Elvis Costello is a Red, despite reports to the contrary that he follows Tranmere, and when he paid a visit to the Liverpool Football Club Museum and Tour Centre recently he confirmed that this was so. The rumour that he followed Tranmere has probably come about due to the fact that his father was a Prenton Park follower. However the young Declan (he took the stage name Elvis in 1976) was given a clear opportunity to choose his own team by his very fair-minded father:
"My dad was very fair, he took me — in 1962, alternate weeks — to home games at Anfield & Goodison. So I could make my own mind up. The worse problems would just not exist would they, if you could choose religion in the same way?
"So we went to Everton and they lost 4-nil at home and we went to Liverpool and they won 5-1 against Leeds and the record books might tell me I'm remembering it wrong, but I believe it was the season they they went up from the Second Division, so naturally at that age that's it, you're sold aren't you? A team in Red that wins five-one, that's the one for me!"
The records confirm that Elvis remembers this very nearly correctly — he was taken to Goodison Park on September 2nd 1962 and saw Everton lose 4-0 to Sheffield Wednesday, and then to Anfield on September 23rd to see a thrilling 5-0 victory with goals from Melia (1', and 46'), Ian St John (7'), Roger Hunt (64'), and Kevin Lewis (70'). Everton went on to finish 4th in the 1st Division, whilst Liverpool won the 2nd Division championship and joined Everton the following season in the 1st Division.
Elvis was visiting the museum to contribute to a football and music project currently under development for the museum that will see audio listening posts within the museum that will give access to match commentary from classic games, interviews with players past and present, fans and other football related subjects, interlinked with music created over the last 30 years by the many brilliant musicians this city has spawned. The vast majority of whom appear to all support Liverpool FC.
Elvis has agreed to use of "Shipbuilding" and "Oliver's Army" in the project and recorded a great footballing anecdote about his love for the Reds. Whilst at the Museum he signed a unique shirt as a memento of his visit, and gave a wonderful insight into his passion for the game and the club.
"When I was a kid we lived [at first] in the South of England — my Mam's from Liverpool, my dad was from Birkenhead, so obviously I used to spend a lot of time with my grandmother up here on school holidays. Then I got the the point when I was old enough to travel up here on my own on the train, and I would plan half-term holidays, and if it was in season I'd be planning my trips up here just to get to the games, and coming up as often as I could — and then found my spot. First couple of times I came I went in the [main] stand and it wasn't exciting enough so then the next time I got a little bit bolder and I went on the Kop. Because I was only little — I was not fully grown — so I had to get down to the front so I could see over the heads of people. So we are talking about sort of mid-late, well late 1960's really — '67 I think, around that time, right through until the time I came to Liverpool in 1970. And then of course there was nothing stopping me coming every week."
The young Elvis was no footballer himself: "I have to confess my footballing ability is all in the mind. Its like the brain is not connected to the feet. I'm totally left-sided, I am completely left-handed, completely left-footed. So, you know it's the old Puskas saying that 'the right leg is for standing on', I could never kick a ball. But I loved to play. Absolutely useless at it, so you love it all the more when you see how well its played."
His enthusiasm took him on the long trips from London to Anfield between 1967 and 1970, when he came to live in Liverpool, and he clearly recalls the impression the experience made upon him: "You grow from being a little kid and grow to be big enough to even attempt to stand in the Kop for the first time and then discover why you need very strong arms to stop yourself from being torn in half in the crush of it! But it's good to have done that and be in that sway in the singing and everything — it was unbelievable.
"I used to love the feeling in the ground, the expectation, I used to get to the ground really early, sometimes like 1.00-1.30 or 1.45, or something when the ground was just starting to fill up and then see it build up and everybody coming in. Get a good spec' and also sort of just stand there and listen to it all build up and then — when 'You'll Never Walk Alone' is playing everybody starts singing."
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a someone who has gone on to become one the greatest singer/songwriters of the 20th Century, the singing and the atmosphere created, the mood swings of the Kopites were capable of feeling, made a deep impression:
"I can't remember half of the things — I wish I could, I wish I'd written down all of the funny things that people shouted out over the years. Somebody must have written them down.
"Really great things that just happened on the spur of the moment, and I always used to wonder just how on earth chants started, things would start on the terraces about something that had happened on the pitch and you'd wonder how could 10,000 people even start shouting this — next thing it would be the whole crowd.
"Shankly really instilled a sort of personality that everybody really loved and the fact that even after he had retired they still used to chant his name. I used to love that! And it was like a battle cry, you know. I think they could scare other teams, the crowd, and there was one thing that I don't know whether that its done so much now, was the singing of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' in a dirge like way. Maybe I'm romancing it now, but it seemed like sometimes it would get sung in a slower kind of fashion near the end of a game when the team was losing. You know sometimes it would be like a little bit of a 'Come on, keep going' sort of thing. I used to like that when it happened. That had a good feeling about it."
Articulate and passionate, Elvis Costello's recollections touch a chord for all Reds, and his view of the team is just as awe-inspired as the rest of us. Costello maybe one of the greats in music, but he still finds meeting his heroes as tongue-tying as anyone else, as delightfully summed up in this:
"I have gone to this gig — about 1990 — I have just been working with Paul McCartney, we had written these songs together [on the album Spike] so I had gone to see him play at Wembley Arena, and one of his security guys comes up and says 'would I come along before the concert ended?' So we go to the backstage door of Wembley arena and the only other person that has been given the nod in this way, to say goodnight to Paul and Linda, is KENNY DALGLISH! So there is me and my wife and Kenny standing at the backstage door and Paul and Linda and the band run off stage, covered in towels and say 'Great! Thanks for coming!' and I'm saying 'Great gig, see ya' and they are away, whoosh! Gone. Suddenly we are standing backstage and they are still cheering in the hall and there is me and Kenny Dalglish.
"Now I have stood five feet away from him once at something, but I could not pluck up the courage to speak to him. Now I can do nothing but speak to him. But he's still Kenny, and I'm saying 'I've got to be able to buy you a drink, I've got to be able to say I've bought you a drink'. There is a little backstage bar so we go there and we raise a glass of champagne and I said 'Well great gig wasn't it?' and he said 'Ay, I really loved it', and I said 'Well here's to all the great games, all the great goals, the pleasure you have given me playing football... but I've just got to say one thing.' And he said 'what?' and I said 'I just don't know how you can leave out Beardsley!'
"And the minute I said it I thought 'What am I saying?' Then he said 'What do I know? I'm just the manager!'
"When it is something like football, it is completely beyond me when I meet them. When I met Kenny Dalglish and Hansen, I was completely tongue-tied, and did not know what to say, and then I find that they are really great chaps and they can tell you funny stories from their side. The reality of it maybe. Just a little glimpse of it."