Declan Patrick MacManus (born on 25 August 1954), better known by his stage name Elvis Costello, is an English musician, singer, songwriter, composer, record producer, author, television presenter, and occasional actor.
He began his career as part of London's pub rock scene in the early 1970s and later became associated with the first wave of the British punk and new wave movement that emerged in the mid-to-late 1970s. His critically acclaimed debut album, My Aim Is True, was released in 1977. Shortly after recording it, he formed the Attractions as his backing band. His second album, This Year's Model, was released in 1978, and was ranked number 11 by Rolling Stone on its list of the best albums from 1967–1987. His third album, Armed Forces, was released in 1979, and features his highest-charting single "Oliver's Army" (number 2 in the UK). His first three albums all appeared on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Costello and the Attractions toured and recorded together for the better part of a decade, though differences between them caused a split by 1986. Much of Costello's work since has been as a solo artist, though reunions with members of the Attractions have been credited to the group over the years. Steeped in wordplay, the vocabulary of Costello's lyrics is broad. His music has drawn on many diverse genres; one critic described him as a "pop encyclopaedia", able to "reinvent the past in his own image".
He has won multiple awards in his career, including a Grammy Award, and has twice been nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male Singer. In 2003, Costello and the Attractions were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Costello number 80 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Costello has co-written several original songs for motion pictures, including "God Give Me Strength" from Grace of My Heart (1996, with Burt Bacharach) and "The Scarlet Tide" from Cold Mountain (2003, with T-Bone Burnett). For the latter, Costello was nominated (along with Burnett) for the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media.
|Birth name||Declan Patrick MacManus|
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|Born||25 August 1954|
Costello was born on 25 August 1954 at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London, and is of Irish descent on his father's side. He is the son of Lilian Alda (née Ablett, b. 1927, Liverpool) and Ross MacManus (born in Birkenhead, 1927–2011), a jazz trumpeter who sang with the Joe Loss Orchestra and who later performed as a solo cabaret act. Costello lived in Twickenham, attending both St. Edmund's Catholic Primary School in nearby Whitton and then Archbishop Myers Secondary Modern R.C. School, which is now St Mark's Catholic Secondary School, in neighbouring Hounslow.
In 1971, the 16-year-old Costello moved with his Liverpool-born mother to Birkenhead, Cheshire, where he formed his first band, a folk duo called Rusty, with Allan Mayes. After completing his education at St. Francis Xavier's College in Liverpool, Costello worked at a number of office jobs to support himself, most famously at Elizabeth Arden, where he was employed as a data entry clerk. This is immortalised in the lyrics of "I'm Not Angry" as the "vanity factory". He also worked for a short period as a computer operator at the Midland Bank computer centre in Bootle.
In 1974, he moved back to London, where he formed a pub rock band called Flip City, who were active from 1974 through to early 1976. Costello's first broadcast recording was with his father in a television commercial for R. White's Lemonade ("I'm a Secret Lemonade Drinker") which aired in 1974. His father sang the song and Costello sang backing vocals (the advertisement won a silver award at the 1974 International Advertising Festival). He continued to write songs and began looking for a solo recording contract. He was signed in 1976 to independent label Stiff Records on the basis of a demo tape. His manager at Stiff, Jake Riviera, suggested that the singer then calling himself D.P. Costello, start using the first name Elvis.
Costello's first single for Stiff was "Less Than Zero", released on 25 March 1977. Four 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 some resemblance to Buddy Holly. Costello failed to chart with his early singles, which included "Less Than Zero" and the ballad "Alison". Stiff's records were initially distributed only in the UK, which meant that Costello's first album and singles were available in the US as imports only. In an attempt to change this, Costello was arrested for busking outside a London convention of CBS Records executives, protesting that no US record company had yet seen fit to release his records in the United States. Costello signed to Columbia Records, CBS in the U.S., a few months later.
The backing for Costello's debut album was provided by American West Coast band Clover, a country outfit living in England whose members would later go on to join Huey Lewis and the News and the Doobie Brothers. Costello released his first major hit single, "Watching the Detectives", which was recorded with Steve Nieve and the pair of Steve Goulding (drums) and Andrew Bodnar (bass), both members of Graham Parker's backing band the Rumour. Added to the U.S. version of My Aim Is True, the song contained scathing verses about the vicarious enjoyment of TV violence over a reggae beat. Later in 1977, Costello formed his own permanent backing band, the Attractions, consisting of Steve Nieve (piano), Bruce Thomas (bass guitar), and Pete Thomas (drums; unrelated to Bruce Thomas).
