there probably wouldn't be any songs left. (Laughs) I've never really thought about repetitive imagery, or style even. An American magazine picked up on internal rhyming in my songs, I'd never even heard of it.

Shoes seem to figure quite a lot.

Shoes, yeah, shoes were big early on. I don't think shoes are so important later on. I had a bit of a thing about shoes before I got into the business because I only had one pair, so when I went through a period of extravagance with clothes — I had a bit of a silly period with checkerboard suits and deliberately horrible clothes. I heard a gasp of horror one night from the purists when I walked onstage in a turquoise lame jacket. But it was shoes mostly. I don't wear any of them now, I'm back to Martens.

There are lots of gangster images, lots of guns...

Yeah, I hate guns, maybe that's why I put them in there, because it's the most repellent image. I like frightening songs, not to get heavy with people, it's all to make a point.

There are lots of very British phrases, slang and backchat.

Yeah, I like using expressions I hear people use — 'tuppenny ha'penny' millionaire', things I hear people say. I've got slang dictionaries at home but I don't use them, they're just good for checking up things you hear people say — like 'bone orchard' (graveyard) which I heard and used. The only time I wrote a whole song out of those phrases was 'Sunday's Best', where I got the whole song out the News Of The World. That's another thing that comes up a lot — newspapers, the press. Yeah, that's mainly because I write a lot of songs out of them. 'Beyond Belief was another one I wrote sitting down reading the paper.

You hate the News Of The World and the gutter press.

I think it cheapens the language. I used to get it until I realised that it had ceased to serve a purpose, that it was the same stories every week. I used to have a morbid fascination, as there is with trash like that. In Australia I saw a copy of the Daily Star and it was like another language. It certainly wasn't English, it wasn't Australian. . .

Going back to America, you seem to have a very severe opinion of the place. Do you think we're under attack, not just in an obvious way with the weapons and bases and Reagan's attitude . . .

I think that we are very definitely. . . .

… but also from a gradual cultural takeover?

I still feel that America's fairly intimidated by England culturally. The one thing we've got that they haven't is history and a lot of old culture, and I think that gives more clout to what comes afterwards. I think they try to be very dismissive about it, but every so often they give in to one particular thing, whether it's The Beatles or more recently The Human League. It doesn't have to be a huge revolution for them, it just proves that their chauvinism isn't watertight. I think they get bored with what they've got over there. What's sad is that they pay so little attention to the good stuff under their noses. They've got great singers and writers in every field — the Mac Rebennack’s, Delbert McClinton’s, Otis Rush — a current favourite of mine. I read articles about him and he's still playing where he was 20 years ago. I mean, what's going on? Then they have the nerve to champion these awful groups, that's where I start to get annoyed. The British take it to extremes and champion the most obscure people who aren't worth championing, but the Americans are so disrespectful about the great things they've got.

What happened to that film you did with Meatloaf, Americathon, that never did get released, did it?

No, mercifully. It was awful, though I only had a cameo part in it anyway.

Have you thought about doing a film, it seems to be what people do? Have you any plans to do any more films?

I've been offered scripts but they were all so diabolical I thought I wouldn't get involved with it. I'd want not to be patronised, to do that as well as I do this, rather than do it as the next investment for the record company. I couldn't see myself acting anyway. The camera doesn't like me, I know that from watching myself on Top Of The Pops. Every time we've appeared on that program the record's gone down the following week. (Laughs)

So you'd want to write. Have you done any writing then?

Yes, a few sketch things, things that aren't song lyrics. I've never wanted to, y'know, do my poems or short stories. I'd do it under a pseudonym so as not to try and use my name as a musician. Even in this business I've got doubts about the name.

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby Azmuda » Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:35 pm

edney wrote:I just wanna go to Clubland - Paolo Hewitt - Melody Maker Jan 3rd 1981
Thanks again!

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby Jack of All Parades » Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:52 pm

The NME interview from 1982 is special and new to me. Most telling in moments particularly when he discusses his drives and what makes him write. Thank you for sharing the piece. It really held my attention unlike too many prior pieces.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: Help add text to the Costello wiki site

Postby edney » Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:03 am

Here's a couple more.

Reviews of "Punch the Clock" both from July 30th 1983.

