Elvis Costello is a punk poet and a rock ’n’ roll legend. But what about the man behind the music? Stand out from the pack with our poseur’s guide to this pillar of pop culture.
His Name Is True Poseurs are petty people, so let’s get some facts straight. Be sure to drop the factoid that Elvis Costello is not really the performer’s real name. He was born in the London area of Paddington in 1954 under the name Declan Patrick MacManus. He adopted the stage name Elvis Costello in the ’70s (in part as a tribute to his father, who had performed under the name Day Costello). Other pseudonyms include the Imposter, Howard Coward, Mac Manus and Napoleon Dynamite (no, not that Napoleon Dynamite).
Pump It Up Before he was a Grammy-winning musician, Costello was a punk-leaning pop singer in Britain’s burgeoning new wave movement. His first single, “Less Than Zero,” was released in 1977 on the legendary punk imprint Stiff Records—also home of artists like The Damned, Pointed Sticks and Wreckless Eric. Costello’s first five albums were produced by legendary pub rock producer and performer Nick Lowe.
Clowntime Is Over While his early work produced countless hits, including “Alison,” “Pump It Up” and “Watching the Detectives,” a real poseur scoffs at entry-level material. Costello, too, decided to eschew the simple, and has dabbled in everything from country to jazz to classical.
Radio, Radio, Film and TV If you really want to seem like you’ve been watching Costello’s every move, you should verse yourself on his place in pop culture. Lorne Michaels famously banned Costello from Saturday Night Live in 1977 for stopping his label-mandated performances live on air and swapping out a song for the raucous punk anthem “Radio Radio.” He’s since made appearances in a diverse list of film and television projects, including Spice World, 200 Cigarettes, The Larry Sanders Show, The Late Show with David Letterman (where he stepped in for an ill Letterman and hosted an entire episode), The Simpsons, Frasier and even Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.