London Evening News, September 3, 1977

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London Evening News

UK & Irish newspapers

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It's Elvis... pop's new anti-hero


David Hancock

Anyone who dares to cross Elvis Costello is in for big trouble. He always takes revenge.

The latest people to feel the wrath of this small man with glasses are the music-business moguls who overlooked him in the past.

"I bear a grudge, I'm vindictive," he admits. "And I couldn't care less whether this attitude is damaging to me or not because I'd like to take them all to bits and rain havoc on them. They deserve it. They deserve me. They deserve everything they get. I think the whole of the music business stinks."

Elvis Costello, in case you hadn't heard, is this year's brightest hope for pop stardom. With his first album, My Aim Is True, in the Top 20, a national tour with the slogan "Dumping music on the people" ready to begin on 3 October, and a spot on Top of the Pops, Elvis Costello is kicking the sand back in a lot of people's faces.

"The story about me having a little black book with the names of people I dislike is not true," he confesses. "But I do note in my head people who have crossed me and I have a tendency to pay them back if I can.

"Sometimes it's physical. It's not necessarily violent, but you can play all kinds of games on people. Then, again, sometimes it's a mental game and that can be more damaging," says the man who looks like a stand-in for Woody Allen.

"This vindictiveness is an element of my character. It's not necessarily a good thing, I wouldn't hold it up as a virtue and I find it quite hard to live with sometimes. But you can only be what you are. You can force other things but sooner or later your natural tendencies will surface."

Yet Costello refuses to talk about his early years struggling to be heard and why he's out for revenge on the people who passed him up.

"I don't see any point in talking about what happened to me before I got involved with Stiff [his present record label], because it's dead and gone now. Talking about it won't bring it back, it won't make it right, so it's best not to mention it because I only sound bitter if I do."

For the curious, I understand Mr D P Costello is a former computer operator from Whitton, near Twickenham, where he lives with his wife and one child.

He once worked as resident support act at the Marquee and also played acoustically in the Earl's Court coffee bar the Troubadour.

Point is, Costello's songs have not changed. His songs about "Natasha who looks like Elsie" (from "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea)" or the anti-fascist "Less Than Zero" have always been his stock-in-trade.

He says: "I've been in the music business for some time in the sense that I've been trying. I've been on the periphery of it without getting anyone to take me seriously."

But now they are, Costello is going to make the most of things.

"Things are easy to take in the music business, you just grab 'em. It's not hard at all. Of course, things have changed. I never used to fly down from Glasgow to London to do a TV show and then fly back to Edinburgh. But I am enjoying it."

Is Elvis Costello the weedy man with glasses kicking back at everyone who snubbed him? Or is he a cold calculating pop star aware that 1977 needs an antihero?

He denies it with one short expletive.

Even so, he has to keep you guessing: "If someone gets the impression of me as the patron saint of losers, they're going to get a big shock. I don't intend to pander to any particular image."

And it's evident by the way he accepts his spot on Top of the Pops – the ultimate TV show of establishment pop.

"It doesn't bother me because it's straight to the throat. I'm the opposite of that hippie idea.

"People sit down moaning about how bad Top of the Pops is – and how the radio's rubbish – while not doing anything to put it right."

Elvis Costello aims to change things, and if someone gets kicked down while he's doing it that's the price they have to pay. But optimistic about his own future?

"I'll tell you that when I get there," he replies.

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The Evening News, September 3, 1977


David Hancock interviews Elvis Costello.


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