On 17 December 1977, Costello and the Attractions, as a replacement act for the Sex Pistols, were scheduled to play "Less Than Zero" on Saturday Night Live; however, in imitation of a rebellious act by Jimi Hendrix on a BBC show, Costello stopped the song mid-intro, yelling "Stop! Stop!" to his band, and played "Radio Radio" instead – a song that criticizes the commercialization of the airwaves, which NBC and Lorne Michaels had forbidden them to play. Costello was subsequently banned from the show (the ban was lifted in 1989) and he received considerable attention as an angry young man. His insistence on performing "Radio Radio" on SNL proved a boon to his debut album, and its popularity exploded in the U.S. after the performance.
Following a tour with other Stiff artists – captured on the Live Stiffs Live album, which includes Costello's version 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. The Attractions' first tour of Australia in December 1978 was notable for a controversial performance at Sydney's Regent Theatre when, angered by the group's failure to perform an encore after their brief 35-minute set, audience members destroyed some of the seating. By the end of the 70s Costello was firmly established as both performer and songwriter, with Linda Ronstadt and Dave Edmunds having success with his compositions.
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 2½ Years box set in 1993.
In 1979, he released his third album Armed Forces (originally to have been titled Emotional Fascism, a phrase that appeared on the album's inner sleeve). American editions included a 45rpm EP recorded live at the Hollywood High School Gymnasium in Hollywood in 1978. Both the album and the single "Oliver's Army" went to No. 2 in the UK, and the opening track "Accidents Will Happen" gained wide television exposure thanks to its innovative animated music video, directed by Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton. Costello also found time in 1979 to produce the debut album for the 2 Tone ska revival band the Specials and worked as a backing vocalist on 'This Is Your Life', an album by New Wave band Twist.
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 bar, the singer referred to James Brown as a "jive-ass nigger", then upped the ante by pronouncing Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant nigger". 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 saying "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. In an interview with Questlove (drummer for the Roots, whom Costello collaborated with in 2013), he addressed the controversy, stating: "It's upsetting because I can't explain how I even got to think you could be funny about something like that," and further elaborating with, "I'm sorry. You know? It's about time I said it out loud."
Costello is also an avid country music fan and has cited George Jones as his favourite country singer. In 1977, he appeared on 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!! was the first of Costello's many experiments with genres beyond those with which he is ordinarily associated. It also marked a distinct change in mood from the angry, frustrated tone of his first three albums to a more upbeat, happy manner. 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 January 1981, Costello released Trust amidst growing tensions within the Attractions, 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 U.K., 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. Costello also co-produced Squeeze's popular 1981 album East Side Story (with Roger Bechirian) and also performed backing vocals on the group's hit "Tempted".
October saw the release of 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, which received mixed reviews, was a tribute to the country music that Costello had grown up listening to, especially George Jones. 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 No. 6.
Imperial Bedroom (1982) had a much darker sound, due in part to the lavish 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. The album also featured Costello's song "Almost Blue", inspired by the music of jazz singer and trumpeter Chet Baker, who would later perform and record a version of the song (Chet Baker in Tokyo).
In 1983, he released Punch the Clock, featuring female backing vocal duo (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 Baker. Prior to the release of Costello's own version, a version of the song was a minor UK hit for former Soft Machine founder 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 U.K. 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 Charles and Princess Diana 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.
Tensions within the band—notably between Costello and bassist Bruce Thomas—were beginning to tell, and Costello announced his retirement and the break-up 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 English folk song", and the audience was invited to sing the chorus. In the same year Costello teamed up with friend T-Bone Burnett for the single "The People's Limousine" under the moniker of The Coward Brothers. That year, Costello also produced Rum Sodomy & the Lash for the Irish punk/folk band the Pogues.
