Elvis Costello: Wikis


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Elvis Costello

Background information
Birth name Declan Patrick MacManus
Also known as D.P. Costello
The Imposter
Little Hands of Concrete
D.P.A. MacManus
Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus
Born 25 August 1954 (1954-08-25) (age 55)
Paddington, London, England
Genres Hard rock
Pub rock
New Wave
Occupations Musician, Singer-songwriter, Record producer
Instruments Vocals, Guitar, Piano/Keyboards, Bass, Drums, Ukulele, Glockenspiel, Mandolin, Tambourine, Harmonica, Melodica, Celesta, Harmonium, Organ, Cymbal, Vox Continental electric organ, Synclavier, Casiotone, Maracas, Bells
Years active 1970–present
Labels Stiff, Radar, F-Beat, Demon, Imp, Columbia, Warner Bros., Rhino, Mercury, Island, Deutsche Grammophon, Lost Highway, Verve, Hip-O Hear Music
Associated acts The Attractions, The Imposters, Diana Krall, Burt Bacharach, Brodsky Quartet, Paul McCartney, the Talking Heads
Website Elvis Costello.com
Notable instruments
Fender Jazzmaster
Fender Telecaster
Gibson "Century of Progress" Signature Acoustic Guitar

Declan Patrick MacManus (born 25 August 1954), known by the stage name Elvis Costello, is an English singer-songwriter of Irish heritage. He came to prominence as an early participant in London's pub rock scene in the mid-1970s and later became associated with the New Wave musical genre. Steeped in word play, the vocabulary of Costello's lyrics is broader than that of most popular songs. His music has drawn on many diverse genres; the critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine describes him as a "pop encyclopedia," able to "reinvent the past in his own image".[1]


Early life

Costello was born Declan Patrick MacManus[2] in St Mary's Hospital, London, the son of Lillian (née Ablett) and Ross MacManus, a musician and bandleader.[3] He is of Irish heritage.[4] Costello lived in Twickenham, attending what is now St Mark's Catholic Secondary School in neighbouring Hounslow.[5] With a musically inclined father (his father sang with The Joe Loss Orchestra), Costello's first broadcast recording was alongside his dad in a television commercial for R. White's Lemonade ("I'm a Secret Lemonade Drinker"). His father wrote and sang the song; Costello provided backing vocals. The ad won a silver award at the 1974 International Advertising Festival.

Costello moved with his Liverpool-born mother to Birkenhead in 1971. There, he formed his first band, a folk duo called Rusty, with Allan Mayes. After completing secondary school at St. Francis Xavier's College, he moved back to London where he next formed a band called Flip City,[6] which had a style very much in the pub rock vein. They were active from 1974 through early 1976. Around this time, Costello adopted the stage name D.P. Costello. His father had performed under the name Day Costello, and Elvis has said in interviews that he took this name as a tribute to his father.

To support himself, he worked a number of office jobs, most famously at the Elizabeth Arden — immortalised in the lyrics of "I'm Not Angry" as the "vanity factory" — where he worked as a data entry clerk. He worked for a short period as a computer operator at the Midland Bank computer centre in Bootle. He continued to write songs, and began actively looking for a solo recording contract. On the basis of a demo tape, he was signed to independent label Stiff Records. His manager at Stiff, Jake Riviera, suggested a name change, combining Elvis Presley's first name and Costello, his paternal grandmother's maiden name.[7]


Costello's first single for Stiff was "Less Than Zero", released on 25 March 1977. Two months later, his debut album, My Aim Is True (1977), was released to moderate commercial success (No. 14 in the UK and, later, Top 40 in the US) with Costello appearing on the cover in what became his trademark oversize glasses, bearing a striking resemblance to a menacing Buddy Holly. Stiff's records were initially distributed only in the UK, which meant that Costello's first album and singles were initially available in the US as imports only. In an attempt to change this, Costello was arrested[citation needed] for busking outside a London convention of CBS Records executives, "protesting" that no US record company had yet seen fit to release Costello records in the United States. Costello signed to CBS' Columbia Records label in the US a few months later.

Costello's backing on the debut album was provided by American West Coast band Clover, a roots/country outfit living in England whose members would later go on to join Huey Lewis and the News and The Doobie Brothers. Later in 1977, Costello formed his own permanent backing band, The Attractions, consisting of Steve Nieve (born Steve Nason; piano), Bruce Thomas (bass guitar), and Pete Thomas (drums; unrelated to Bruce Thomas). He released his first major hit single, "Watching the Detectives", which was recorded with Nieve and the pair of Steve Goulding (drums) and Andrew Bodnar (bass), both members of Graham Parker's backing band The Rumour (whom he had used to audition for The Attractions).

Elvis Costello, in Massey Hall, Toronto, April 1979 Photo: Jean-Luc Ourlin

On December 17, 1977, Costello and The Attractions appeared as the musical guest act on the episode of Saturday Night Live as a last minute fill-in for the Sex Pistols. Scheduled to play "Less Than Zero", he surprised the SNL crew by abruptly stopping the song mid-intro, and launching into "Radio Radio". This stunt helped ensure he would not appear on the show again until 1989. Following a whirlwind tour with other Stiff artists – captured on the Live Stiffs album, notable for Costello's recording of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David standard "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" – the band recorded This Year's Model (1978). Some of the more popular tracks include the British hit "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" and "Pump It Up". His U.S. record company saw Costello as such a priority that his last name replaced the word "Columbia" on the label of the disc's original pressing.

