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Brought up in Liverpool, Declan McManus (born 1954) cut his teeth as a London pubrocker with the group Flip City before reinventing himself as DP Costello and playing folk clubs. Costello was a family name: Elvis was a more obvious steal and showed an iconoclastic streak that blighted his US success when he slammed Ray Charles in 1978.

Hawking his songs to record companies by personal audition, Costello shocked A&R executives into unanimous rejection. Stiff, the independent label so influential in the new wave with The Damned, Ian Dury, etc, took him on and linked him with Nick Lowe, house producer and previously singer with Costello's heroes, Brinsley Schwarz. Stiff co-founder Jake Riviera (Andrew Jakeman) was to play Colonel Parker.

Costello's appearance as bespectacled angry young man with his debut single, 'Less Than Zero', in 1977, broke the ground for such as Joe Jackson. His first album, 'My Aim Is True', saw him backed by US country-rockers Clover masquerading as The Shamrocks. 'Red Shoes', a UK hit single, helped the album into the UK Top 20, while the outstanding ballad 'Alison' was one of three Costello compositions later covered by Linda Ronstadt: Costello complained but took the money. 'Watching The Detectives', probably his most effective single track, was backed by members of Graham Parker's band, The Rumour: reggae style emphasized common ground with The Clash, etc.

Linking with a permanent band, The Attractions - Bruce Thomas, Pete Thomas (no relation) and Steve Nieve (real surname Mason), 1978's 'This Year's Model' album saw him at the peak of Angry Young Man-dom, and in peak songwriting form, with tracks like '(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea' satisfying critics with cinematic references in the lyrics and the public with a hard-edged yet melodic song. The album made the UK Top 5.

'Armed Forces' in 1979 took him into the pop market, a sound based on Nieve's bubbling synths and included 'Oliver's Army', his biggest single with lyrics concerning mercenaries but a catchy chorus. It was his first and only US Top 10 album. 'Get Happy!!' saw him investigating soul - 20 tracks of Stax-style black-influenced material including the hit cover of Sam & Dave's 'I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down' taken at three times the original's pace. Like its predecessor, it made the UK Top 3 to equal Costello's commercial peak.

Released in 1980 'Trust' was underestimated but classic pop: his most personal album. Sales disappointed, so he took another style country - and cut 'Almost Blue' in Nashville with producer Billy Sherrill and Clover's John McFee on pedal steel an added Attraction. A sticker on the album sleeve pointed out the C&W contents 'may produce radical reaction in narrow minded people', but it made the UK Top 10, while a single, 'Good Year For The Roses' hit MOR market.

1982's 'Imperial Bedroom' album took his pop to an over-produced apogee but only marginally increased his commercial potential. 1983's 'Punch the Clock' seemed to owe much to the Langer/Winstanley production team (Madness, etc.) and contained a classic pop single in 'Everyday I Write The Book' which reached the UK Top 30 and US Top 40. Costello twice packaged B-sides, outtakes, non-LP singles etc, firstly as 'Taking Liberties' (entitled '10 Bloody Marys and 10 Hows Your Fathers' in the UK) and later in the decade, 'Out Of His Idiot'.

'Goodbye Cruel World' (1984) repeated the 'Punch The Clock' formula to lesser effect: a pair of solo tours featuring radical reinterpretation of songs suggested dissatisfaction. A hits compilation made the UK Top 10 in 1985, after which his first Attraction-less album since his debut was 1986's 'King Of America', featuring US musicians like James Burton and Glen D. Hardin who had been associated with country/rock hero Gram Parsons as well as with the 'other' Elvis. The following year saw 'Blood and Chocolate', an unfocussed album and the last to feature the band that gave him his musical muscle.

The Attractions (who cut their own album without Costello, Mad About The Wrong Boy' in 1980) then split, Bruce Thomas later recounting his experiences in the semi-fictional book The Big Wheel (1990). Nieve made two solo instrumental albums and directed TV host Jonathan Ross's house band.

Costello produced The Pogues (whose erstwhile bass player Cait O'Riordan he was later to marry) and kept a low profile until 1989's 'Spike', which included songs co-written with Paul McCartney (others appeared on McCartney's 'Flowers In The Dirt'): although patchy, it saw a return to the Top 10 of the UK album chart and included the hit 'Veronica'. He now has the record company and clout to conquer the US (10 Top 30 LPs there to 1986) but probably doesn't feel the need.

A director of Demon Records, who now hold his back catalogue and will inherit his future recordings, he has total control over his career. His clever wordplay has inspired Roddy Frame, Prefab Sprout's Paddy McAloon etc., and has managed to prosper despite his eclecticism: every musical style he had adopted so far has brought him hits - though tellingly not always with his own songs. Costello compositions have been covered by Dusty Springfield, Dave Edmunds, Robert Wyatt ('Shipbuilding', an anti-Falklands War anthem), while he covered his own songs as The Imposter (two hits, 'Pills And Soap' and 'Peace In Our Time').

Greatest Hits
Singles Title US UK
1979 Oliver's Army - 2
1980 I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down - 4
1979 Armed Forces 10 2
1980 Get Happy!! 11 2
1983 Punch The Clock 24 3

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