Exposure, April 1989

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  • 1989 April

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From a whisper to a scream

Clinton Walker

The continuing attraction of rock's angry young man

Elvis Costello is the biggest little star there is. He doesn't need the canonization accorded him by Jay McInerney (who in his latest novel, Story of My Life, has its central character constantly quoting the man) to know where he stands. Though he may be an unwilling "spokesperson for a generation." Costello, in America at least, still stands on the outside. But then he doesn't seem to want to come to the party anyway. Not if it means he's going to end up in a compromising position.

In his native Britain, Elvis is an elder statesman of the post-punk pop scene, who has amazingly survived for this most fickle of audiences, not only because his credibility has never been in question, but also because he has consistently produced invigorating music. Costello is getting everything he the wants to do exactly the way that he wants to do it. Why should he want to upset that balance?

Few performers in fact have managed to actually sell so few records and make so much noise about doing so. In sync with the superstar process to this extent at least, Costello has cultivated his own myth, fronted by the image of the bug-eyed insect with a poison sting in his tail. An image as iconographic as a Madonna or Billy Idol. Those hornrims as much a symbol as Michael Jackson’s glove. You can almost see Elvis taking his place in that silly rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame, sneaking in the back door, peering out from between Bruce Springsteen and John Cougar Mellencamp.

Elvis Costello has always had a reputation for being "difficult." He refuses, as he would undoubtedly claim himself, to be but a pliant pop star akimbo with his two-dimensional image. But is a real person whose music is about real life.

Elvis Costello isn’t one to take an easy option — the easiest of which is to simply….

Remaining text and scanner-error corrections to come...


Exposure, April 1989

Clinton Walker interviews Elvis Costello.

(This piece also ran in Rolling Stone Australia, May 1989.)


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Cover photo by Gary Heery.

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Page scans.

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Page scans.

Photo by Gary Heery.
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Photo by Gary Heery.

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Page 91 inset photo by Tom Wright.

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Contents page.


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