London Guardian, March 12, 1994

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London Guardian

UK & Ireland newspapers


A saint among singers

Diary: Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello

Monday — Dublin, 10am: Pick up phone to hear that "Sulky Girl" has entered hit parade at No 22 and we are summoned to Top Of The Pops. Same old Monday morning feeling.

London-bound, I torture myself with every report of mighty Tranmere Rovers' cruel cup defeat. Suspect their manager John King's description of the team as a cake sailing the choppy sea of a football season may prove hard to beat when explaining myself.

Radio 1, 4pm: The DJ, Mr Campbell, a likeable enough sort of fellow. However, "on air" he affects a sort of matey rudeness and seems a little disappointed when I prove to have the patience of a saint. The actual music programme is greatly improved by four of our excellent new recordings, plus the 15-year-old "Oliver's Army" to "put you in a context with the millions." Grand delusion or simple irony'? We close by discussing "New Wave." I had no idea listeners were so interested in French cinema. On the plane to Paris I prepare for questions about The Lavender Hill Mob.

Tuesday — Paris: Interviews can now be divided into two groups — those proceeding from analysis of the title ... "Did you call the record Brutal Youth because you fear Death?," and those which announce "Stand back — zany guy" ... "Imagine you are dead. What music would you hear in your coffin?" The French journalists seem to prefer their rock stars half dead in leather trousers. Despite my robust health, one TV pundit muses on the title ... "Does this mean you are still a rebel with a cause?" ... I blame the evaporating spirit of '68. After lunch my beautiful wife, Cait, returns to her tour of European art galleries. I ask for the question to be repeated.

Wednesday — Top Of The Pops: I am working with The Attractions again. The greatest combo on the planet arrives to prove it — Pete Thomas from a Japanese tour. Bruce Thomas from his new home in Los Angeles and Steve Nieve from ... well, Sussex actually. It's nine years since our last "live appearance." We were told that we'd "never work on the show again." after Peter played a climactic drum fill on his head, giving away that we were miming. Things have changed for the better. I get to sing with my voice these days. We kill time searching the corridors of Elstree for more stills of Sylvia Sims in Ice Cold In Alex.

The big moment arrives. We get one word into the song before a technical hitch. Cue gallows humour. Take two —bewildered girls are moved gently into place. It's all rather touching. When there's a problem with vocal balance and disintegrating drum kit, we are invited to view a playback in the control room. This would have been unthinkable under the "old administration," which treated the studio audience like cattle and performers like below-stairs help.

Thursday — Rise at 5.30am for Milan flight. Last year we spent a month in Florence at Cait's instigation. Emboldened by my beginner's course in Italian. I spent several days translating the album's dedication to her into a florid Italian proclamation. way beyond my conversational abilities. "Our" secret is shared with several million Italians. The Milanese press are expecting at least a stab at their tongue. They take the refusal to humiliate myself quite well. We discuss matters of life and death, but fail to agree that the Republic will win the World Cup at Italy's expense.

Friday — Rome: A fax arrives. Heavens. it's a rave review from this very organ with startlingly handsome portrait. Well, almost. That the Italian press seems less neurotic makes a welcome contrast to the ugly, begrudging "absolutism" in the worst of Anglo-criticism. Here, even praise is often at the expense of insulting someone or something In this case it is my own recent work.

8pm: My second scheduled appearance on a threatened satirical show called Tunnel. This one escapes the axe; the one in Madrid was not so lucky. Tunnel has an underground railway set. One of the cast says they never know what is coming down the track. We agree it is probably a big train with the words "lega nord" written on it.

Saturday — Join sparse spring crowd to view the Sistine Chapel. For once we are not stuck behind an American couple complaining "the arms are too long." Suddenly, there it is, large as life — larger in fact. I laugh, then need to lie down from the shock. Perhaps this is the solution to over-crowding and stiff necks — let everyone lie on their backs for 20 minutes under magnified glass. They would see more and the ceiling would be protected from decaying breath.

I want to believe nothing could erase such beauty and vision, but the feeling remains that restoration gives the appearance of being coloured in by a Masters of the Universe cartoonist with a limited supply of crayons. Even the "before" posters at the Vatican gift stalls plant this doubt. Another corporate triumph.

Sunday — After Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece": "I left Rome and landed in Brussels..."

Actually the plane ride was okay. Thought about the freemasons arguing loudly at breakfast in Zurich last week. Had some moules et frites. Felt a bit sick. Must resist temptation to answer that "Making album was like jumping off sinking ship using birthday cake as lifebelt. only to find it was covered in exploding candles."

Let's face it. Mr King does this stuff better than Bob or me.

Monday — Brussels: Brutal Youth is released. Advance orders are excellent. But "Sulky Girl" is looking distinct[ive]ly pouty at No 34. Apparently, singles are going up and down like distress flares and there is great "chart volatility." This sounds like The Day Today 's beautiful Financial Arse, if you ask me. If you ask me, I'd say singles are seven-inch pieces of black plastic. You should save your money and buy this album. Excellent advice — buy Brutal Youth 'til your ears drop off.

After some Belgian waffle. I'm off to dear old Stockholm.

Costello's new album, Brutal Youth, is out on WEA.

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The Guardian Weekend, March 12, 1994

EC chronicles a week of Brutal Youth promotion.


1994-03-12 London Guardian Weekend clipping composite.jpg
Clipping composite.

1994-03-12 London Guardian Weekend illustration.jpg


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