Elvis Costello had the unfortunate luck of appearing on the American rock scene just a month or two after Elvis Presley's death. As if his name wasn't enough to make people suspect, the words "Elvis is King" were written all over the cover of his first album.
But the public soon learned that Costello, who will be appearing at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle on Monday, had something to offer. His music was lean, and in some regards, mean, a throwback to rock's early days. He became one of the first punk rockers to make it big.
Born Declan Patrick MacManus in London, England, the 25-year-old Costello is the only child of divorced parents. Although his father was a successful musician and cabaret singer, Costello himself never harbored any desire to play rock until his late teens, when he first picked up a guitar.
After high school, Costello began to write his own music, trying, unsuccessfully, to sell it to local recording companies. At 18, he was working as a computer operator and working pick-up jobs as a guitarist on the weekends. In 1976, Costello was signed to a recording contract by a small London company, Stiff Records. With them, he recorded his first album, My Aim Is True, which was later picked up and distributed by CBS Records.
In 1977, as a ploy to gain the attention of CBS record executives staying in London, Costello staged an impromptu audition in front of the London Hilton, where the executives were staying. He was arrested for causing a public disturbance, but the arrest was not without its glory: CBS offered him a contract.
Although Costello has come a long way from the days when it took him a week to record a record (My Aim Is True), he has retained the lean and crisp sound that made him famous. His backup group, The Attractions, consist of only three musicians: a guitarist, keyboard player and drummer.