Interview with Elvis Costello
Who Weekly, 1999-02-15
Issue #364, pp3, 41-42
- Kirsten Galliott


who_weekly.990215_1.jpg (59982 bytes) "When I first came here [in '78], daytime was the inconvenient bright time between nightclubs and bars," says Elvis Costello (with Steve Nieve in Sydney).


A day in the life of Elvis Costello finds the British rock great in fine and feisty form as he schmoozes the media and wows the fans

who_weekly.990215_2_800.jpg (59471 bytes) "I've no idea whether I will never drink alcohol or take another drug in my life but at the moment I don't need to," says Costello, perfroming in Sydney.

It's 11 AM and Elvis Costello's day is cranking up. In the hushed lounge at the Ritz-Carlton in Sydney's Double Bay, he scans the papers, stopping at a shot of himself in The Australian: "This is a more natural smile," he says. That established, he leaps from his chair to begin the publicity round that he's juggling with his four-concert national tour. Outside the hotel sits a gleaming navy Bentley, but Costello and his keyboardist, Steve Nieve, stride past it to a humbler vehicle—an eight-seat Toyota Tarago. Definitely not This Year's Model.

who_weekly.990215_3.jpg (55170 bytes) "Fame can happen very fast," says Costello (with Mulray). "It does get in the way of the music."

A star for 22 years, Costello is still in the driver's seat. Last year, he released his 18th album, Painted From Memory, an acclaimed collaboration with the Sultan of Smooth, Burt Bacharach. "Burt's very charismatic," says Costello.

"Women flock to him. I became invisible." Hardly. The 44-year-old, whose "Alison" and "Watching the Detectives" are '70s rock classics, is touted by pundits and fans as "ultra-hip" in the '90s. But to the edgy star, "Being hip, it's just in your mind." To think of yourself as, "'Hey, I'm hip' would he terrible," he snorts. "It's ghastly. That's like, 'Hey, I'm a rock star."'

who_weekly.990215_4.jpg (44895 bytes) "I don't really mind what people call me," says Elvis, readying for The Footy Show. "Anything but Gladys."

And though Costello won't wear the rock-star tag ("that's somebody in leather trousers with big hair"), the man who was born Declan McManus can't help but exude the aura of one. First call today is an interview with Doug Mulray for Radio 2WS. "This is very exciting for your Uncle Doug," enthuses Mulray on air. "He's in the presence of greatness." The pair banter about Costello's exhaustion ("I'm still on New Zealand time," he tells Mulray. "1985?" suggests the DJ. "That's being kind," Elvis flashes back), then Costello sings "Toledo," from Memory. His raspy voice is powerful and the lyrics— about a man caught cheating on his lover—poignant. "You tore my heart out, you son of a bitch," says Mulray, wiping his eyes.

Back to the hotel at 1 PM, former rugby league star Peter Sterling is wired up to question Costello for The Footy Show. But first, the singer has one request of his own. "Nothing too deep? It's a bit early for deep," he says, then enjoys a grilling on soccer. Sterling can't draw him out on rugby league, though. "I know nothing about it," says Costello, shaking his head. "It's beyond my comprehension."

who_weekly.990215_5.jpg (44357 bytes) Perusing the papers.

But he understands music. At the Capitol Theatre that night Costello wrings four standing ovations from the capacity audience. He earns the third by turning off his mike and crooning "Unexpected," the piano his only accompaniment. The crowd reaction is summed up by a fan who raves, "I was all choked up."