The first is from Graham Lock - NME


ELVIS COSTELLO may have made the perfect pop single with Oliver's Army' and the perfect Pop LP with 'Imperial Bedroom', but according to the rather ludicrous rules of this particular game, a pop star who isn't really all that popular is no star at all. This fear permeated last year's NME interview, and there's little doubt that 'Punch The Clock' tries to rectify that situation with a few judicious changes of emphasis. So we get the TKO horns, the Afrodiziac singers, plus a Langer/Winstanley polish production - and, indeed, the result is the brightest, bounciest record Elvis has done since 'Armed Forces'. Punch The Clock' is a step back from the stunning sophistication of 'Imperial Bedroom', perhaps it’s also a step toward pop survival. Even the title has a snappy, back-to-work ring to it. It helps, too, that the LP contains three hit singles. In that NME interview, Elvis admitted that he'd even thought of changing his name if it meant he'd get through to more people. I put that down to paranoia, but it's a curious fact that of the three hits here-'Shipbuilding', 'Pills And Soap', 'Everyday I Write The Book' - only the latter came out under his own name, and that was the least successful of the three. By another strange twist, 'Everyday' is the simplest, least political of the trio; so the standard critical notion that people shy away from Costello's "seriousness" or "complexity" appears to be a bit leaky. Nevertheless, Elvis' 'problem' probably does lie in this area. In his own words: "It's very difficult to balance the two things, because on one hand you make serious records but on the other you've got to be in competition with Haircut 100." The notion of pop as a vehicle for "serious records" has been unfashionable in recent years (at least, so far as white pop is concerned); and given pop's parameters, the balance Costello talks about must always have been difficult to maintain. It is especially so now. With the real world looking so grim, a music that tries to reflect some aspect of that and also give you a good time is likely to break apart with the strain. It's an ominous and not entirely coincidental sign that the groups who a few years back were successfully holding that balance have recently either split up-Specials, Fun Boy Three, Jam, Beat-or virtually disappeared - UB40. (Is this another unforeseen devastation wreaked by Thatcherism?) Given then that one of pop's main goals must be popularity, ' Punch The Clock' makes all the right moves. I do miss the spaciousness and relaxed poise of 'Imperial Bedroom', but there's no denying that' Punch The Clock' is indeed punchy, and that it inhabits one area- uptempo party pop-which 'Bedroom' did neglect. It also includes - of course! - Costello's protean qualities: here are 13 tracks brimful of witty wordplay, extended metaphor, and teasing echoes of pop history, from obvious Beatles to obscure Lewis Furey. There's also mystery aplenty-if anyone has a clue as to what 'King Of Thieves' is about, please send me a postcard - and a hatful of insanely catchy tunes which drive you barmy when you're trying to get to sleep. The LP opens with a bustling horn riff on 'Let Them All Talk' and proceeds in a likewise manner on tracks like The Greatest Thing', 'TKO', The Invisible Man', The World And His Wife'. There's a love of Stax lurking behind these tracks, but no attempt to replicate that prowling horn style: this is a breezy, whiteboy funk; high on zest, low on atmosphere, and given a clean, 'compressed' sound by the producers. I'm not complaining - the brilliant musical drive of tracks like TKO' and The Invisible Man' is one of the LP's chief strengths. There are pretty diversions' too, like the classic '60s harmonies of The Element Within Her', but excepting only 'Shipbuilding' and 'Pills And Soap', the sound of 'Punch The Clock' is a bright, attractive, streamline pop, rendered superbly by The Attractions. The skull beneath this skin, the other scale in the balance, comes with the lyrics. It's been a long time since Elvis played the pseudo-psycho, knotted up with guilt, about to burst with rage; but his later perspectives are no less bleak. Rather, that he now presents them with calmness and compassion makes them that much more chilling. 'Punch The Clock' comes with a thick coating of black humour, but it's a pretty desperate view of affairs that breaks through in 'Pills And Soap' or in lines like "Never mind there's a good film showing tonight/Where they hang everybody who can read and write/Oh that could never happen here but then again it might' (The Invisible Man'). In fact, from the icy contours of 'Charm School' to the savage spoofery of The World And His Wife' and beyond, Elvis isn't pulling any punches. He does try to lighten his acidic side with more personal, more allusive songs, and with that glittering pop production. Maybe he's overdone it; there's a faintly manic air to some of the music, and on one song at least ('The World And His Wife') the jollity of the knees-up horn riff- even though you could argue it's supposed to sound forced – just doesn't ring true. Neither do 'Love Went Mad' or 'Mouth Almighty', each coming with awkwardly disparate verse and chorus. I wonder if Elvis hasn't sacrificed a degree of emotional resonance in his bid for pop acceptability. A final irony would be that 'Pills And Soap' and 'Shipbuilding', his two recent hits are the songs here that most patently do not make those compromises. 'Shipbuilding’ may be the best thing he's written, and his version - reflective where Robert Wyatt's is plaintive – is the LP's finest moment. A song which does justice to the complex tragedy of its subject, it's indebted here to a beautifully terse, mournful trumpet solo by Chet Baker which, at one memorable point, is given just a touch of spine-tingling echo. What it boils down to is that 'Punch The Clock' is a new direction for Elvis - a necessary change that, by and large, he pulls off with aplomb. He's still the best songwriter in the country, and that's one thing' Punch The Clock’ hasn't changed. So it's a hit, but not quite a knockout. What I miss about the LP- 'Imperial Bedroom's' luxurious sense of space and time - is the price he has to pay for keeping that "difficult balance” between two aspects and aspirations of pop that are currently flying further apart. These are tough times, but this is one LP which rides the punches and comes back fighting. Three cheers for Elvis Costello, the great contender!