Growing antipathy between Costello and Bruce Thomas contributed to the Attractions' first split in 1986 when 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. It was billed as performed by "The Costello Show featuring the Attractions and Confederates" in the UK and Europe and "The Costello Show featuring Elvis Costello" in North America. 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, one night with the Attractions, and one night solo acoustic. In May 1986, he 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, Costello 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; whether the title of the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite was inspired by Costello is disputed). After the tour for Blood & Chocolate, Costello split from the Attractions, due mostly to tensions between Costello and Bruce Thomas. Costello would continue to work with Attraction Pete Thomas as a session musician for future releases.
Costello's recording contract with Columbia Records ended after Blood & Chocolate. In 1987 he released compilation album, Out of Our Idiot on his U.K. label, Demon Records consisting of B-sides, side projects, and unreleased songs from recording sessions from 1980 to 1987. He signed a new contract with Warner Bros. and in early 1989 released Spike, which spawned his biggest single in the U.S., the Top 20 hit "Veronica", one of several songs Costello co-wrote with Paul McCartney. At the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards on 6 September in Los Angeles, "Veronica" won the MTV Award for Best Male Video.
In 1991, Costello released Mighty Like a Rose, which featured the single "The Other Side of Summer". He also co-composed and co-produced, 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 on The Juliet Letters. During this period, he 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, he 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, and also his final album with the Attractions.
In the spring of 1996, Costello played a series of intimate club dates, backed only by Steve 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 1 September 1996, before wrapping up their tour in Japan. Costello would still continue to work frequently with Attractions Steve Nieve and Pete Thomas; eventually, both would be members of Costello's new back-up band, The Imposters.
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 had 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 the critically acclaimed album Painted From Memory, released under his new contract in 1998, on the Mercury Records label, featuring songs that were largely inspired by the dissolution of his marriage to Cait O'Riordan. Costello and Bacharach performed several concerts with a full orchestral backing, and also recorded an updated version of Bacharach's "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 of The Chieftains on "The Long Journey Home" on the soundtrack of the PBS/Disney The Irish in America: Long Journey Home miniseries. The soundtrack won a Grammy in 1999.
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 programme, 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".
From 2001 to 2005, Costello re-issued his back catalog in the U.S., from My Aim Is True (1977) to All This Useless Beauty (1996), on double-disc collections on the Rhino Records label. These releases, which each contained second discs of bonus material, ultimately fell out of print by 2007 after Universal Music acquired the rights to Costello's catalog. Universal subsequently released new deluxe editions of My Aim Is True and This Year's Model with new bonus material of full-length concerts from the time of each album's release. These deluxe editions also fell out of print and Universal has reverted to re-releasing Costello's pre-1987 albums in their original context without bonus material.
In 2000, Costello appeared at the Town Hall, 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 artist-in-residence at UCLA and wrote the music for a new ballet. He produced and appeared on an album of pop songs for the classical singer Anne Sofie von Otter. He released the album When I Was Cruel in 2002 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.
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 honour of Clash frontman Joe Strummer, who had died the previous December. In March, Elvis Costello & the Attractions were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He announced his engagement in May to Canadian jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall, whom he had seen in concert and then met backstage at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. That September, he released North, an album of piano-based ballads concerning the breakdown of his former marriage, and his falling in love with Krall. Also that year, Costello made an appearance in the television series Frasier as a folk singer in the Cafe Nervosa, sending Frasier and Niles on a search for a new coffee bar.
The song "Scarlet Tide" (co-written by Costello and T-Bone Burnett and used in the film Cold Mountain) was nominated for a 2004 Academy Award; he performed it at the awards ceremony with Alison Krauss, who 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. In September 2004, Costello released the album The Delivery Man, recorded in Oxford, Mississippi, on Lost Highway Records, and it was hailed as one of his best.
A CD recording of a collaboration with Marian McPartland on her show Piano Jazz was released in 2005. It featured Costello singing six jazz standards and two of his own songs, accompanied by McPartland on piano. In November, 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 the following year in May.
A 2005 tour included a gig at Glastonbury that Costello considered so dreadful that he said "I don't care if I ever play England again. That gig made up my mind I wouldn't come back. I don't get along with it. We lost touch. It's 25 years since I lived there. I don't dig it, they don't dig me....British music fans don't have the same attitude to age as they do in America, where young people come to check out, say Willie Nelson. They feel some connection with him and find a role for that music in their lives."
