Melbourne Age, December 1, 1978

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Melbourne Age

Australia publications




Angry Elvis stays silent

John Lethlean

Elvis Costello is an angry and self-confessing little fellow on vinyl.

But that's where his willingness to talk about himself ends too.

Perish the thought he may talk to his considerable public through the Press.

Because that anger seems to be something he carries with him everywhere he goes — like the little black book he once revealed to Nick Kent of New Musical Express, in which he keeps a personal revenge list of people to be dealt with when the propitious time arises.

Elvis has instructed his Australian publicists he will do absolutely no interviews, despite the fact that he arrives for a concert tour on Sunday.

The few times Costello's words have been captured in print have revealed a man carrying one hell of a chip on his shoulder and whose musical talents have provided a perfect outlet for his hostility.

But I could be wrong because Costello (real name Declan Patrick McManus) absolutely refuses to talk about his usually self-centred lyric content.

The songs invited analysis — "You're upstairs with a boyfriend while I'm left here to listen / I hear you calling his name, I hear the stutter of ignition / I could hear you whisperm as I crept past your door / So you found some other joker who could please you more... I'm not angry."

But the Buddy Hollyesque figure of the late '70s — bespectacled and slicked back says "no."

Which adds intrigue to the Costello mystery because his past, too, is virtually unknown.

Part of the Costello grudge-match can be traced to his recording career, which started in early '77 with Stiff Records, but was prefaced by a succession of record company doors slammed in his face.

The demo-tape they didn't like was the basis of My Aim Is True, his first album with Stiff Records and, to that time, the company's biggest selling.

It sold about 600,000 copies in England and became the biggest selling import in the US for 1977 — this success led to a contract with Columbia Records in America.

After that, Elvis, 23 probably started crossing names from the book.

"Watching The Detectives" was the first single from the album and the first brush most of us had with the "new" Elvis, who unashamedly coined Presley's title of "King" by adorning his first album cover with "Elvis Is King."

"Detectives" didn't chart monstrously here but it did win him a lot of notice with its frivolous keyboard touches, magnificent Spencer Tracy type tune and reggae-like drumming and bass. A memorable song.

But somewhere along the line it had to happen — Costello was landed with the punk label. What rubbish. His catchy tunes, with complicated rhythms and beat, tempo changes and poetic lyrics label this guy as unique.

Proof of his innocence could be his "cracking" of the US market, where punk means less than zero. Even American sex symbol and singer Linda Ronstadt has recorded his bitter love song "Allison."

My Aim is True was recorded with an unknown American band, Clover, and produced by the legendary father of power-pop, Nick Lowe. In fact, before Costello came forth to show himself as the face behind the voice, rumors were rife that Lowe actually was Costello

His second album, This Year's Model, on CBS, was released earlier this year Again, Nick Lowe was producer but a new band played on the album, The Attractions.

They are Peter Thomas on drums, formerly of Chilli Willi and England's Red Hot Peppers, Bruce Thomas on bass guitar and one of the Sutherland brothers and Steve Mason on keyboards.

This is the band that will back Costello who plays lead guitar, on Saturday, December 9, at the Palais Theatre.

A third Costello album, probably to be titled Cornered On Plastic, may be released before the end of the year.

Costello left Stiff Records before recording his second album but as a member of the Stiff team. he featured on three sampler records, A Bunch of Stiffs, Stiffs Live and Hits Greatest Stiffs.

If the Live recording is any indication, we can expect a high standard from Costello at the Palais as he whirls knock-kneed around the stage demonstrating a case for corrective shoes.

Whatever he sings, you can be sure it will be a power-packed concert by a unique and angry little man.

Melbourne group Stiletto will support Elvis Costello and The Attractions. Tickets are available from Centretainment and other usual agencies.


The Age Weekender, December 1, 1978

John Lethlean profiles Elvis Costello ahead of his concert with The Attractions and supporting act Stiletto, Saturday, December 9, 1978, Palais Theatre, Melbourne, Australia.


1978-12-01 Melbourne Age Weekender page 09 clipping.jpg

1978-12-01 Melbourne Age Weekender page 09.jpg
Page scan.


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