The second from Adam Sweeting - Melody Maker


Phew, for a moment there I thought the penny wasn’t going to drop in time. Luckily, after a further batch of circumnavigations of the turntable, “Punch The Clock” stands revealed as Costello’s hardest-hitting collection of songs in a while, probably since “Get Happy!!” Rumour has it that this isn’t a finished pressing, but you could have fooled me. This isn’t just because “Clock” picks up where “Get Happy!!” left off, with it’s brassy R&B overtones and assured melodic concision. More, it’s to do with this new LP’s winning marriage of playful musical imagination rigorously harnessed to a batch of lyrics which find Costello’s ability to blow a hole through the heart of the matter at 30 paces burning at maximum intensity. Discussing “Clock” on The Kid’s radio show the other night, Elvis confided that he felt “Imperial Bedroom” had thrust voice and lyrics too far forward, leaving them standing naked and apart from the musical scenery. The new one, therefore, seeks to restore the balance, using Costello’s voice more instrumentally in a fuller musical context balanced by the hard-hitting TKO Horns and the aggressive supporting voices of Afrodiziak girls Caron Wheeler and Claudia Fontaine. You can, of course, take the expertise of The Attractions for granted these days, and it’s shown to the full on a song like “The Element Within Her”. It’s basically just them and Elvis grabbing hold of a song of exhilarating directness and letting it’s bittersweet lyric and clear-sighted melodic construction run full tilt from starting gun to finishing tape. Where “Imperial Bedroom” often wallowed low in the water under it’s top-heavy superstructure of grandiose arrangements and encyclopedic lyrics, “Punch The Clock” draws up a short-list of priorities and nails them with ruthless efficiency. Costello’s range of targets is bewildering. “Pills And Soap” is here to put a banana skin under the popular press and the aristocracy, “King Of Thieves” is a suggestive compilation of film noir motifs which apparently came to Elvis in a dream, family life is ripped open and thrown out with the bathwater in “The World And His Wife” (“the conversation melts like chocolate down their open jaws/As the juniper berry slips down just like last night’s drawers”) and in “The Invisible Man” I suspect Costello is baring as much of his soul as we’ll ever see when he says “I want to be like Harry Houdini”. You don’t review records like this, you just let them hit you like a fire-hose and do your best to work with what’s left. For instance, Costello’s own version of “Shipbuilding” sparks off so many possible reactions you just have to pick one and sit with it for a while – bitter? Sad? Regretful? Accusatory? Compassionate? It’s probably easiest simply to let Chet Baker’s perfectly poised trumpet commentaries say it all – agony was rarely this exquisite, futility never so poetic. So many buttons are being pushed here that it’ll take months to assimilate them all, so I’ll just mention a couple and leave it all up to you. How about the vulgar bonhomie of the horns in “The World And His Wife” which twists the song from domestic tragedy to magnificent sick farce? It’s so close to the bone that a disgusted belly-laugh is the only escape. Then there’s the perfectly self-sealed literary conceit of “Everyday I Write The Book”, indexed with it’s own cross-references to the point where love turns into art but only deserves to be soap opera. And then there are just flashes, like this hair-trigger couplet from “Love Went Mad” – “With these vulgar fractions of the treble clef/I wish you luck with a capital “F”. Costello’s lyrics are apparently being taught for O-level. “Punch The Clock” deserves a PhD.

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