Bootleg: Unwanted Numbers

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  • Compilation of live versions of unreleased songs and songs written for other artists.


Disc 1:
01. I Can't Turn It Off - solo, 2007-11-08 San Francisco (late show)
02. Just Like A Jukebox - solo, 2007-11-08 San Francisco (late show)
03. Idle Hands - with the Attractions, 1979-04-10 Hempstead
04. Baby Pictures - with Steve Nieve, 1982-12-27 London
05. Lifeboat - solo, 1983-12-22 London (late show)
06. Man Being Devoured By His Destiny - solo, 1984-12-03 London
07. Why Don't We Try Anymore - with the Attractions, 1985-03-09 London
08. The Last Time You Were Leaving Me - solo, 1986-10-10 San Francisco
09. Forgive Her Anything - solo, 1986-10-23 New York
10. The Lovers That Never Were - solo, 1987-11-18 Tokyo
11. You Want Her Too - with the Rude 5, 1989-09-13 Universal City
12. My Brave Face - solo, 1989-09-16 Concord
13. Shamed Into Love - solo, 1989-07-11 Montreux
14. The Other End (Of The Telescope) - with the Attractions, 1995-08-04 New York
15. Dirty Rotten Shame - with the Attractions, 1995-08-03 New York
16. Punishing Kiss - with the Punishing Kiss Band, 1995-06-28 London
17. Lesson In Cruelty - with Steve Nieve, 1995-06-25 London
18. Unwanted Number - solo, 1996-05-20 Boston
19. Passionate Fight - with Steve Nieve, 1999-02-19 Sydney
20. Far From The Prize - with the Attractions, 1996-08-28 Universal City
21. Bright Blue Times - solo, 1998-02-15 Cremona
22. Miss Mary - solo, 1998-02-15 Cremona
23. Suspect My Tears - with Steve Nieve, 1999-10-27 Nashville
24. I Dreamed Of My Old Lover (listed as I Dreamed Of My Old Lover Last Night) - solo, 1999-11-12 Newcastle

Disc 2:
01. You Lie Sweetly - with Steve Nieve, 1999-06-16 Toronto
02. Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter - with Steve Nieve, 1999-12-10 London
03. Couldn't You Keep That To Yourself - with Steve Nieve, 1999-10-15 Chicago
04. This Subdues My Passion - with the Mingus Big Band, 1997-10-09 São Paulo
05. Jelly Roll - with the Charles Mingus Orchestra, 2001-09-28 Los Angeles
06. Self-Portrait In Three Colors - with the Charles Mingus Orchestra, 2001-09-28 Los Angeles
07. Don't Be Afraid, The Clown's Afraid Too - with the Charles Mingus Orchestra, 2001-09-28 Los Angeles
08. No Wonder - with the Imposters, 2004-12-08 Tokyo
09. For The Stars - with Steve Nieve, 2004-03-15 Toronto
10. I'll Watch Out For You - with the Imposters, 2004-04-17 Memphis (early show)
11. Narrow Daylight - solo, 2005-09-28 New York
12. The Girl In The Other Room - with the Nashville Symphony & Steve Nieve, 2007-09-09 Nashville
13. The Crooked Line (listed as Life's Companion) - with the Imposters, Emmylou Harris & Larry Campbell, 2005-07-22 Wallingford
14. Sulphur To Sugarcane (listed as From Sulfur To Sugar Cane) - solo, 2007-10-26 Omaha
15. How Deep Is The Red? - solo, 2007-10-29 Chicago
16. Threnody - with Marian McPartland, 2006-09-02 Lenox
17. American Gangster Time - with the Imposters, 2007-05-16 New York
18. Down Among The Wines And Spirits - solo, 2007-09-22 Duluth
19. Song With Rose - solo, 2007-10-28 Chicago
20. Pardon Me, Madam, My Name Is Eve (listed as Pardon Me Madam) - solo, 2007-10-27 Chicago
Bonus Track:
21. Tramp The Dirt Down (excerpt) - solo, 1991-08-03 Thurles

Release information

  • Date: 2007-12-12
  • Media: 2xCDR; FLAC files distributed via BitTorrent


Unwanted Numbers is a compilation of live performances of Elvis Costello's unreleased original songs. Some songs are entirely unreleased. Some have been released by other artists but not by Elvis. There are also a few debatable inclusions of songs which Elvis has released in some form, but the live versions included here differ significantly from the official versions.