A tour of the U.S. and Canada also saw the release of the much-bootlegged Canadian promo-only Live at the El Mocambo, recorded at a Toronto rock club, which finally saw an official release as part of the 2 1/2 Years box set in 1993. It was during the ensuing United States tour that Costello met and developed a relationship with former Playboy model Bebe Buell (mother of Liv Tyler). Their on-again-off-again courtship would last until 1984 and would allegedly become a deep well of inspiration for Costello's songwriting. In 1979, he released Armed Forces (originally to have been titled 'Emotional Fascism', a phrase that appeared on the LP's inner sleeve). Both the album and the single "Oliver's Army" went to #2 in the UK. Costello also found time in 1979 to produce the debut album for 2 Tone ska revival band, The Specials.

Costello's standing in the U.S. was bruised for a time when in March 1979, during a drunken argument with Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett in a Columbus, Ohio Holiday Inn hotel bar, the singer referred to James Brown as a "jive-ass nigger", then upped the ante by pronouncing Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant, nigger".[8][9] Costello apologised at a New York City press conference a few days later, claiming that he had been drunk and had been attempting to be obnoxious in order to bring the conversation to a swift conclusion, not anticipating that Bramlett would bring his comments to the press. According to Costello, "it became necessary for me to outrage these people with about the most obnoxious and offensive remarks that I could muster." In his liner notes for the expanded version of Get Happy!!, Costello writes that some time after the incident he had declined an offer to meet Charles out of guilt and embarrassment, though Charles himself had forgiven Costello ("Drunken talk isn't meant to be printed in the paper").

Costello worked extensively in Britain's Rock Against Racism campaign both before and after the incident. This incident inspired his Get Happy!! song "Riot Act".[10]

Costello is also an avid country music fan and has cited George Jones as his favourite country singer. In 1977 he appeared in Jones' duet album My Very Special Guests, contributing "Stranger In The House," which they later performed together on an HBO special dedicated to Jones.


The soul-infused Get Happy!! would be the first, and — along with King of America — possibly most successful, of Costello's many experiments with genres beyond those he is normally associated with. The single, "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" was an old Sam and Dave song (though Costello increased the tempo considerably). Lyrically, the songs are full of Costello's signature word play, to the point that he later felt he had become something of a self-parody and toned it down on later releases; he has mockingly described himself in interviews as "rock and roll's Scrabble champion." His only 1980 appearance in North America was at the Heatwave festival in August near Toronto.

In 1981, the band released Trust against growing tensions within the band, particularly between Bruce and Pete Thomas. In the U.S., the single "Watch Your Step" was released and played live on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow show, and received airplay on FM rock radio. In the UK, the single "Clubland" scraped the lower reaches of the charts; follow-up single "From A Whisper To A Scream" (a duet with Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze) became the first Costello single in over four years to completely miss the charts.

Following Trust, Costello released Almost Blue, an album of country music cover songs written by the likes of Hank Williams ("Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do?)"), Merle Haggard ("Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down") and Gram Parsons ("How Much I Lied"). The album was a tribute to the country music he had grown up listening to, especially George Jones. It received mixed reviews. The first pressings of the record in the UK bore a sticker with the message: "WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause a radical reaction in narrow minded listeners." Almost Blue did spawn a surprise UK hit single in a version of George Jones' "Good Year For The Roses" (written by Jerry Chesnut), which reached #6.

Imperial Bedroom (1982) marked a much darker sound, due in part to the production of Geoff Emerick, famed for engineering several Beatles records. Imperial Bedroom remains one of his most critically acclaimed records, but again failed to produce any hit singles. Costello has said he disliked the marketing pitch for the album. Imperial Bedroom also featured Costello's song "Almost Blue"; jazz singer and trumpeter Chet Baker would later perform and record a version of this song.

In 1983, he released Punch the Clock, featuring female backing vocals (Afrodiziak) and a four-piece horn section (The TKO Horns), alongside The Attractions. Clive Langer (who co-produced with Alan Winstanley), provided Costello with a melody which eventually became "Shipbuilding", which featured a trumpet solo by Chet Baker. Prior to the release of Costello's own version, a version of the song was a minor UK hit for former Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt.

Under the pseudonym "The Imposter", Costello released "Pills And Soap", an attack on the changes in British society brought on by Thatcherism, released to coincide with the run-up to the 1983 UK general election. Punch the Clock also generated an international hit in the single "Everyday I Write the Book", aided by a music video featuring lookalikes of the Prince and Princess of Wales undergoing domestic strife in a suburban home. The song became Costello's first Top 40 hit single in the U.S. Also in the same year, Costello provided vocals on a version of the Madness song "Tomorrow's Just Another Day" released as a B-side on the single of the same name.

Tensions within the band were beginning to tell, and Costello announced his retirement and the breakup of the group shortly before they were to record Goodbye Cruel World (1984). Costello would later say of this record that they had "got it as wrong as you can in terms of the execution". The record was poorly received upon its initial release; the liner notes to the 1995 Rykodisc re-release, penned by Costello, begin with the words "Congratulations!, you've just purchased our worst album". Costello's retirement, although short-lived, was accompanied by two compilations, Elvis Costello: The Man in the UK, Europe and Australia, and The Best of Elvis Costello & The Attractions in the U.S.

