Modern People, March 5, 1978

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Modern People
  • 1978 March 5

US magazines

Exciting new Elvis rocks music world

James Albrecht

There's a new Elvis causing a wild sensation in the music world.

He's Elvis Costello, a lanky English rocker with a stage posture that might resemble Woody Allen after electric shock therapy.

The only connection between Costello and Presley, besides their first names, is that Costello exudes the same raw energy Elvis displayed in his early career. And he's finding success almost as fast as Presley did.

Costello's currently riding on a wave of success that happened overnight in England with his first and only album My Aim Is True. He's now exploding in America.

The singer-songwriter earned rave reviews from rock critics during a recent U.S. tour. And his album is soaring up the record charts.

Not bad for a man who was just a computer operator a year ago.

Little is known about Costello's private life, and he intends to keep it that way. He's a mystery man who wants to be appreciated solely for his music. He refuses to reveal his real name or anything about his past. Interviews are rare.

"I don't see any point in talking about my past," explains 22-year-old Costello. "Nobody showed any interest in me then. If you weren't there, you missed it and that's it, it's gone."

What is known is that Costello was working as a computer operator by day and writing and recording songs on a cheap tape recorder by night, as well as playing in a bluegrass band. He took his demonstration tape to nearly every record firm in England before a small label called Stiff Records decided to give him a chance.

Within weeks of his album's release Elvis Costello became a national star in England. And he was able to thumb his nose at the companies that rejected him. Today, Costello openly admits his hatred for the music industry and the people who run it.

"I couldn't give a (bleep) about the music business." he confesses. "They (the executives) just don't know anything. I don't give any thought to any of those people. They're not worth my time.

"You can tell what these people are like instinctively. You just have to look at them to tell they're (bleeping) idiots."

After Elvis conquered the English, his next step was to make a mark in America. But he needed to be signed to an American label. When Columbia Records was holding its annual convention in London he couldn't get an executive to come and hear his music.

So he brought it to them – taking his unamplified guitar and amplifier outside the Hilton hotel where that convention was held and performing in the street. The act had Costello arrested. But it eventually led to a record contract.

Costello specialises in short, poignant biting rock and roll. No long songs. No pretensions. His lyrics are intelligent with the overlapping themes of revenge and guilt.

"The only two things that matter to me, the only motivation points for me writing all these songs, are revenge and guilt. Those are the only emotions I know about, that I know I can feel. Love? I don't know what it means, really, and it doesn't exist in my songs," he reveals.

Costello is vengeful. He claims he has no friends and is said to keep a running list of his enemies in a black book. If invited guests fail to show up for one of his concerts, their names are added to his hate list.

The rock and roll business is an industry that hypes and exploits – but Costello is trying to avoid publicity. He didn't grant a single interview while touring the States.

He's becoming a huge star, and admits he wouldn't mind being famous if it was solely because of his music. He feels his best years are ahead of him. But he would quit the business if he believed he reached a point where he could no longer write tunes as powerful as he is now.

"I'm never going to stick around long enough to churn out a load of mediocre crap like all those guys from the 1960s" he vows. "I'd rather kill myself. I'm deadly serious about this. I'm not going to witness my artistic decline."

For now Costello is content on just being appreciated. The money is nice, but he claims it doesn't motivate him.

"I don't want to be successful," Costello declares, "so that I can get a lot of money and retire to a house in the (bleep) country. (Presumably with his wife and child, whom he never discusses.)

"I don't want any of that rock and roll rubbish. I don't want to go cruising in Hollywood or hang out at all the star parties. I'm not interested in any of that."


Modern People, March 5, 1978

James Albrecht profiles Elvis Costello


1978-03-05 Modern People page 13 clipping 01.jpg
Photo by Chris Gabrin.

1978-03-05 Modern People page 15 clipping 01.jpg

Cover and page scans.
1978-03-05 Modern People cover.jpg 1978-03-05 Modern People page 13.jpg 1978-03-05 Modern People page 15.jpg


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