After Hurricane Katrina, Costello and Allen Toussaint performed in New York at a series of Hurricane Relief benefit concerts in September 2006. By week's end, Costello had written "The River in Reverse", performed it with Toussaint and discussed plans for an album with Verve Records executives. The result was Costello's The River in Reverse which is a collaboration with New Orleanian, Allen Toussaint and recorded with The Crescent City Horns. Costello turned to older songs to reflect the national malaise at the time.
In a studio recording of Nieve's opera Welcome to the Voice (2006, Deutsche Grammophon), Costello interpreted the character of Chief of Police, with Barbara Bonney, Robert Wyatt, Sting and Amanda Roocroft, and the album reached No. 2 in the Billboard classical charts. Costello later reprised the piece on the stage of the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 2008, with Sting, Joe Sumner (Sting's son) and Sylvia Schwartz. 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. The soundtrack for House, M.D. featured Costello's interpretation of "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera, with the song appearing in the second episode of Season 2.
Costello was 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 it was unfinished. In a performance in 2007 directed by Kasper Bech Holten at the Opera's studio theatre (Takelloftet), finished songs were interspersed with pieces from Costello's 1993 collaborative classical album The Juliet Letters, featuring Danish soprano Sine Bundgaard as Lind. The 2009 album Secret, Profane & Sugarcane includes material from Secret Songs.
On 22 April 2008, Momofuku was released on Lost Highway Records, the same imprint that released The Delivery Man, his previous studio album. The album was, at least initially, released exclusively on vinyl (with a code to download a digital copy). That summer, in support of the album, Costello toured with the Police on the final leg of their 2007/2008 Reunion Tour. Costello played a homecoming gig at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on 25 June 2006. and, that month, 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) appeared in his home city Liverpool where he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Liverpool. Between 2008 and 2010, Costello hosted Channel 4/CTV's series Spectacle in which Costello talked and performed with stars in various fields, styled similarly to Inside the Actors Studio. Between its two seasons, the show compiled 20 episodes, including one where Costello was interviewed by actress Mary-Louise Parker. 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 Colbert. The special was first aired on 23 November 2008. Costello released Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, a collaboration with T-Bone Burnett, on 9 June 2009. Burnett previously worked with Costello on King of America and Spike. 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.
Costello appeared as himself in the finale of the third season of 30 Rock and sang in the episode's celebrity telethon, Kidney Now!. The episode references Costello's given name when Jack Donaghy accuses him of concealing his true identity: "Declan McManus, international art thief."
In May 2009, Costello made a surprise cameo appearance on-stage 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 band backing him up.
On 15 May 2010, Costello announced he would withdraw from a concert performed in Israel in opposition to Israel's treatment of Palestinians. In a statement on his website, Costello wrote, "It has been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics, the vanity and self-righteousness of public communiqués from cranks in order to eventually sift through my own conflicted thoughts."
Also in 2010, Elvis Costello appeared as himself in David Simon's television series, Treme. Costello released the album National Ransom in autumn of 2010. In 2011, Costello appeared as himself on Sesame Street to perform a song with Elmo and Cookie Monster, titled "Monster Went and Ate My Red 2", a play on "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes".
On 26 February 2012, Costello paid tribute to music legends Chuck Berry and Leonard Cohen, who were the recipients of the first annual PEN Awards for songwriting excellence, at the JFK Presidential Library, in Boston, Massachusetts on 26 February 2012. In September 2013 Costello released Wise Up Ghost, a collaboration with the Roots. On 25 October 2013, Costello was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the New England Conservatory. In October 2015, Costello's memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, was released.
On 12 October 2018, Elvis Costello released the album Look Now, which was recorded with The Imposters and features three songs co-written with Burt Bacharach.
Costello has been married three times, the first time in 1974 to Mary Burgoyne, with whom he had a son, Matthew. Toward the end of his first marriage, Costello became embroiled in an on-again/off-again romance with Bebe Buell, then-girlfriend of Todd Rundgren (and mother of Steven Tyler's daughter Liv). Buell has said she was the inspiration behind some of Costello's most bitter love songs from the Armed Forces era, though Costello countered by claiming most of those songs had been written before he ever met Buell.
In 1985, Costello became involved with Cait O'Riordan, then the bassist of the London Irish group the Pogues, while he was producing the Pogues' album Rum Sodomy and the Lash. They married in 1986 and split up by the end of 2002.
