Dazed and Confused , Dec. '04
BILLY BRAGG 2 ELVIS COSTELLO
Two of Britain’s greatest ever exponents of the noble art of songcraft, Billy Bragg and Elvis Costello, discuss the ups and downs of meeting your heroes.
Elvis Costello: You know, I’m sure you get to the point were you’ve met most of the people you’ve ever admired, And I’m very glad to say that most of the people I’ve met that I’ve admired were not a disappointment. A couple of them have been almost frighteningly like I wanted them to he, both good and bad, like Jerry Lee Lewis for example — that was a fairly frightening experience.
Billy Bragg: I bet it was. He must have been really scary.
EC: Yeah, but that’s so much how you want him to be; himself .He’s just like that. He doesn’t really scare me. I’m not intimidated by him, not in awe of him.
BB:Who do you measure yourself against as a songwriter?
EC: I don’t think of myself in competition with anyone.
BB:Are there any songs where someone’s said in two verses what it took you to say in five in your own work?
EC:No, because I always try to write songs in a way that I think is fairly individual to me. I know how the mechanism works which is more than most people. I actually know how to do it. I think that has caused some resentment in the business even among some people that support me because they almost wish I did it, just to prove it, but I can’t be bothered. Life is too short to waste your time doing something like that.
BB:It’s easy to do something in your career that the public just suddenly latch on to, like poor old Jarvis (Cocker) is going to be forever known by the greater public not for songwriting, but for upstaging Michael Jackson.
EC:But I think he’ll enjoy that. I think he’s smart enough. I don’t know him personally but I love that reference to the wood chip in ‘Disco 2000’ because it’s obviously something he’s filed away from personal experience and put into this song that is really universally understandable. I think that’s his main strength.
BB:He was always head and shoulders above the other so-called Britpop writers.