In 1985, he appeared in the Live Aid benefit concert in England, singing the Beatles' "All You Need is Love" as a solo artist. (The event was overrunning and Costello was asked to "ditch the band"). Costello introduced the song as an old northern folk song, and the audience was invited to sing the chorus.

In the same year Costello teamed up with friend T-Bone Burnett for a single called "The People's Limousine" under the moniker of The Coward Brothers. That year, Costello also produced Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash for the Irish punk/folk band The Pogues. It was then that he met his second wife, Pogues bassist Cait O'Riordan.

By 1986, Costello was preparing to make a comeback. Working in the U.S. with Burnett, a band containing a number of Elvis Presley's sidemen (including James Burton and Jerry Scheff), and minor input from the Attractions, he produced King of America an acoustic guitar-driven album with a country sound. Around this time he legally changed his name back to Declan MacManus, adding Aloysius as an extra middle name. Costello retooled his upcoming tour to allow for multiple nights in each city; playing one night with The Confederates (James Burton et al.), one night with The Attractions, and one night solo acoustic.

In May 1986, Costello performed at Self Aid, a benefit concert held in Dublin that focused on the chronic unemployment which was widespread in Ireland at that time. Later that year, he returned to the studio with the Attractions and recorded Blood and Chocolate, which was lauded for a post-punk fervour not heard since 1978's This Year's Model. It also marked the return of producer Nick Lowe, who had produced Costello's first five albums. While Blood and Chocolate failed to chart a hit single of any significance, it did produce what has since become one of Costello's signature concert songs, "I Want You". On this album, Costello adopted the alias "Napoleon Dynamite", the name he later attributed to the character of the emcee that he played during the vaudeville-style tour to support Blood and Chocolate. (The pseudonym had previously been used in 1982, when the B-side single "Imperial Bedroom" was credited to 'Napoleon Dynamite & The Royal Guard', and was later appropriated by the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite).

In 1989, Costello, with a new contract with Warner Bros., released Spike, which spawned his biggest single in America, the Top Twenty hit "Veronica", one of several songs Costello co-wrote with Paul McCartney in that timeframe (see "Collaborations" section below).


In 1991, having grown a long beard, Costello released Mighty Like a Rose, which featured the single "The Other Side of Summer". He also found time to co-compose and co-produce, with Richard Harvey, the title and incidental music for the mini-series G.B.H. by Alan Bleasdale. This entirely instrumental, and largely orchestral soundtrack garnered a BAFTA, for 'Best Music for a TV Series' for the pair.

In 1993, Costello experimented with classical music with a critically acclaimed collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet[11] on The Juliet Letters. During this period, Costello wrote a full album's worth of material for Wendy James, and these songs became the tracks on her 1993 solo album Now Ain't the Time for Your Tears. Costello returned to rock and roll the following year with a project that reunited him with The Attractions, Brutal Youth. In 1995, Costello released Kojak Variety, an album of cover songs recorded five years earlier, and followed in 1996 with an album of songs originally written for other artists, All This Useless Beauty. This was the final album of original material that he issued under his Warner Bros. contract. In the spring of 1996, Costello played a series of intimate club dates, backed only by Nieve on the piano, in support of All This Useless Beauty. An ensuing summer and fall tour with the Attractions proved to be the death knell for the band. With relations between Costello and bassist Bruce Thomas at a breaking point, Costello announced that the current tour would be the Attractions' last. The quartet performed their final U.S. show in Seattle, Washington on September 1, 1996, before wrapping up their tour in Japan. To fulfill his contractual obligations to Warner Bros., Costello released a greatest hits album titled Extreme Honey (1997). It contained an original track titled "The Bridge I Burned", featuring Costello's son, Matt, on bass.

In the intervening period, Costello also served as artistic chair for the 1995 Meltdown Festival, which gave him the opportunity to explore his increasingly eclectic musical interests. His involvement in the festival yielded a one-off live EP with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, which featured both cover material and a few of his own songs.

In 1998, Costello signed a multi-label contract with Polygram Records, sold by its parent company the same year to become part of the Universal Music Group. Costello released his new work on what he deemed the suitable imprimatur within the family of labels. His first new release as part of this contract involved a collaboration with Burt Bacharach. Their work had commenced earlier, in 1996, on a song called "God Give Me Strength" for the movie Grace of My Heart. This led the pair to write and record Painted From Memory, released under his new contract in 1998, on the Mercury Records label. They also recorded an updated version of Bacharach's song "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" for the soundtrack to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, with both appearing in the film to perform the song. He also wrote "I Throw My Toys Around" for The Rugrats Movie and performed it with No Doubt. The same year, he collaborated with Paddy Moloney (The Chieftains) on "The Long Journey Home" on the soundtrack of the PBS/Disney mini-series of the same name. The soundtrack won a Grammy that year.

In 1999, Costello contributed a version of "She", released in 1974 by Charles Aznavour and Herbert Kretzmer, for the soundtrack of the film Notting Hill, with Trevor Jones producing. For the 25th anniversary of Saturday Night Live, Costello was invited to the program, where he re-enacted his abrupt song-switch: This time, however, he interrupted the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage", and they acted as his backing group for "Radio Radio."

