Elvis Costello a brilliant singer and songwriter came onto the new wave scene in the late 1970s. When you looked at him he resembled the late great Buddy Holly who also had nerdy looking spectacles and of course his name reminded one of the King of Rock and Roll. Therefore it seemed destined that Costello would be a success in the world of music.
He came into this world as Declan Patrick Macmanus on August 25, 1954, in Paddington, London, England. I say he had inborn talent because his dad was a successful big-band singer and trumpet player. Costello went to Catholic school and tried out a variety of different instruments among them the violin. Then at the age of 15, he took up the guitar and at this point was already interested in songwriting.
In the early 1970s he lived in London with his wife and son. He wrote songs, recorded demos and at times performed under the name D.C. Costello. Costello was his mom’s maiden name. All this time he supported his family as a computer operator. Finally, in 1975 Costello quit his job and became a roadie for Brinsley Schwartz. In 1976 Stiff Records signed him on and his manager rechristened him as Elvis Costello.
Costello’s first single was “Less Than Zero” which came out in April 1977. This song was included on his first album “My Aim Is True” and placed him on the charts and made him a major British cult star.
The album is now considered a classic and includes one of his most popular songs “Alison”. Other songs on the album are “Watching the Detectives” and “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”.
Getting a Band
Costello gathered together guys to form a band called The Attractions with Steve “Nieve” Nason as keyboardist, Pete Thomas as the drummer and Bruce Thomas as bassist. They took off on the road and Costello was introduced to an American audience on Saturday Night Live in December of 1977.
An Angry-Young Man Image
In the world of New Wave Costello came off as an angry-young-man. He sang in a sort of clipped voice and delivered his songs straight on. His next album was Armed Forces with such songs like “Oliver’s Army” which equated love affairs with military maneuvers. In 1979 Costello toured the U.S. to promote the album.
This was followed in 1980 by his next album Get Happy! Which included songs such as “Opportunity” and “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down”.
Costello released the album Almost Blue in 1981 and this time it was an album of country and western covers that he recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. Songs on the album included “Sweet Dreams” and “A Good Year For the Roses”.
He came out with some really haunting ballads on his album Imperial Bedroom in 1982. Songs here included “Beyond Belief” and “Tears Before Bedtime”.
In 1983 his song “Every Day I Write the Book” became a Top 40 hit in the U.S. and in 1984 he was noted for “Goodbye Cruel World”.
Along with changes in his personal life, Costello temporarily traded his band The Attractions for a pickup band called The Confederates which included former Elvis Presley musicians. With these musicians, he recorded the album King of America in 1986 with songs like “Don’t Let me Be Misunderstood”.
Costello followed up this album with Blood and Chocolate and set on a tour that featured The Attractions, The Confederates, and Costello singing solo. Songs from this album were “Uncomplicated” and “I Want You”.
Costello designed the Spinning Songbook which allowed the audience to “choose” by luck of the draw, songs from his very vast repertoire.
Co-Writing With Paul McCartney
In 1987 Costello co-wrote a group of songs with Paul McCartney which were released two years later on the album Spike. The album included a Top 20 hit the McCartney-Costello collaboration “Veronica”.
In 1991 Costello released Mighty Like a Rose without The Attractions. With songs like “The Other Side of Summer”.
Costello found a new sense of direction when he took up the project The Juliet Letters. This was a song cycle that he wrote and performed with the string players in England’s Brodsky Quartet. These songs were inspired by an article about a letter sent to the character Juliet Capulet created by author William Shakespeare. These songs were received with mixed emotions.
Costello has continued on his musical journey with many other albums. In 1994 he reunited with The Attractions and went on tour for the album Brutal Youth. He recorded another cover album with songs by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Bob Dylan among others. Songs on the album Kojak Variety included Bob Dylan song “I Threw It All Away”.
One of my all-time favorites was the song that was included in the movie “Notting Hill” starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant “She”.
His latest album came out in 2013 Wise Up Ghost.