Costello became engaged to piano-vocalist Diana Krall in May 2003, and married her at the home of Elton John on 6 December that year. Krall gave birth to twin sons, Dexter Henry Lorcan and Frank Harlan James, on 6 December 2006 in New York City.
A vegetarian since the early 1980s, Costello says he was moved to reject meat after seeing the documentary The Animals Film (1982), which also helped inspire his song "Pills and Soap" from 1983's Punch the Clock. In January 2013, Costello teamed up with Paul McCartney to create an ad campaign backing vegetarian foods produced by the Linda McCartney Foods brand.
Costello is a keen football fan, supporting Premier League football club Liverpool F.C. since childhood, and has appeared on Channel 4's Football Italia as a pundit. On 25 May 2005, Costello was due to take the stage with his band at a gig in Norwich, which clashed with Liverpool appearing in the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final against AC Milan. With Liverpool losing 3-0 at half time, Costello was due on stage and began warming up his voice in preparation for the gig, before deciding: "I might as well see the first few minutes of the second half." With Liverpool staging a remarkable comeback (since dubbed the Miracle of Istanbul) by scoring three goals in six minutes and making it 3-3, Costello delayed his appearance on stage for over an hour. With the game going to penalties, after much delay he had no choice but to take the stage, with Costello recalling: "I tried my best to keep my eyes from the TV screen over the bar at the back of the room but the words 'Oh shit, he's missed' might have accidentally crept into the lyrics of 'Good Year for the Roses'". With Liverpool prevailing while he was on stage, an ecstatic Costello broke out into a performance of the club's anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone".
In July 2018, Costello cancelled the remaining six dates of his European tour on doctor's orders, while recovering from surgery to treat cancer. Costello apologised to his fans and said he initially thought he had recovered enough from the surgery to complete the tour.
Costello sits on the Advisory Board of the Board of Directors of the Jazz Foundation of America. Costello began working with the Jazz Foundation in 2001, and has been a featured performer in their annual benefit A Great Night in Harlem since 2006. Costello has donated his time working with the Jazz Foundation of America to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians, including musicians who survived Hurricane Katrina. He has also performed at a benefit concert for the Seva Foundation.
In 1981 Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze and Martin Belmont from the Rumour guested on the song "From a Whisper to a Scream" from the album "Trust". Around this time he also collaborated with Chris Difford, also of Squeeze, to write additional lyrics for the song "Boy With A Problem", which appeared on Costello's 1982 album Imperial Bedroom. In 1984 Daryl Hall provided backing vocals for the song "The Only Flame In Town", from the album "Goodbye Cruel World". In 1985 he sang with Annie Lennox on the track 'Adrian' from the Eurythmics record "Be Yourself Tonight".
In 1987, Costello began a songwriting collaboration with Paul McCartney. They wrote a number of songs together in a short period of time, that were released over a period of years. These songs included:
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. In 1988, Costello co-wrote "At the Other End (of the Telescope)" with Aimee Mann; this song appears on the Til Tuesday album Everything's Different Now.
In 1994, he sang "They Can't Take That Away From Me" with Tony Bennett for MTV Unplugged, appearing on the album released from the broadcast. In 2000, Costello wrote lyrics to "Green Song", a solo cello piece by Svante Henryson; this song appears on the Anne Sofie von Otter album For the Stars.
In 2005, Costello performed with Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. They played both Costello and Green Day songs together, including "Alison", "No Action", "Basket Case" and "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)". In late 2005 Costello performed with Allen Toussaint in New York City at some Hurricane Katrina Relief Concerts and produced the studio album, "The River in Reverse." Also, Costello had a collaborative history with Mr. Toussaint, beginning with a couple of scattered album tracks in the 1980s, and skipping ahead to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with the production of The River in Reverse.
In 2007, Costello collaborated with the Argentinean/Uruguayan electro-tango band Bajofondo on the song "Fairly Right" from the album Mar Dulce. In 2008, Costello collaborated with Fall Out Boy on the track "What a Catch, Donnie" from their album Folie a Deux. In Jenny Lewis' 2008 release, Acid Tongue, Costello provided vocals for the song "Carpetbaggers". In November 2009, Costello appeared live with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Madison Square Garden and performed the Jackie Wilson song "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher".