2000 to present

Costello performing in June 2005

In 2000, Costello appeared at the Town Hall Theatre, New York, in Steve Nieve's opera Welcome to the Voice, alongside Ron Sexsmith and John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants.

In 2001, Costello was announced as the featured "artist in residence" at UCLA (although he ended up making fewer appearances than expected) and wrote the music for a new ballet. He produced and appeared on an album of pop songs for opera singer, Anne Sofie von Otter.

In 2002, he released a new album, When I Was Cruel, on Island Records, and toured with a new band, the Imposters (essentially the Attractions but with a different bass player, Davey Faragher, formerly of Cracker). He appeared as himself in the "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation" episode of "The Simpsons" (Season 14, Episode 2).

On 23 February 2003, Costello, along with Bruce Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt, and Dave Grohl performed a version of The Clash's "London Calling" at the 45th Grammy Awards ceremony, in honor of Clash frontman Joe Strummer, who had died the previous December. In March 2003, Elvis Costello & The Attractions were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In May, his engagement to Canadian jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall was announced. In September, he released North, an album of piano-based ballads concerning the breakdown of his former marriage, and his falling in love with Diana Krall.

In 2003, Costello made an appearance in the television show Frasier as a folk singer in the Cafe Nervosa, sending Frasier and Niles on a search for a new coffee bar.[12]

In 2004, the song "Scarlet Tide" (co-written by Costello and T-Bone Burnett and used in the film Cold Mountain) was nominated for an Academy Award; he performed it at the awards ceremony with Alison Krauss, who also sang the song on the official soundtrack. Costello co-wrote many songs on Krall's 2004 CD, The Girl in the Other Room, the first of hers to feature several original compositions. In July 2004 Costello's first full-scale orchestral work, Il Sogno, was performed in New York. The work, a ballet after Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, was commissioned by Italian dance troupe Aterballeto, and received critical acclaim from the classical music critics. Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, the recording was released on CD in September by Deutsche Grammophon.

Costello's hand prints on the European Walk of Fame, Rotterdam

Costello released another album that same month: The Delivery Man, recorded in Oxford, Mississippi, and released on Lost Highway Records. The Delivery Man was hailed as one of Costello's best albums.

In July 2005, a CD recording of a collaboration with Marian McPartland on her show Piano Jazz was released. It featured Costello singing six jazz standards and two of his own songs, accompanied by McPartland on piano. In November 2005 Costello started recording a new album with Allen Toussaint and producer Joe Henry. The River in Reverse was released in the UK on the Verve label on May 29, 2006.

In 2006, the studio recording of Nieve's opera Welcome to the Voice, for Deutsche Grammophon, Costello interpreted the character of Chief of Police, with Barbara Bonney, Robert Wyatt, Sting and Amanda Roocroft.

Also released in 2006 was a live recording of a concert with the Metropole Orkest at the North Sea Jazz Festival, entitled My Flame Burns Blue.

In 2007, Nieve's opera Welcome to the Voice was released on CD by Deutsche Grammophon, reaching #2 in the Billboard classical charts.

The soundtrack for House M.D. featured Costello's interpretation of "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera, as well as appearing in the second episode of Series 2.

Costello has been commissioned to write a chamber opera by the Danish Royal Opera, Copenhagen, on the subject of Hans Christian Andersen's infatuation with Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, called The Secret Songs. Some of the songs were previewed on the Opera's main stage in October 2005. However, since Costello has repeatedly missed deadlines, plans have been changed: extracts from the projected opera will be interspersed with songs from The Juliet Letters for performance in the Opera's studio theatre (Takelloftet) in March 2007. It will be directed by Kasper Bech Holten and will feature Danish soprano Sine Bundgaard as Lind.

On May 6, 2008, Fender Musical Instruments released Elvis Costello Jazzmaster, an exact representation of the late 1960s heavily modified Fender Jazzmaster guitar he had used to record his first 1977 album, My Aim Is True. Its features include a post-1968 neck design, a walnut stain finish and a tremolo with easier and greater travel, essential for that "Watching the Detectives" tone, or what Costello called "that spy movie sound".

On April 22, 2008, Momofuku was released on Lost Highway Records, the same imprint that released his last studio album, The Delivery Man. The album was, at least initially, released exclusively on vinyl (with a code to download a digital copy of the album). That summer, in support of the album, Costello toured with The Police on the final leg of their 2007/2008 Reunion Tour.

On 5 February 2008, it was announced Costello would play a homecoming gig at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on 25 June.[13]

On 28 June 2008, Costello gave his first performance in Poland, appearing with the Imposters for the closing gig of the Malta theatre festival in Poznań.

In July 2008, Costello (as Declan McManus) was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Liverpool.

In November 2008, Costello was the Chief of Police in Welcome to the Voice on the stage of the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, with Sting, Joe Sumner of Fiction Plane (Sting's son) and Sylvia Schwartz.

Costello is the host for a Sundance Channel series entitled Spectacle in which Costello talks and performs with stars in various fields. It airs on Wednesdays, beginning 3 December 2008.[14]

Costello was featured on Fall Out Boy's 2008 album Folie à Deux, providing vocals on the track "What a Catch, Donnie", along with other artists who are friends with the band.

