1955 – Elvis Costello (Declan McManus) is born in London. His biggest hit is the top 20 song “Veronica” in 1989, which he writes with Paul McCartney.
Elvis Costello (born Declan Patrick MacManus 25 August 1954) is an English musician and singer-songwriter, with Irish ancestry. Costello came to prominence as an early participant in London’s pub rock scene in the mid-1970s, and later became associated with the punk rock and New Wave musical genres, before establishing his own unique voice in the 1980s. Steeped in wordplay, the vocabulary of Costello’s lyrics is broader than that of most popular songs, and his music has drawn on dozens of genres. Critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote, “Costello, the pop encyclopedia, can reinvent the past in his own image”.
Costello and Canadian jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall were married on December 6, 2003 at Elton John’s estate outside London. Their first children together, twin sons Dexter Henry Lorcan and Frank Harlan James, were born December 6, 2006 in New York City.
Costello was born Declan Patrick MacManus in St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington in London, the son of Mary (née Costello) and Ross MacManus, a musician and bandleader. Costello lived in Twickenham, attending what is now St Mark’s Catholic Secondary School in neighbouring Hounslow. 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. It was there that he formed his first band, a folk duo called Rusty. After completing secondary school at St. Francis Xavier’s College Liverpool, he moved back to London where he next formed a band called Flip City, 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.
To support himself, he worked a number of office jobs, most famously at the Elizabeth Arden cosmetics firm — 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, Liverpool. 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 noted independent label Stiff Records. His manager at Stiff, Jake Riviera, suggested a name change, using Elvis Presley’s first name despite Costello having a small antipathy towards Presley, and Costello comes from his great grandmother’s name to form Elvis Costello.
The first Costello single for Stiff was “Less Than Zero” b/w “Radio Sweetheart (single mix),” released on March 25, 1977. Two months later, Costello’s first album, My Aim Is True (1977), was a moderate commercial success (No. 14 in the UK and Top 40 in the US) with Costello appearing on the cover in his trademark oversize glasses, bearing a striking resemblance to a menacing Buddy Holly. A highlight of the album was the country-influenced ballad “Alison” with a typically biting Costello lyric. Costello’s backing on this first album was provided by American West Coast band Clover, a roots/country outfit living in England (contrary to rumor, Clover did not exactly become Huey Lewis and the News – Huey Lewis did play with Clover shortly before the recording of My Aim Is True, but he and Sean Hopper, who appears on Costello’s record, struck out on their own later). Costello was originally marketed as a punk artist. Later on, as the term New Wave was applied to the first post-punk bands, Costello was classified as new wave for a time.
The same year, Costello recruited via auditions his own permanent 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 & The Rumour (whom he had used to audition for The Attractions).
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 for busking outside of a London convention of CBS (Columbia Records) executives, “protesting” that no US record company had yet seen fit to release Elvis Costello records in the United States. Costello signed to CBS in the US a few months later.
Elvis Costello, Cardiff, 1979
Elvis Costello, Cardiff, 1979
In December 1977, Costello and The Attractions appeared on Saturday Night Live as a last minute fill-in for the Sex Pistols, but Costello ended up causing some controversy himself, and was banned from the program for over a decade. 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 the frenetic, raucous This Year’s Model (1978). Some of the more popular tracks include the British hit “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” and the subversively anthemic “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 US and Canada also saw the release of the much bootlegged promo-only “Live at the El Mocambo,” which finally saw an official release as part of the “2½ Years” box set in 1993. It was during the ensuing United States tour that Elvis 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 some of Costello’s most lovelorn songs. 1979 would arguably see the peak of Costello’s commercial success with the release of 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.
Live at Metropol-Theatre, Berlin, May 1980
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). The brevity of the songs (20 tracks in under 50 minutes) suited the band’s new style (the Thomas’ typically melodic rhythm section and Nieve’s reasonable impersonation of Booker T. Jones) as well as the frantic and stressful conditions under which it was written and recorded, live at a rock concert and fuelled by excessive drinking. Lyrically, the songs are full of Costello’s signature wordplay, to the point that he later felt he’d 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.” The only 1980 appearance in North America was at the Heatwave festival in August near Toronto.