In December 2009, Costello portrayed The Shape on the album Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, a collaboration between rock singer John Mellencamp and novelist Stephen King. 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. On 30 April 2011, he played the song "Pump it Up" with the Odds before the start of a Vancouver Canucks playoff game at Rogers Arena in Vancouver BC.
In 2012, he played ukulele, mandolin, guitar and added backing vocals on Diana Krall's 11th studio album, Glad Rag Doll (as "Howard Coward"). On 10 September 2013, he played during the Apple September 2013 Event after the introduction of iTunes Radio, iPhone 5C and 5S at Town Hall, at the Apple campus.
On Gov't Mule's album Shout!, released in September 2013, he sang on the track "Funny Little Tragedy". On March 2014, Elvis Costello recorded Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes with Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James and Marcus Mumford. During the 2016 Detour, he performs with Larkin Poe.
Major artists who have been influenced by Costello include Green Day, Prince, Billy Bragg, Goldfinger, the Pogues, Radiohead, Dexys Midnight Runners, Pulp, Crowded House, James, Suzanne Vega, Less than Jake, and Foo Fighters.
Costello is also a music fan and, in print, often champions the works of others. He has written several pieces for the magazine Vanity Fair, including the summary of what a perfect weekend of music would be. He has contributed to two Grateful Dead tribute albums and covered Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter tunes such as "Ship of Fools", "Friend of the Devil", "It Must Have Been the Roses", "Ripple" and "Tennessee Jed" in concert. 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, Ron Sexsmith and Memphis, Tennessee-based Stax Records. He has also interviewed one of his own influences, Joni Mitchell, and appeared on the release A Tribute to Joni Mitchell performing "Edith and the Kingpin". He also performed the title track of the Charles Mingus tribute collection, Weird Nightmare. In addition, he appeared on the Nick Lowe tribute album Labour of Love, performing the Lowe song "Egypt" and the Gram Parsons tribute album The Return of the Grievous Angel, performing the Parsons song "Sleepless Nights". He was instrumental in bringing Sexsmith to a wider audience in 1995 by championing his debut album in Mojo magazine, even appearing on the cover with Sexsmith's debut album.
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him No. 80 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2012, Costello was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires, to mark his 80th birthday. On being chosen, Costello remarked, "I always dreamed that I might one day stand in the boots of Albert Stubbins [the Liverpool footballer who appeared in the original artwork]."
Studio albums (including those with the Attractions and the Imposters)
"45" is a song from Elvis Costello's 2002 album When I Was Cruel, written by Costello. The second single released from the album, it reached number 92 in the UK charts. To date, it is his last single to chart.Alison (song)
"Alison" is a song written by and first recorded by Elvis Costello in 1977 for his debut album on Stiff Records. Costello's single never charted. Linda Ronstadt, who covered the song and released her version in 1979, had a moderate hit with it. There have also been several other cover versions of this song.All This Useless Beauty
All This Useless Beauty is the seventeenth studio album by the English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, released in 1996 by Warner Brothers. It peaked at number 28 on the UK album chart, and at No. 53 on the Billboard 200. It is his final album with his long-standing backing band known as 'The Attractions', and the last album he delivered under his contract to the Warner Brothers label, his contract expiring with a further compilation album, Extreme Honey.Almost Blue (song)
"Almost Blue" is a song recorded by English group Elvis Costello and the Attractions from their sixth studio album, Imperial Bedroom (1982). Written by Costello and produced by Geoff Emerick, the track shares the name of the group's previous 1981 studio album. It was released on 2 July 1982 along with the rest of Imperial Bedroom, and would later be included on side two of The Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1985). A traditional pop song, "Almost Blue" contains lyrics that compare a former relationship to a present one.