Costello appeared in Stephen Colbert's television special A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All; in the program, he was eaten by a bear, but later saved by Santa Claus; he also sang a duet with Stephen Colbert. The special was first aired on 23 November 2008.[15] Costello released Secret, Profane & Sugarcane on June 9, 2009. The album is a collaboration with T-Bone Burnett, who previous worked with Costello on his King of America and Spike sets.[16] It was his first on the Starbucks Hear Music label and a return to country music in the manner of Good Year for the Roses.

In May 2009, Costello made a surprise cameo appearance onstage at the Beacon Theater in New York as part of Spinal Tap's Unwigged and Unplugged show, singing their fictional 1965 hit "Gimme Some Money" with the other members of the band backing him up.

Personal life

Costello has been married three times. In 1974, Costello married Mary Burgoyne. The couple had a son, Matthew, and divorced in 1984. In 1986, Costello married Cait O'Riordan, then bassist for the band The Pogues. The couple split at the end of 2002. Costello became engaged to singer Diana Krall in May 2003. In December, Costello and Krall married at the London estate of Sir Elton John. Their twin sons Dexter Henry Lorcan and Frank Harlan James were born 6 December 2006 in New York City.

Humanitarian causes

Costello sits of the Advisory Committee of the Board of Directors of the Jazz Foundation of America.[17] Costello began working with the Jazz Foundation in 2001, and has been a featured performer in their annual benefit A Great Night in Harlem [18] since 2006. Costello has donated his time working with the Jazz Foundation of America [1].[19] to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians including musicians that survived Hurricane Katrina.


In addition to his major recorded collaborations with Bacharach, the Brodsky Quartet, and von Otter, Costello has frequently been involved in other collaborations.

In 1987, Costello began a long-running songwriting collaboration with Paul McCartney. They wrote a number of songs together, including:

  • "Back On My Feet", the B-side of McCartney's 1987 single "Once Upon A Long Ago", later added as a bonus track on the 1993 re-issue of McCartney's Flowers in the Dirt
  • Costello's "Veronica" and "Pads, Paws and Claws" from Spike (1989) (Also, McCartney plays Hofner bass but does not have a writing credit for "This Town" - the opening song for the album.)
  • "So Like Candy" and "Playboy to a Man" from Mighty Like a Rose (1991)
  • McCartney's "My Brave Face", "Don't Be Careless Love", "That Day Is Done" and "You Want Her Too" from Flowers in the Dirt (1989)
  • "The Lovers That Never Were" and "Mistress and Maid" from Off the Ground (1993).
  • "Shallow Grave" from All This Useless Beauty (1996).

Costello talked about their collaboration:

When we sat down together he wouldn't have any sloppy bits in there. That was interesting. The ironic part is, if it sounds like he wrote it, I probably did and vice versa. He wanted to do all the ones with lots of words and all on one note, and I'm the one trying to work in the "Please Please Me" harmony all over the place.[citation needed]

  • In February 2010, Costello appeared in the live cinecast of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, singing some of his own songs, and participating in many of the show's other musical and acting performances.

Artistic significance

Costello has worked with Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Lee Konitz, Brian Eno, and Rubén Blades, as well as many other musicians not listed above.

Costello is also a music fan, and often champions the works of others in print. He has written several pieces for the magazine Vanity Fair, including the summary of what a perfect weekend of music would be. His collaboration with Bacharach honoured Bacharach's place in pop music history. Costello also appeared in documentaries about singers Dusty Springfield, Brian Wilson, Wanda Jackson, and Memphis, Tennessee-based Stax Records. He has also interviewed one of his own influences, Joni Mitchell.

In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #80 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[21]


Rykodisc/Demon reissues

From 1993 to 1995, Rykodisc Records (US) and Demon Records (UK) reissued Costello's pre-Warner Bros. catalogue with bonus tracks for each album as well as a greatest hits compilation and the live album Live at the El Mocambo. This licensing deal ended in 2000.

Rhino reissues

Starting in 2001, Rhino Records began an eighteen double-disc reissue program for Costello's back catalogue prior to his Polygram/Universal contract. Except for the compilation, each of the reissues presented the remastered original album on one disc, and a separate bonus disc of B-sides, outtakes, live tracks, alternate versions and/or demos of songs.

The project featured the direct participation and guidance of Costello, who wrote new liner notes for each album consisting of his thoughts on the music as well as anecdotes and reminiscences from the time. They were released in batches of three, with the exception of King of America, The Juliet Letters, and The Very Best of Elvis Costello, the last being an unaltered re-release of the Polygram compilation of 1999, which arrived in the stores singularly. The reissue dates are as follows:

  1. 17 April 2001: The Very Best of Elvis Costello
  2. 11 August 2001: My Aim Is True, Spike, All This Useless Beauty
  3. 19 February 2002: This Year's Model, Blood and Chocolate, Brutal Youth
  4. 19 November 2002: Armed Forces, Imperial Bedroom, Mighty Like a Rose
  5. 9 September 2003: Get Happy!!, Trust, Punch the Clock
  6. 3 August 2004: Almost Blue, Goodbye Cruel World, Kojak Variety
  7. 26 April 2005: King of America
  8. 21 March 2006: The Juliet Letters

The Almost Blue and Kojak Variety bonus discs were particularly notable as each contained, essentially, an entire new album's worth of material also performed but either not issued, or released as B-sides on singles originally. The Kojak bonus disc also included ten songs of the 'George Jones' tape, cover songs Costello intended to induce the famed country singer to perform on a subsequent album. The Get Happy bonus disc was also of note, with 30 additional tracks, bringing the total for the two disc set to 50 songs.

