Costello’s road less travelled
By CanWest News Service
THOSE WHO CAN: After a 30-year career, Elvis Costello says if the critics really knew what they were talking about, they’d be the ones making the hits.
There is no wondering about what might have been with Elvis Costello. He is the furthest thing from potential unrealized.
First appearing as an angry young man of rock in the mid-1970s, he has spent the past 30 years and two dozen records, mixing and exploring punk, soul, reggae, pop, country, folk and jazz. He has been a rock star, a singer/songwriter, a producer, a composer and a singer of standards. And, most importantly in this regard, he has succeeded where most others have failed, if they even dared to try.
So he continues this fall with simultaneous releases — The Delivery Man, a Southern-fried rock record, and Il Sogno, an orchestral work performed with the London Symphony.
Here, again Elvis Costello shakes his fist and smiles at the critics and cynics who would prefer he stick to himself, namely the Young Elvis, the awkward rebel with punk in his blood.
Surely they, though now in the minority, will appear again to question his wisdom.
“It hasn’t worked though, has it? Should have learned that by now,” he says with a smirk, perfectly satisfied and sharply dressed, sitting in a Toronto hotel room.
“You know what, I don’t actually give a f—,” he continues. “If I’d given a f— about it, I wouldn’t have gone and done the things I’ve done. It should be evident by now I don’t take any notice of critics. I don’t even take any notice of the audience.
“That may sound like an arrogant thing to say. But the audience pays you money for your opinion, your view of the music, not their view.
“Otherwise, they’d be making the records. They trust you to give your view of what you care about in words and music. Not anything else. To consider other opinions is like to write it by committee, to write because the A&R man says you need one of those songs on this record. F— them, what do they know? If they were so smart, they’d be writing hits.”
Rock critics, for the most part, have learned this and sainted Costello justly. Those of the classical and opera persuasion have some catching up to do, apparently.
“There are people who will try to talk something down without even hearing it. I’m aware that some people have been dismissing Il Sogno saying that it’s like the end of civilization because Deutsche Grammophon is putting out a record with my name on it. And they haven’t even heard it. So how do they know what it is?” he asks.
“It could be anything. It could be 50 people with kazoos, it could be a huge practical joke. It isn’t a huge practical joke. It’s serious music. It’s well-written. It’s beautifully performed. And if it isn’t to your tastes, fine. Listen to something else. I don’t care. I know there’s enough people to justify its existence.”
Here the oft questioned relationship between Costello and his wife, Canadian pianist Diana Krall, shows itself to possess a musical connection beyond their songwriting efforts together for her last record The Girl In The Other Room — specifically, a distaste for the purists who have tried to deny both of them.
“They want the music to f—— fail,” he says.
“They want the music to fail so that they can hand out credibility like sweeties.
“You know, these people have a demeanour of pedophiles. They’re creepy. They want to hand out the credibility like sweeties to young artists coming up and make them grateful. And those artists don’t need them.”