1981’s Trust, despite its eclecticism (“Different Finger” had a distinct country feel) had a more pop sound than Get Happy!! Still, overall the album was clearly affected by the growing tensions within the band, particularly between Bruce and Pete Thomas. In the US, 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 4 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. Some avid fans dismissed the album because it was inconsistent with earlier recordings. It was not a country-rock album (a la The Byrds or Eagles), which might have been more palatable to his established audience and to reviewers, but rather an undiluted country album. It received mixed reviews, some of which accused Costello of growing soft. Perhaps in anticipation of the inevitable accusations of apostasy, 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 offence to narrow minded listeners”. Almost Blue did spawn a surprise UK hit single in a version of George Jones’s “Good Year For The Roses” (written by Jerry Chesnut), which reached #6.
Imperial Bedroom (1982) marked a much darker, almost baroque sound for Costello, 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, weak ads consisting only of the phrase “Masterpiece?”. 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.
1983 saw another sidetrack with the pop-soul of 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”, an oblique look at the political contradictions of the Falklands War: the controversial military build-up provided jobs for Britain’s struggling shipyards. The song 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 and political activist Robert Wyatt.
Equally political was “Pills And Soap”—a UK hit for Costello himself under the pseudonym of “The Imposter”—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. (The electorate was seemingly unswayed.) Punch the Clock also generated an international hit in the single “Everyday I Write the Book”, aided by a prophetic 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 forty hit single in the US. Also in the same year, Elvis 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 disbandment 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, and even many ardent Costello fans see Goodbye as his weakest album (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 Very 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, which they did.
In the same year Costello teamed up with good 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 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 US 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. The Attractions felt understandably insecure about the ease with which they could be dropped considering their boss had cut a new album largely without them, and was planning to undertake a major tour showcasing the King of America material with his new musical partners. To allay their fears, 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 problem of 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”. It is on this album that Costello adopted the alias “Napoleon Dynamite”, the name he later attributed to the character of the obnoxious 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, which does not have anything to do with Costello.) 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, infamously 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 acclaimed 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 tested the classical music waters with a critically acclaimed collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet on The Juliet Letters. 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 5 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 Elvis 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 Elvis’ 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 leverage 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 unique 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 famed sixties pop songwriter 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.
In 1999, Costello contributed a version of the classic “She”, most famously 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 with The Imposters in 2005.
Costello performing with The Imposters in 2005.
In 2000 Costello appeared at the Town Hall Theatre NYC, 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, this time 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). On February 23rd, 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 legendary Clash frontman Joe Strummer, who had died in December of the previous year. 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. September saw the release of North, an album of piano-based ballads concerning the breakdown of his former marriage, and his falling in love with singer Diana Krall.
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 wife Diana 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, while being scorned by the popular music press.
Costello’s hand prints on the European Walk of Fame, Rotterdam
Costello’s hand prints on the European Walk of Fame, Rotterdam
While composing it, Costello deliberately avoided listening to the previous interpretations by Mendelssohn and Britten in order to ensure his own originality. A range of musical moods and styles are used to represent the different elements of the cast—satirical pomp for the courtiers, jazz for the faeries, and for Bottom a deliberately intrusive “brass band” motif. Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, the recording was released on CD in September by Deutsche Grammophon. Costello released another album that same month: The Delivery Man, recorded in Oxford, Mississippi, and released on Lost Highway Records. Mainly blues, country, and folk, The Delivery Man received early acclaim as one of Costello’s best albums, and continues Costello’s personal quest to release an album on each of Universal’s record labels.
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 Marian 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 29 May 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.
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 6th, 2008, Fender Musical Instruments releases the Elvis Costello Jazzmaster, an exact representation of his late-1960’s heavily modified Fender Jazzmaster guitar he had used to record his first 1977 album, “My Aim Is True”, honoring one of the most recognized Jazzmaster players in music history. Uniquely Costello-inspired features include a post-’68 neck design, a walnut stain finish and a tremolo with easier and greater travel, essential for that “Watching the Detectives” tone, or what Costello calls that “spy movie” sound. This signature release comes during the 50th anniversary of Fender’s introduction of the Jazzmaster guitar, which first appeared in 1958.
On April 22nd, a new Elvis Costello and the Imposters album, “Momofuku”, will be released on Lost Highway Records, the same imprint that released his last major studio album, “The Delivery Man”. The new album will, at least initially, be released exclusively on vinyl (with a code to download a digital copy of the album). This summer, in support of the album, Costello will tour with The Police on the final leg of their 2007/2008 Reunion Tour.