Universal reissues

In August 2006, three months after the conclusion of Rhino's reissue series (My Aim Is True through The Juliet Letters), Universal Music Enterprises announced their purchase of the early Costello catalogue. This licensing acquisition covers from My Aim Is True through King of America, excluding the Warner Bros. albums (Spike through All This Useless Beauty). These albums had all been re-released on Rhino, a Warner Music Group subsidiary. The press release says, "[l]eading the industry in online marketing with a dedicated department that manages its digital and mobile business, UMe also expects to mine Costello's catalog for ringtones, digital box sets, and more."[22] UMe announced that they would be reissuing the albums on their Hip-O Select label. Costello is quoted in the press release as saying, "[I]t's great to be able to do this through a company that has not only enjoyed major success with reissues but has done them with a genuine emphasis on quality."[23] This reissue series will mark the fourth release of his Stiff/Radar/Demon catalogue (released by Columbia Records in the U.S.) on compact disc.

Tribute albums

  1. 1998: Bespoke Songs, Lost Dogs, Detours & Rendezvous – (various artists)
  2. 2002: Almost You: The Songs of Elvis Costello – (various artists)
  3. 2003: The Elvis Costello Songbook – Bonnie Brett
  4. 2004: A Tribute to Elvis Costello – Patrik Tanner
  5. 2004: Davis Does ElvisStuart Davis
  6. 2008: Every Elvis Has His Impersonators: 7 Homemade Remade Elvis Costello Songs - Elastic No-No Band




  1. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Get Happy!! [Ryko Bonus Tracks], Allmusic. Accessed 17 September 2007.
  2. ^ His full given name is sometimes inaccurately listed as Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus but Aloysius was not one of his names at birth. Costello began using the name "Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus" (or sometimes, "D.P.A. MacManus") in both the writing and production credits of his albums in 1986, though this was largely phased out by the mid-1990s. It has been suggested that Aloysius could be his confirmation name, or that the use of the name Aloysius is a reference to English comedian Tony Hancock -- born "Anthony John Hancock", Hancock became famous in the UK playing a comic character who went by the name "Anthony Aloysius St. John Hancock".
  3. ^ Elvis Costello Biography (1954-)
  4. ^ Interview with Elvis Costello
  5. ^ Paul Inglis, "The Rise And Rise Of Elvis Costello", The Elvis Costello Home Page. Accessed 17 September 2007.
  6. ^ Flip City -- the True Story , Flip City website. Accessed 17 September 2007.
  7. ^ Elvis Costello, interview by Terry Gross, Fresh Air from WHYY, National Public Radio, WHYY-FM, Philadelphia, 28 February 1989 (rebroadcast 14 September 2007). Accessed 16 September 2007.
  8. ^ Greil Marcus (1993). In The Fascist Bathroom. London, England: Penguin Books. pp. 229. ISBN 0140149406. 
  9. ^ http://sweepingthenation.blogspot.com/2007/06/illustrated-guide-to-elvis-costello.html
  10. ^ Elvis Costello - "Rio Act" / "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", More Things website. Accessed 17 September 2007.
  11. ^ 1993 Review of "The Juliet Letters" by Bradley Smith, accessed May 2009
  12. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0582393/
  13. ^ Elvis Costello Show at the Philharmonic
  14. ^ Sundancechannel.com, Series' homepage, 15 November, 2008
  15. ^ http://ccinsider.comedycentral.com/cc_insider/2008/11/a-colbert-christmas-premieres-sunday.html
  16. ^ Sulphur to Sugarcane Songfacts
  17. ^ jazzfoundation.org. 2009-05-10. URL:http://www.jazzfoundation.org/auction/auction_brochure.pdf. Accessed: 2009-05-10. (Archived by JazzFoundation.org at http://www.jazzfoundation.org/auction/auction_brochure.pdf)
  18. ^ jazzfoundation.org. 2009-05-10. URL:http://www.jazzfoundation.org/Gala_Sponsorship_Packages.pdf. Accessed: 2009-05-10. (Archived by JazzFoundation.org at http://www.jazzfoundation.org/Gala_Sponsorship_Packages.pdf)
  19. ^ "JFA Board of Directors". Costello involvement. JFA. http://www.jazzfoundation.org/about208.swf. 
  20. ^ http://www.mellencamp.com/?module=news&news_item_id=527
  21. ^ "The Immortals: The First Fifty". Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5939214/the_immortals_the_first_fifty. 
  22. ^ Press release on Marketwire.
  23. ^ Press release on Marketwire.


  • Costello, Elvis. A Singing Dictionary. London: Plangent Visions Music; New York, N.Y.: Exclusive selling agent for the United States and Canada, Warner Bros. Publications, 1980. ISBN 0-7692-1505-X. Sheet music, chords, and lyrics for works 1977–1980.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

My ultimate vocation in life is to be an irritant, someone who disrupts the daily drag of life just enough to leave the victim thinking there's maybe more to it all than the mere hum-drum quality of existence.

Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus (born 25 August 1954) is an English musician, singer, and songwriter, primarily known by his stage-name Elvis Costello.