Unanimously approved by music critics, "Almost Blue" was noted for being a highlight on Imperial Bedroom; Emerick's production on the track was also singled out by reviewers, who acclaimed his "aftermath" approach towards its composition. The song was covered by several performers, notably Chet Baker in 1987, Gwen Stefani in 1998, and by Costello's wife Diana Krall for her seventh studio album, The Girl in the Other Room (2004).Costello Album
The Costello Album, also The McCartney/MacManus Collaboration, is a Paul McCartney album that includes work from his 1987–88 songwriting collaboration with Elvis Costello. The album includes demo recordings made by Paul and Elvis in the throes of their collaboration, other demos of some songs by Costello and McCartney individually, live performances by Costello, and two duo live performances taken from a 1995 benefit concert at the Royal College of Music. A planned album credited to both was abandoned, initial work-ups appearing in the 2017 deluxe edition reissue to McCartney's Flowers in the Dirt. These recordings were unknown to the public until 1998 when they surfaced as an unofficial compact disc titled The McCartney/MacManus Collaboration.Several of these songs have appeared officially on albums by either McCartney or Costello. McCartney released his versions of "My Brave Face," "You Want Her Too," "Don't Be Careless Love," and "That Day Is Done" on Flowers in the Dirt in 1989, "Mistress and Maid" and "The Lovers That Never Were" on Off the Ground in 1993. Costello issued his versions of "Veronica" and "Pads, Paws, and Claws" on Spike in 1989, "So Like Candy" and "Playboy to a Man" on Mighty Like a Rose in 1991, and "Shallow Grave" on All This Useless Beauty in 1996. "My Brave Face" and "Veronica" are respectively McCartney's and Costello's last Top 40 hit singles in the United States. Demos of these songs have appeared as bonus tracks to the above albums, on bonus discs to the Costello Rhino reissues, and on the bonus discs to the 2017 reissue of Flowers in the Dirt.Elvis Costello discography
This page lists albums, singles, and compilations by the musician Elvis Costello, distinguishing between United States and United Kingdom release dates and record labels. Of note are the reissue series, Costello's back-catalogue having undergone that treatment three times by three different companies.Get Happy!! (Elvis Costello album)
Get Happy!! is a studio album by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. The fourth album by Elvis Costello, his third with the Attractions, it is notable for being a dramatic break in tone from Costello's three previous albums, and for being heavily influenced by R&B, ska and soul music. The cover art was intentionally designed to have a "retro" feel, to look like the cover of an old LP with ring wear on both front and back.Like its predecessor Armed Forces, it was commercially successful, charting at number 11 in the US and number 2 in the UK, where it went gold. It was placed at No. 11 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s.Girls Talk (Elvis Costello song)
"Girls Talk" is a new wave song written by Elvis Costello.
Costello gave an early version of the song to Edmunds, who reworked the song and released it on his album Repeat When Necessary. Edmunds' version peaked at #4 on the UK Singles Chart and #12 in Ireland. Costello later released his version of the song as a B-side to his version of "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down."I Want You (Elvis Costello song)
"I Want You" is a song written by Elvis Costello and recorded with his backing band the Attractions. It was released on his 1986 album Blood & Chocolate.
Featuring lyrics about an obsessive romance, "I Want You" was released as the second single from Blood and Chocolate. It has since been positively received by critics and covered by multiple artists.King of America
King of America is the tenth studio album by the British rock singer and songwriter Elvis Costello, released in 1986 in the United Kingdom as F-Beat ZL 70946, and in the United States as Columbia JC 40173. It was billed as by "The Costello Show featuring the Attractions and Confederates" in the UK and Europe, and "The Costello Show featuring Elvis Costello" in North America. It peaked at #11 on the UK album chart, and at #39 on the Billboard 200. Some songs have a Country feel, others reflect his interest in Americana, whilst 'American Without Tears' deals with the experience of Irish immigrants in the US, and 'Little Palaces' references Costello's working-class roots.Kojak Variety
Kojak Variety is a 1995 album by Elvis Costello, composed of cover songs written by others.
Costello's rendering of "Days" by The Kinks had previously appeared on the album Until the End of the World, the 1991 soundtrack to Wim Wenders' film of the same name. The remainder of the songs were recorded specifically for this album. The title Kojak Variety refers to the name of a variety store in Barbados near where the album was recorded; Costello was amused by the seemingly random name of the enterprise, and in a similar spirit, decided to apply the name to his album.Look Now (album)
Look Now is the 30th studio album by singer-songwriter Elvis Costello and his band The Imposters. It is his first studio album in five years. Costello wrote and produced most of the album himself, with co-production help from Sebastian Krys, who was Latin Grammy Producer of the Year in 2007 and 2015. He co-wrote a new track with Carole King ("Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter") and worked with Burt Bacharach on three other songs.
