Elvis Costello

Posted in Music

1 May

Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello (b.Declan McManus) Is a singer song writer and musician with a glittering career spanning over 45 years. Costello has won many, many, music awards and has collaborated with some of the world´s biggest music legends.

Declan Patrick McManus was born in St Mary´s Hospital in Paddington London in 1954 to Lilian Alda and Ross McManus. His Father Ross was a musician who had a solo career as well as playing with with the Joe Loss Orchestra as a singer and trumpet player.

McManus grew up in the Twickenham area of south west London and was always trying to find ways to make and record his music.

In 1971, upon leaving school at the age of 16, McManus moved with his mother to Birkenhead, near her hometown of Liverpool. He completed his education at St Francis Xavier college. McManus started his first band at this time; a folk outfit named Rusty. He also had several office jobs at this time to support himself.

In 1974 McManus moved back to London to be near his father and formed another band; a pub rock band named FlipCity, he was to stay with this band playing small audiences for two years. In 1974 McManus was married to first wife Mary Burgoyne and she bore his first child Matthew. The marriage was not to last a long time. Also in the year 1974, McManus (who was going by the stage name of D.P McManus) had his first broadcast recording, this was a joint venture with his father and was a TV advert for R Whites Lemonade (a secret lemonade drinker). His father Ross sang the vocal, with Declan on backing vocals. He continued to write songs It was also around this time that McManus met Nick Lowe who was then a bassist for pub rock band Brinsley Schwarz. Lowe then introduced McManus to Jake Riviera who was a manager with Stiff Records. Riviera suggested that he change his name to Elvis Costello.

In 1976 Elvis Costello released his first album My Aim Is True, the album was the first of five consecutive albums produced by Nick Lowe and Costello appeared on the cover in what was to be his trademark oversized glasses. The album was a moderate success and the singles Less than Zero, Red Shoes and the incredible but commercially unsuccessful ballad Alison all featured. Costello´s music was not being sold in America and this prompted Costello being arrested for busking outside a convention for CBS executives! Costello signed for Columbia records a couple of months after this episode.

1977 saw Costello release his first major single Watching the detectives on Columbia records and later he formed his first permanent backing band The Attractions. The band consisted of Steve Nieve on piano, Bruce Thomas on Base and Pete Thomas (unrelated to Bruce) on Drums. Three more albums followed with the Attractions and produced by Lowe; This Year´s Model (1978 including the singles I don´t want to go to Chelsea and Pump it up, Armed Forces (1979) featuring hit singles Olivers Army and Accidents will happen and Get Happy (1980) featuring the Sam and Dave hit I can´t stand up for falling down. Costello also found time to Produce The Specials debut album in 1979.

By the end of the 70´s Costello was firmly established as both performer and songwriter with Dave Edmunds and LindaRonstadt having success with his songs.

The start of the 80´s saw increasing tension between Costello and the Attractions and there were several disagreements between the members.

1981 saw the release of the album Trust, this album was critically acclaimed but not so successful in the charts at the time; Althoug the album was acclaimed retrospectively, when Rolling Stone magazine increased the rating from 4 to 5 stars.

1981 also saw Costello co-produce Squeeze´s successful album East Side Story. Costello had grown up enjoying country music and this led to the release of Almost Blue, an album of cover country songs and this spawned the surprise hit single A good year for the roses. The album was a success and reached No 6 in the UK.

1982 and 83 Saw the release of two more albums with the attractions with some success; Imperial Bedroom and Punch the clock reached number 30 and number 24 in the Billboard charts respectively, with the latter being voted album of the year in the NME. Under the pseudonym the Imposter, Costello released the single Pills and soap from the Punch the Clock album to coincide with the 1983 General election as a direct attack on Thatcherism. Every day I write the book was his first US top 40 single from the same album. Also in 1983 Costello provided vocals on the Madness song Tomorrows just another day.

1984 saw increasing tension in the band- especially between Costello and Bruce Thomas. Costello threatened to retire from music just before the release of Goodbye Cruel world – an album that was poorly received and Costello retired…..but not for long.

1985 saw Costello appear ay the Live Aid concert at Wembley. He later teamed up with American T Bone Burnett (Bob Dylan´s ex guitarist) going by the name The Coward Brothers and releasing the single The People´s Limousine. Costello in the same year produced The Pogues album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.

Costello made his acting debut in this year too; Appearing in the Alan Bleasdale film No Surrender it was a small part, but added another string to his bow.

1986 saw the Attractions formerly split. Costello spent most of that year working with Burnett on several projects producing the album King of America. During this time Costello was using his birth name Declan McManus but he took on the middle name of Aloysius. Costello went to Ireland later in the year to appear at the benefit concert Self Aid in Dublin, a concert to help the unemployed in Ireland.

The same year saw the release of Blood and Chocolate, a critically acclaimed album produced by Nick Lowe (who produced his first five albums) and saw a return to the post punk style from the early years. For this project took on the alias Napoleon Dynamite. The album also saw Costello working with the original Attractions band.

