Costello Plays A Rock Critic's Gig
By Craig Rosen, Los Angeles Daily News
March 05, 1988
David Lee Roth once said rock critics praise Elvis Costello because they look like him. Did Roth have incredible foresight? Either that or is it just a coincidence that the author of the lead record review in the March issue of Musician magazine not only resembles the studious-looking pop smith but it is him.
It was Musician executive editor Bill Flanagan who came up with the idea to enlist Costello to review "Talking Animals," the latest effort from T-Bone Burnett.
"I thought T-Bone was a worthy artist and wanted to call special attention to the album," Flanagan explained. "So we called up Elvis, and he said, 'Sure."'
Apparently Costello, who recently ended his longstanding relationship with Columbia and signed to Warner Bros., had some free time on his hands.
Not surprisingly, Costello's rock criticism is nearly as entertaining as his music. The review - accompanied by a brilliant cartoon of Burnett armed with a guitar, while Costello takes notes in the foreground - offers Costello's unique perspective.
In fact, Costello even sneaks in a jab at full-time critics.
"Understandably cynical critics, who have been exposed to too much 'great rock genius' tend to point the moralistic finger and . . . 'Talking Animals' should not perplex these harassed souls, and normal people should really enjoy it," Costello writes.
Costello, who writes short stories as a hobby, is more than competent writing words without music, Flanagan said.
"We didn't have to do much editing, only a couple of jokes that were a little too obscure for people to understand," he explained.
Those in the know are aware that Burnett has worked with Costello as a producer and that they even collaborated together using the moniker the Coward Brothers, yet that association didn't seem to bother Costello or Flanagan.
Actually, the connection was one of the reasons Flanagan asked Costello to do the review. As for Costello, he brings up the issue of their friendship in the final paragraph of the piece, before dismissing it with an obscure joke (a reference to a Coward Brothers song).
So how will the emergence of Elvis Costello, rock journalist (who was paid the usual rate for a piece by a contributing writer), affect the rest of the rock critics out there?
"Unfortunately, if guys as smart as Elvis became rock journalists," Flanagan quipped, "all the rest of us would be out of business."
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