This collection begins with two songs written in 1975 but unheard until 2007. I Can't Turn It Off includes multiple lyrics which would be recycled several years later in Watch Your Step and one line that would turn up later still in Sulky Girl. Just Like A Jukebox includes lyrics that would reappear in From A Whisper To A Scream.

Idle Hands is an early version of Temptation. It was performed at least nine times in the spring of 1979.

Baby Pictures was played twice in December 1982. A studio version from 1983 was eventually released on Rhino's Punch The Clock reissue in 2003, but it bears little resemblance to the original ballad arrangement and omits the opening verse.

This is the only performance of Lifeboat. One line would reappear in Worthless Thing a few months later. (The same line appears in Mystery Voice, which appears in demo form on Rhino's Goodbye Cruel World reissue, but it's unclear whether that song came before or after Lifeboat.)

Man Being Devoured By His Destiny is just a bit of Elvis teasing the audience from the 1984 solo tour.

Twice in 1985 Elvis played Why Don't We Try Anymore, which he said he co-wrote with John Doe of the band X. The song remained unreleased for years, but Doe eventually recorded it with his other band The Knitters for the 1999 album Poor Little Knitter On The Road: A Tribute To The Knitters and again on 2005's The Modern Sounds Of The Knitters. The "two or three chords" Elvis said he contributed apparently weren't enough to get a co-writing credit, since in both cases the song was credited to Doe alone.

The Last Time You Were Leaving Me was played twice in October 1986 and never heard from again.

Elvis has released three different versions of Forgive Her Anything, all with different arrangements and released many years after they were recorded. In its few concert performances in late 1986, he took yet another approach, playing a solo piano version.

The next three songs were co-written with Paul McCartney. Elvis played The Lovers That Never Were in concert shortly after they wrote it in 1987, but McCartney didn't get around to releasing it until 1993's Off The Ground. You Want Her Too was a Paul/Elvis duet on McCartney's 1989 album Flowers In The Dirt, while My Brave Face was the lead single from the same album.

Shamed Into Love was co-written with Rubén Blades and appears on his 1988 album Nothing But The Truth. A live version by Elvis and Bill Frisell was released on 1995's Deep Dead Blue. Elvis also sings a verse on Anne Sofie von Otter's version from 2001's For The Stars. Here he goes it alone.

The Other End (Of The Telescope) was co-written with Aimee Mann, who recorded it with her band 'Til Tuesday (and Elvis on backing vocals) on their 1988 album Everything's Different Now. Elvis played the song in concert in 1989 and 1995 but revised some of the lyrics for his recording on All This Useless Beauty. This version from just prior to the sessions for that album features the original lyrics.

Dirty Rotten Shame was recorded by Ronnie Drew on his 1995 album of the same name. Elvis has played it at least 17 times between 1994 and 2005. Considering the subject matter, Elvis may be waiting until he's a bit older to record it himself.

Punishing Kiss was written by Elvis and Cait O'Riordan for the 1993 Robert Altman film Short Cuts, in which it was briefly performed onscreen by Annie Ross & The Low Note Quintet. Ross' recording omitted the uptempo section which can be heard here and in Ute Lemper's version on her 2000 album Punishing Kiss. The version included here was Elvis' first public performance of the song. He returned to the song with the Metropole Orkest in 2004, although it was not played at the show recorded for the album My Flame Burns Blue.

Lesson In Cruelty was co-written with Steve Nieve. This was the first of six performances of the song between 1995 and 2001.

Unwanted Number was performed by For Real in the 1996 film Grace Of My Heart. Elvis has played it at least 19 times between 1996 and 2007, including at the 2004 shows in Oxford, Mississippi, which immediately preceded the sessions for The Delivery Man, but he's yet to release his own version.

Passionate Fight, another Costello/Nieve co-write, is the only one which has been released officially, having appeared on Ute Lemper's 2000 album Punishing Kiss. Elvis and Steve played it at least 26 times between 1996 and 1999.

Far From The Prize was performed at least 10 times during the final Attractions tour in 1996 as a coda to Little Atoms. It hasn't been heard from since.

