Life, September 1983

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Elvis Costello

Joyce Maynard

Britain's peerless pop songwriter woos America with a new album and a rocking road show.

The house is a pleasant, comfortable-looking Tudor in one of London's nicer districts — Chiswick. A child's bike in the yard, lots of roses and the odd toy scattered on the path. The harried-seeming, slightly overweight man who emerges from within could be a Dad, on his way to the office in any of a half-dozen 1960s situation comedies. His not particularly well-cut black suit is already slightly rumpled, pants a little short. He runs a hand absently through conservatively cut black hair (making the general effect no smoother) as he heads toward the road, briefcase swinging.

If this were The Dick Van Dyke Show, the case would pop open here, sending papers fluttering. That doesn't happen, but as he approaches the bus someone calls his attention to the sleeve of his jacket, where a white and orange necktie sticks out at the wrist, flapping in the breeze. Not looking all that surprised, the man extricates the tie, runs back to the house and tosses it inside the door.

Returning to the bus, he collapses into his seat and takes a swig from a quart bottle of mineral water. "Number thirty-four this week, down from thirty-two," he says — it could be the stock market, but in fact it's his new single, and the other five people on the bus are members of his band. Elvis Costello, the British rock star, is off to work.

Although he wouldn't happily

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Additional text:

There will have to be invented, soon, a term comparable to "well-read" to describe those children of the record-boom generation who are knowledge-able about popular music the way some people are with bodies of literature. Elvis Costello has that kind of nearly encyclopedic knowledge of recorded sound, and he moves easily from the Beatles to early Motown, '60s psyche-delic, Burt Bacharach, George Jones. He'll speak of a song Dolly Parton re-corded on Monument Records 16 years ago, the drum track on a particular single, the backup singers on a commercial.


Life, September 1983

Joyce Maynard profiles Elvis Costello.


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Page scan.

Photo by Donald McCullin.
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Cover and contents page.


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