Costello told NPR that it is the "uptown pop record with a little swagger" that he has wanted to make for 20 years. They named the album one of their best new albums of the week during its week of release.AllMusic describes that the album "often feels like a cross between Imperial Bedroom and Painted from Memory, Costello's 1998 collaboration with Burt Bacharach, and not just because Bacharach co-wrote three tracks with Costello," adding, that it "isn't rock & roll so much as it's pop that blends the craft of classic Brill Building tunes of the '60s with the narrative maturity of classic Broadway musicals and the sort of ballads that were once the purview of classic jazz vocalists."The Associated Press, in their review, points out how the album—like Anna Karenina—reads like a series of lamentations of various characters.The collaboration with King was a project 20 years in the making. The two forged a friendship over eating sushi together in Manhattan, before finally making music together.My Aim Is True
My Aim Is True is the RIAA Platinum-certified debut album by English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello.
The album was recorded at Pathway Studios in Highbury, London Borough of Islington, over the course of 1976 six four-hour studio sessions, in a total of approximately twenty-four hours. It was the first of five consecutive Costello albums produced by Nick Lowe and cost £2,000 to record. The backing band was made up of members of Clover, but they were uncredited on the original release due to contractual difficulties; some early publicity for the album identified the backing band as "The Shamrocks".
In 1977 Rolling Stone magazine named the album one of the best of the year. In 2003, the TV network VH1 named My Aim Is True the 80th greatest album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 168 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2004, it was ranked 37 of the top 100 albums of the 1970s by Pitchfork which said the album was "held by many as the most impressive debut in pop music history." In 2007, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.North (Elvis Costello album)
North is a 2003 album by Elvis Costello. It reached 44 in the UK Albums Chart, 57 in the US chart and No. 1 in the US Traditional Jazz chart.
Coming after the return rock and roll on When I Was Cruel, North is an intimate album of ballads partially inspired by his relationship with Diana Krall.Oliver's Army
"Oliver's Army" is a new wave song written by Elvis Costello and performed by Elvis Costello and The Attractions. The song appeared on Costello's 1979 album Armed Forces in 1979.
"Oliver's Army" was lyrically inspired by the Troubles in Northern Ireland and includes lyrics critical of the socioeconomic components of war. Musically, the track features a glossy production and a keyboard performance inspired by ABBA.
Released as the first single from Armed Forces, "Oliver's Army" was Costello's most successful single in the United Kingdom, spending three weeks at number 2 in the UK Singles Chart. The song has since seen critical acclaim from writers and has been covered by multiple artists.Pump It Up (Elvis Costello song)
"Pump It Up" is a 1978 song by Elvis Costello. It originally appeared on Costello's second album This Year's Model, which was the first he recorded with the backing group the Attractions.Shipbuilding (song)
"Shipbuilding" is a song written by Elvis Costello (lyrics) and Clive Langer (music). Written during the Falklands War of 1982, Costello's lyrics discuss the contradiction of the war bringing back prosperity to the traditional shipbuilding areas of Clydeside (Yarrow Shipbuilders), Merseyside (Cammell Laird), North East England (Swan Hunter) and Belfast (Harland and Wolff) to build new ships to replace those being sunk in the war, whilst also sending off the sons of these areas to fight and, potentially, lose their lives in those same ships. The best known version of the song is the version recorded and released as a single by English singer-songwriter Robert Wyatt in August 1982 a few months after the Falklands War, although it was not a hit until it was re-released eight months later on the first anniversary of the conflict.
In September 2013, Elvis Costello and the Roots released an answer song written in the perspective of the other side of the conflict, called "Cinco Minutos con Vos" ("Five Minutes with You"). The song is a duet partly sung in Argentinian Spanish by La Marisoul.Spike (Elvis Costello album)
Spike is the 12th studio album by the British rock singer and songwriter Elvis Costello, released on compact disc as Warner Brothers 25848. It was his first album for the label. It peaked at No. 5 on the UK album chart. It also reached No. 32 on the Billboard 200 thanks to the single and his most notable American hit, "Veronica," which reached No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No.1 on the US Modern Rock chart.The Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions
The Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions is a 1985 compilation album, the first of what would be many career-spanning compilation albums of previously released material for Costello.