On 5th February 2008 it was announced Elvis would play a homecoming gig at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on June 25th.
On 28th 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 will interpret the role of 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, and Sylvia Schwartz.
Costello’s success in the U.S. was bruised for a time in the late 1970s when, during a drunken argument with Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett in a Columbus, Ohio, Holiday Inn hotel bar, Costello allegedly referred to James Brown as a “jive-ass nigger,” then upped the ante by pronouncing Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant nigger.”
A contrite 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”). In a Rolling Stone interview with Greil Marcus, he recounts an incident when Bruce Thomas was introduced to Michael Jackson as Costello’s bass player and Jackson said, “I don’t dig that guy…”.
Costello worked extensively in Britain’s Rock Against Racism campaign both before and after this and also produced the debut album of the Specials whose multi-racial line-up was a very public statement about integration. This incident inspired his Get Happy!! song “Riot Act”.
Costello has been married three times. In 1974, MacManus 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 December 6, 2006 in New York City.
Wikinews has related news:
Canadian jazz star Diana Krall gives birth to twin boys
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)
* “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).
* “I don’t want to confess”, “Tommy’s coming home”, “Twenty-five fingers” and “Indigo moon” (Officially unreleased).
Costello talked about their collaboration:
When we sat down together he wouldn’t have any sloppy bits in there (meaning the songs). 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.
* In 1987, he appeared on the HBO special Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night, which featured his long-time idol Roy Orbison, and was invited back to Saturday Night Live for the first time since 1977.
Costello has worked with Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Lee Konitz, Brian Eno, and Rubén Blades, just a few of the artists not mentioned above. Costello has inadvertently made himself capable of challenging Kevin Bacon’s role in a musical version of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, as his associations span the gamut in the music industry.
Costello is also a big 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 and Wanda Jackson. 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.
Main article: Elvis Costello discography
From 1993 to 1995, Rykodisc Records (U.S.) 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. In addition, Rykodisc were the U.S. distributor for The Juliet Letters. This licensing deal ended in 2000.
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 Elvis Costello himself, 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. April 17, 2001: The Very Best of Elvis Costello
2. August 11, 2001: My Aim Is True, Spike, All This Useless Beauty
3. February 19, 2002: This Year’s Model, Blood and Chocolate, Brutal Youth
4. November 19, 2002: Armed Forces, Imperial Bedroom, Mighty Like a Rose
5. September 9, 2003: Get Happy!!, Trust, Punch the Clock
6. August 3, 2004: Almost Blue, Goodbye Cruel World, Kojak Variety
7. April 26, 2005: King of America
8. March 21, 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.
Costello’s early single on Stiff can be found on the Ultimate Stiff Records Discography site: http://www.buythehour.se/stiff/
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 Elvis 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.” 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.” This reissue series will mark the fourth release of his Stiff/Radar/Demon catalogue (released by Columbia Records in the US) on compact disc.
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 Elvis – Stuart Davis
* 1979 film debut as “Earl Manchester” in Americathon
* 1984 as “Henry Scully” in UK TV series Scully
* 1984 as “Stone Deaf A&R Man” in UK TV series “The Comic Strip Presents”, episode “The Bullshitters” (directed by Stephen Frears)
* 1985 as inept magician “Rosco de Ville” in the Alan Bleasdale film No Surrender
* 1987 as “Hives the Butler” in the Alex Cox film Straight to Hell, starring Joe Strummer and Courtney Love
* 1994, 1996 as himself in The Larry Sanders Show
* 1997 as himself in Spiceworld
* 1999 as himself in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, performing the song “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” with Burt Bacharach
* 1999 as himself in 200 Cigarettes
* 2000 as himself in Sans plomb
* 2001 as a public defender and a teacher in Prison Song,
* 2001 as himself in the final episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun,
* 2002 as himself (voice) in “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation”, an episode of The Simpsons
* 2003 Academy Award nomination for best original song “The Scarlet Tide” in Cold Mountain.
* 2003 as “Ben” in the Frasier episode “Farewell, Nervosa”
* 2003 as guest host on Late Show with David Letterman
* 2003 as himself in I Love Your Work
* 2004 performing the Cole Porter song “Let’s Misbehave” in De-Lovely
* 2004 as himself on Two and a Half Men
* 2005 as himself in the American situation comedy Two and a Half Men
* 2006 as himself in Putting the River in Reverse
* 2006 as himself in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
* 2006 as himself in Delirious