Elvis Costello

  • British singer, songwriter and musician born Declan McManus in 1954 in London England.
  • McManus’ father was a jazz trumpeter who recorded using the name Day Costello. In 1971, Elvis formed his first musical act, a folk duo named Rusty. After he completed high school, he worked at several office jobs. In 1974, he formed a country rock band named Flip City, using the stage name D.P. Costello, borrowing the stage name of his father. The band performed for two years, and Costello made several demo tapes of original material, hoping to start a music career as a solo artist. A independent label heard the demos and signed him to a recording contract in 1976. A manager at the label suggested that he increase his exposure by using the name Elvis Costello, in reference to Elvis Presley.
  • In 1977, Costello’s debut album was released – My Aim Is True. The backing band for Costello was an American country rock band called Clover. Costello called in sick from his data entry job so that he could record the album. It had a unique sound – both punk and new wave – and the cover showed Costello in his signature Buddy Holly glasses. While the album initially was only a modest success, it was lauded by critics – Rolling Stone named it one of the best albums of the year, while The Village Voice named it the second best album of the year. It ranked at #430 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Album list, and it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007. The album included his famous signature song, Alison – a song that everyone knows, but it did not chart as a single. The only single from the album that charted was Watching the Detectives, which peaked at #15 in the UK and at #108 in the U.S.
  • After his first album was released, Costello assembled a permanent backing band known as The Attractions. His next ten albums were released as Elvis Costello and the Attractions between 1978 and 1986 (his King of America album in 1986 was released as The Costello Show featuring The Attractions and Confederates). All but two of these albums were top 10 in the UK, while most were top 30 in the U.S. His second album, This Year’s Model, was ranked #121 on Rolling Stone’s GOAT list. American pop audiences didn’t pay attention to Costello during this time, so his singles didn’t chart in the U.S., but eleven of his singles were top 30 hits in the UK, led by top ten hits Oliver’s Army, I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down and Good Year for the Roses. 
  • Costello dabbled in different music styles during the 80s. Much of the music retained his new wave, power punk sound, but his 1981 album Almost Blue was a country album, covering songs originally recorded by artists like Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and George Jones. The album originally had a warning label on it that read “WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners.” The King of America album in 1986 was a roots rock/country folk album.
  • Costello’s relationship with the Attractions soured in the late 80s, and his 1989 album Spike was credited to only Costello, with session musicians backing him. The album included his most successful single in the U.S., Veronica – the song reached #19 on the Hot 100, and #1 on the Alternative Songs chart. His next album, Mighty Like a Rose, contained The Other Side of Summer, his only other #1 single, on the Modern Rock Tracks chart,
  • From 1990 to 2020, Costello released 21 more studio albums, as well as several live and compilation albums. Many of these albums showed a different creative side of Costello. His 1993 album The Juliet Letters was a classical music album backed by a string quartet. 1998’s Painted From Memory was a collaboration of pop songs with Burt Bacharach. In 2004, he released Il Sogno, a classical album backed by the London Symphony Orchestra that reached #1 on the Billboard Classical Music Albums chart. His 2009 album Secret, Profane & Sugarcane features bluegrass and Americana music, while 2010’s National Ransom was an alternative country album. In 2013, he released a collaboration with American hip-hop group The Roots (Jimmy Fallon’s house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) called Wise Up Ghost – music on this album is funk and R&B.
  • In 2019, Costello finally won his first Grammy award – his album Look Now won for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. Also that year, he became Sir Elvis Costello, as he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He ranked at #80 on Rolling Stone’s 2010 list of the Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2003, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He is one of a kind – no one tries to sound like Elvis Costello. Definitely a new wave fave of mine. Here’s one of his early classics (and my favorite), (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding. Rolling Stone ranked it at #290 on their Greatest Songs List – and it wasn’t even released as a single.

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