Writing about music is like dancing about architecture — it's a really stupid thing to want to do.
When the media attention switches away from this story onto the next thing that happens in the world, the circumstances will still be there.
  • My ultimate vocation in life is to be an irritant, someone who disrupts the daily drag of life just enough to leave the victim thinking there's maybe more to it all than the mere hum-drum quality of existence.
    • New Music Express interview with Nick Kent (1978); quoted in Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, and the Torch Song Tradition (2004) by Larry David Smith, p. 166
  • WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners.
  • Writing about music is like dancing about architecture — it's a really stupid thing to want to do.
    • On music critics, as quoted in "A Man out of Time Beats the Clock" by Timothy White in Musician magazine No. 60 (October 1983), p. 52.
    • This has commonly been paraphrased "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture." More info at "Alan P. Scott : Talking about music..."
  • I can't actually play any instrument properly. I can't read music. And here's the New York Times calling me the new George Gershwin. It was so ridiculous, really embarrassing. It was embarrassing to watch these people fall into the trap of their own critical conceits.
    • Musician (March 1986)
  • The people with the most resources are the federal government. If you can invade a country halfway across the world in a matter of days, you can surely come to the aid of your own citizens in a shorter order of time.
    • Real Time With Bill Maher (25 August 2006)
  • I had a lot of problems with my name ... my first name Declan is really not very well known outside of Ireland, MacManus is a name they could never spell ... if you think about the names of '76, '77 ... I got of kind of lightly — with a name you could live with, you know, in time. ... I kind of liked the dare of it. Of course we weren't to know that within a month of my first album actually being issued Elvis Presley would die, and it would actually be a talking point. ... Let me put it this way — people don't forget you with that name. It's sort of receded as — and this may sound terribly disrespectful and heretical — but as Elvis Presley has receded as a musical force, people make much less of a case about it. Elvis is a sort of cultural figure but there is no direct line between the music of Elvis Presley and the music of today. There is none whatsoever, he's no influence whatsoever, that I can detect, on music made today. Other than people who consciously retro in styling themselves after his ideas. There is no direct impact in the way that you can hear the influence of The Beatles or Stevie Wonder or numerous other people.

My Aim Is True (1977)

Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison, my aim is true...
  • Alison, I know this world is killing you.
    Oh, Alison, my aim is true.

    My aim is true.
  • Oh I used to be disgusted
    and now I try to be amused.

    But since their wings have got rusted,
    you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes.
    • (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
  • Turn up the TV. No one listening will suspect,
    even your mother won't detect it,
    no your father won't know.
    they think that I've got no respect
    but everything means less than zero.

This Year's Model (1978)

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.
I wanna bite that hand so badly.
I want to make them wish they'd never seen me.
  • She said that's that.
    I don't wanna chitter-chat.
    Turn it down a little bit
    or turn it down flat.
    Pump it up when you don't really need it.
    Pump it up until you can feel it.
  • They say you better listen to the voice of reason
    But they don't give you any choice
    'cause they think that it's treason.
    So you had better do as you are told.
    You better listen to the radio.
  • I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.
    I wanna bite that hand so badly.
    I want to make them wish they'd never seen me.
    • "Radio Radio"

Armed Forces (1979)

Oliver's army is here to stay
Oliver's army are on their way...
  • Accidents will happen
    We only hit and run
    He used to be your victim
    Now you're not the only one.

    Accidents will happen
    We only hit and run
    I don't want to hear it
    'Cause I know what I've done.

  • Theres so many fish in the sea
    That only rise up in the sweat and smoke like mercury
  • And it's the damage that we do
    And never know
    It's the words that we don't say
    That scare me so.
    • "Accidents Will Happen"
  • Oliver's army is here to stay
    Oliver's army are on their way
    And I would rather be anywhere else
    But here today.

Get Happy!! (1980)

Clowntime is over
Time to take cover...
  • So beautiful and fortunate
    You're the one who hates to love
    But he's the one who loves to hate.
    • "Love For Tender"
  • Clowntime is over
    Time to take cover
    While others just talk and talk
    Somebody's watching where the others don't walk.
    • "Clowntime Is Over"

Punch the Clock (1983)

I'm giving you a longing look
Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book.
  • The boy said 'Dad they're going to take me to task
    But I'll be back by Christmas'
    It's just a rumour that was spread around town
    Somebody said that someone got filled in
    For saying that people get killed in
    The result of this shipbuilding
    With all the will in the world
    Diving for dear life
    When we could be diving for pearls.
    • "Shipbuilding"
  • Don't tell me you don't know what love is
    When you're old enough to know better.
    • "Everyday I Write The Book"
  • I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions
    And I'm giving you a longing look
    Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book.
    • "Everyday I Write The Book

Spike (1989)

Sometimes you confuse me with Santa Claus
It's the big white beard I suppose.
  • Is it all in that pretty little head of yours?
    What goes on in that place in the dark?
    Well I used to know a girl and I would have
    sworn that her name was Veronica
    Well she used to have a carefree mind of her
    own and a delicate look in her eye
    These days I'm afraid she's not even sure if her
    name is Veronica.
    • "Veronica"
  • While you lie in the dark, afraid to breathe and
    you beg and you promise
    And you bargain and you plead
    Sometimes you confuse me with Santa Claus
    It's the big white beard I suppose.