Elvis contributed a recording of Bright Blue Times to the 1998 film Soft Sand, Blue Sea but has not otherwise released the song. This is its only known live performance.

Miss Mary was co-written with Italian singer Zucchero for his 1992 album Miserere. Elvis' only known performance from 1998 was presumably inspired by the inclusion of Zucchero's version on that year's compilation Songs Of Elvis Costello: Bespoke Songs, Lost Dogs, Detours & Rendezvous.

Suspect My Tears was played at least 18 times during Costello & Nieve's 1999 tour. It was briefly revived with a full band arrangement and a new middle section in 2004, just prior to the recording of The Delivery Man, but it did not appear on that album.

I Dreamed Of My Old Lover Last Night was introduced as part of the story The Delivery Man and performed at least 34 times in 1999 and once in 2001. The song did not appear on the eventual album The Delivery Man, which included only fragments of the original story.

You Lie Sweetly, another Costello/Nieve co-write, is by far the most frequently played of Elvis' unreleased songs, with at least 65 performances, almost all of them in 1999.

Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter was co-written by Carole King and played at least nine times in late 1999. It too was briefly revived with the Imposters in 2004 but did not appear on The Delivery Man.

Couldn't You Keep That To Yourself was played twice in October 1999. Ute Lemper recorded it with a few additional lyrics on her 2000 album Punishing Kiss.

At the invitation of Charles Mingus' widow Sue, Elvis added lyrics to six songs which were originally instrumentals, using Mingus' evocative titles as his starting point. This Subdues My Passion was performed a few times with the Mingus Big Band in 1997 and with the Charles Mingus Orchestra three times in 2001 and once in 2003. Jelly Roll, Self-Portrait In Three Colors, and Don't Be Afraid, The Clown's Afraid Too were played only at the Orchestra shows. The other Mingus/Costello songs, Invisible Lady and Hora Decubitus, have been officially released and are not included here.

No Wonder was played at least 26 times between 2001 and 2006. It was sung by Anne Sofie von Otter alone on For The Stars, her collaborative album with Elvis. The duo shared the vocals on the recorded version of the song For The Stars. This is its only known performance without Anne Sofie.

I'll Watch Out For You was premiered at one of the concerts coinciding with the recording of The Delivery Man. Not only did it not make that album, it has yet to reappear at all.

Narrow Daylight was co-written by Diana Krall and included on her 2004 album The Girl In The Other Room. This abbreviated version is Elvis' only public performance of the song.

The Girl In The Other Room was co-written with Diana Krall and appeared as the title track on her 2004 album. Elvis sang it himself at his five symphonic concerts in September 2007.

Life's Companion (also known as "Crooked Line" or "This Crooked Line") was co-written by T Bone Burnett and apparently intended for the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line. It has been played at least 10 times between 2005 and 2007. The performance on this compilation was selected despite Elvis mistakenly singing "the worthwhile spark never started without that fire" rather than the intended "the worthwhile fire never started without that spark."

From Sulfur To Sugar Cane was co-written by T Bone Burnett and intended for (but not used in) the 2006 film All The King's Men. It was premiered during Elvis' stint opening for Bob Dylan in September and October 2007.

Elvis' unreleased (and possibly unfinished) chamber opera The Secret Songs is too large a project to cover properly on this sort of collection, but it is represented by one of its 10 songs. How Deep Is The Red? was sung by Gisella Stille in initial performances in Denmark in 2005, but Elvis has sung it himself at least twice: once in 2005 and this performance from 2007.

Threnody is an older Marian McPartland instrumental to which Elvis added lyrics. This is its only performance to date.

American Gangster Time was premiered during a surprise appearance by Elvis at a T Bone Burnett concert in 2006 and played at least 15 times in 2007.

The next three songs were all first heard during the 2007 tour with Bob Dylan. This early performance of Down Among The Wines And Spirits includes a couple of lines which were dropped as the tour progressed and Elvis tightened the song.

Song With Rose is the working title for this song co-written by Rosanne Cash.

Pardon Me Madam was co-written by Loretta Lynn and apparently intended for her next album.

This collection closes with an excerpt from a 1991 performance of Tramp The Dirt Down with the lyrics updated to reference Margaret Thatcher's fall from power.