Over the past four or so years Elvis Costello has gained a strong following. Along with that success came interest in collecting the artist's vinyl. During the last North American tour I had a chance to talk with Elvis and his manager Jake Riviera about records and record collecting.
Elvis seems to have a varied taste in music. Among some of the bands he collects are the Clash, Clover (the group he used to record My Aim Is True), Graham Parsons and Hank Williams. He shows a special interest towards the R&B from the Sixties as well as some early blues such as Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson. Elvis says he likes to check out record stores because he's always looking for something.
In regards to bootleg records Elvis won't say much but he did admit he collects his own bootlegs. Jake Riviera wanted to avoid commenting on boots because of CBS' well-known opposition.
New Musical Express, May 26, 1979, had quoted him as saying: "I'd like to have some kind of royalty from bootleggers. 100 albums wouldn't be a lot to ask. But it's the record companies who stand to lose most out of it — which tells you something interesting about the whole record industry."
When I asked Jake if his having become a record company owner had changed that outlook his reply was, "That was a year ago and I was just trying to make a point that the artist should get something."
Riviera also admitted to collecting bootlegs and said "some are pretty good." He agreed there are a lot of good Costello boots but was critical of two in particular — Deluxe (This is what I don't like. This isn't a fan. This is all wrong.") and Exit ("Elvis doesn't need a girl to sell records.").
Radar Records pressed a reported 500 promotional copies of "Radio, Radio" on a 12" disc. Jake stated the record was released without permission by Radar while Elvis was on tour.
"Everybody thinks I've got them in my basement but I don't," said Riviera. He'd ordered the records destroyed although somehow 11 supposedly made it out.
"I wish they all were destroyed," remarked Jake.
When Radar closed shop Elvis was label shopping. One of the companies interested was Two Tone. Specializing in ska music such as the Specials, whose first album was produced by Elvis, and Madness, they released a Costello single "Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" b/w "Girls Talk." Shortly after its release the single was pulled from the stores and the remaining records became the property of Jake Riviera. Its value skyrocketed to an unbelievable $300. Months later the remaining stock was given away free at Costello's Rainbow Theater concert in September, 1980. After the concert the record's price fell to between $50 and $100 depending on who's selling it.
This was not the first record give-away by Elvis. At his Dominion Theater concert in London on Christmas, 1978, a picture sleeve 45 was handed out. The Dominion Freebie as it came to be known features "Talking In The Dark" b/w "Wednesday Week." It now sells in the $75 region.
In the U.K. a free Radar single, "Stranger In The House" b/w "Neat Neat Neat" came with the first 10,000 copies of This Year's Model. It now sells for $30.
Armed Forces released in Canada on yellow vinyl as a limited pressing was once deleted by CBS Canada and sold for $2.97. Recently a copy was advertised for sale for $100 but its real value is less than half of that.
With any artist who's collected by as many people as Elvis Costello you get a wide variation of sale prices and the collector would do well to shop around.