    Im going up to the pole, where you folks die of cold
    I might be gone for a while if you need me.
  • Now Im dead, now Im dead, and you're all
    Going on to meet your reward.

    Are you scared? Are you scared? Are you scared? Are you scared?
    You might have never heard, but God's comic.

    • "God's Comic"

All This Useless Beauty (1996)

You'll see me off in the distance, I hope
At the other end
At the other end of the telescope.
What shall we do, what shall we do with all this useless beauty?
Well there's a line that you must toe
and it'll soon be time to go
but it's darker than you know in those Complicated Shadows
  • There's always something that's smoldering somewhere
    I know it don't make a difference to you
    But oh! It sure made a difference to me
    You'll see me off in the distance, I hope
    At the other end
    At the other end of the telescope.
    • "The Other End (of the Telescope)" (co-written with Aimee Mann)
  • Lie down baby now don't say a word
    There there baby your vision is blurred
    Your head is so sore from all of that thinking
    I don't want to hurt you now
    But I think you're shrinking.
    • "The Other End (of the Telescope)" (co-written with Aimee Mann)
  • What shall we do, what shall we do with all this useless beauty?
    • "All This Useless Beauty"
  • Nonsense prevails, modesty fails
    Grace and virtue turn into stupidity

    While the calendar fades almost all barricades to a pale compromise
    And our leaders have feasts on the backsides of beasts
    They still think they're the gods of antiquity
    If something you missed didn't even exist
    It was just an ideal — is it such a surprise?
    • "All This Useless Beauty"
  • Well there's a line that you must toe
    and it'll soon be time to go
    but it's darker than you know in those Complicated Shadows
    • "Complicated Shadows"
  • Why can't a man stand alone?
    Must he be burdened by all that he's taught to consider his own?
    His skin and his station, his kin and his crown, his flag and his nation
    They just weigh him down
    • "Why Can't A Man Stand Alone?"
  • Now I just don't know who to tell to go to hell
    Who put the old devil in the distorted angel?
    • "Distorted Angel"

dig interview (2004)

"Elvis Costello : Interview And Music" by Brian Wise (4 October 2004)
My sense of history in music is much greater than a lot of people's. I listen a lot further back in the whole history of music.
I've had a lot of different experiences in music over the years. And not everything you do can satisfy everybody's idealised version of you.
  • Obviously the people that I admired, like the Beatles, were really into rock'n'roll, but it was already a little past rock'n'roll when I started listening and making my own choices about music. I've been lucky to listen to lots of different types of music.
  • Obviously, when I started out, I had a little bit more curiosity than some, and went seeking out the original artists, or in some cases searching up country music. I followed The Byrds a lot, and then when they did a country styled record it made me curious to know who these people were that they liked.
  • My sense of history in music is much greater than a lot of people's. I listen a lot further back in the whole history of music. It's not just pop music of the last 20, 30, 40, 50 years. I'm listening to stuff from hundreds of years ago as well, because you can learn from everything.
  • We stayed out of Memphis early on in the late 70s for obvious reasons. People were very sensitive about Elvis Presley, and my stage name obviously would be provocative to some people in that area at that time. So we didn't visit Memphis until about 1984.
  • The first song that most people picked up on, particularly in America, of mine, was a ballad, not a rock'n'roll song. It was 'Alison', and that's an R&B ballad. I don't think there's any other way to describe it.
  • These are the sort of things that push you on in music — the curiosity, a passion for new ideas. It's important to keep restoring that, and at the same time, hold on to the core things about music that whenever you pick the simplest form of instrument; guitar or piano, you can find a song that's worthwhile.
  • I've had a lot of different experiences in music over the years. And not everything you do can satisfy everybody's idealised version of you.
  • I don't feel any form of music is beyond me in the sense of that I don't understand it or I don't have some love for some part of it. And if there's something in it that I can respond to, then there's something that I might be able to use as a composer. There are records of mine that have had smaller audiences and have provoked really drastic responses from people — particularly from critics — who maybe don't have quite enough time to live with the record or accept that a piece has its own integrity.


  • As I walk through
    This wicked world
    Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity.
    I ask myself
    Is all hope lost?
    Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
    And each time I feel like this inside,
    There's one thing I wanna know:
    What's so funny 'bout Peace, Love, & Understanding?

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Elvis Costello
File:Elvis Costello 15 June
Elvis Costello performing in June 2005
Background information
Birth name Declan Patrick MacManus
Born August 25, 1954 (1954-08-25) (age 56)
London, England
Genres Rock
Pub rock
Punk rock
New Wave
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1977 - Present
Labels Stiff, Radar, F-Beat, Demon, Columbia, Warner Bros., Deutsche Grammophon, Lost Highway
Associated acts The Attractions, The Imposters, Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint
Website Elvis Costello.com

Elvis Costello (born August 25, 1954) is a English singer and songwriter. His real name is Declan Patrick McManus and he was born in London. He was an important musician in the late 1970s punk rock and new wave music styles. In the 1980s, he played an original style of rock and roll. Later he wrote and performed music in a number of different styles from classical to jazz.

After two earlier marriages he married jazz pianist Diana Krall in 2003.

He currently host the TV show "Spectacle: Elvis Costello with...".

Some celebrity fans include Nick Jonas who has done some covers of his songs.

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