1987 saw Costello´s recording contract with Columbia come to an end. In 87 he released a compilation album Out of our Idiot on his own UK label Demon Records the album consisted of unreleased songs and B sides and had Collaborators listed as Burnett, Lowe and Jimmy Cliff.

Costello signed a recording contract with Warner brothers in early 1989 and released the hit Album Spike which reached number 5 in the UK album charts and spawned the single Veronica which was co written with Paul McCartney and reached number 19 in the billboard hot 100 chart.

In 1991 Costello released a new album Mighty like the rose; Produced by Richard Froom and back under the name of Elvis Costello The Album echoed Spike for it´s diversity but with a darker feel.

1993 Saw a collaboration with The Brodsky Quartet on a classical music project The Juliet Letters. Costello´s first attempt at penning classical music. He also wrote an album for Wendy James of Transmission Vamp entitled NowThat Ain´t the Time for Tears. That same year he licensed the rights to an album of his pre 1987 work (My aim is true to Blood on Chocolate) to Rykodisc in the USA.

Costello was reunited with the Attractions in 1984 to record the straightforward pop album BrutalYouth and the band toured together worldwide through 1994 and 1995. He released an album of cover versions in this year Kojak Variety; a project that had been shelved for many years. An album of original works that mostly had been released by other artists followed in the same year entitled All This Useless Beauty. This album was the final album of the Warner Bros contract and the final album of original works he was to record with the attractions.

1998 saw a collaboration with legend Burt Bacharach on the album Painted from Memory.  The album received critical acclaim and sold everywhere except in the UK and USA. A successful tour followed with Bacharach around America and Europe and when Bacharach left the tour, Costello brought in Neive to continue what the pair dubbed the lonely world tour. The tour took them into 1999 when Costello started on film work with Costello providing music contributions in both Notting Hill and Austin Powers; The spy who shagged me. Costello and Bacharach appeared briefly in the latter as street musicians.

In 2001, he found himself with a residency at UCLA, where he performed several concerts and was instrumental in teaching music during the year. He also began work on a self-produced album that featured Pete Thomas and Nieve -- now billed as a band called the Imposters -- entitled When I was cruel, and the album finally found release via Island Records in the spring of 2002; at the end of the year, he released a collection of B-sides and leftovers from the album's sessions entitled Cruel Smile.

2002 saw Costello split with Cait O´Riordan and he subsequently fell in love with and was engaged to successful jazz pianist Diana Krall. They married at home later that year.

The album When I was Cruel, kick started a new productive era for the ever-prolific Costello. In 2003, he returned with North, a collection of classically styled pop songs pitched halfway between Gershwin and Sondheim. The next year, he collaborated with his new wife Krall, on her first collection of original material; The Girl in the Other Room. The same Autumn, Costello released two albums of his own original material: a classical work entitled Il Sogno and the concept album The Delivery Man, a rock & roll record cut with the Imposters. Issued in 2006 My Flame Burns Blue was a live album with Costello fronting a 52-piece jazz orchestra the Metropole Orkest; the release featured classic Costello songs (with new orchestral arrangements) alongside new compositions and a performance of Il Sogno in its entirety.

In 2006, Costello released The River in Reverse, a collaboration with New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussait, followed by the album Momofuku, another effort credited to Elvis Costello & the Imposters, in 2008.

That same year, Costello teamed up with veteran producer T-Bone Burnett for a series of recording sessions, the results of which were compiled into Secret, Profane & Sugar Cane and readied for release in early 2009. The pair also recorded a second album National Ransom, which appeared the following year. In 2011, Costello & the Imposters released The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook!!!, which was recorded live over a two-day stint at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. The next year or so was relatively quiet, but at the end of 2012 he released a new compilation called In Motion Pictures, which was a compilation of songs he contributed to films.

2013 brought yet another collaboration this time with the Philidelphia Hip Hop band The Roots. Originally planned as a reinterpretation of songs from his vast back catalogue, the album Wise Up Ghostturned into a full-fledged collaboration and was greeted by positive reviews upon its September 2013 release on Blue Note. In 2015, Costello announced that he was completing work on his memoirs, and that the book, titled Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, was scheduled for publication in October 2015. Costello also compiled a companion album, Unfaithful Music & Soundtrack Album, which featured a career-spanning selection of songs from his catalogue, as well as two previously unreleased selections.

In July 2018, Costello revealed that he was recovering from a "small but very aggressive cancer." By the time he delivered the news, he was not only on the mend but had a new album with The Imposters in the can, Look Now, the group's first record together in a decade, appeared in October 2018; it won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album the following year.

Costello was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to music.

So, a full career with collaborations with some of the musical greats, appearances in movies and TV (tv commercials!!!) and being involved with music across the genres including Punk, New Wave, Classical, Reggae, Hip hop and his beloved Country. I would like to point you to a track that really explains the genius that is Elvis Costello; I am referring to a song he wrote in 1976. The song is Alison from his first album My Aim is true. Comfortably one of the finest love songs I have ever heard and it absolutely amazes me to think that the song was written at the age of 22. Ladies and Gentleman I give you the song writing genius that is Elvis Costello.

Damien Sugden

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