Mojo, July 2003

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Mojo
Mojo Classic

Magazines
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Hello, Goodbye

Bruce Thomas and Elvis Costello

Johnny Black

First they shared a band, rooms and an outlook on life. Then the harmony gave way to glares of "shit-eating death."

Hello

June 5, 1977 — I answered an advert in the Melody Maker saying "Rocking pop combo needs bass player." I rang up Stiff Records and this woman answered. I heard this voice in the background saving, "Ask him who he likes." I said, "Steely Dan and Graham Parker" and the voice said, "Get rid of him." And that was Elvis.

The audition was in Putney. They were in brothel creepers and drainpipes, I was in earth shoes and flares. 1 got a lot of disparaging looks. My first impressions of Elvis were of a very intense guy trying hard not to make eye contact. Stand-offish, aloof, very sweaty. The first album wasn't out yet, but I'd bought the singles and learned to play "Alison," "Red Shoes," "Less Than Zero" pretty well, but pretended I was learning them. It was a good ploy until they started doing songs I'd never heard before and I couldn't get them quite so quickly.

Elvis and I got on really well. We shared a room for ages. We were very similar in a lot of respects, quick-minded, fairly intense. I remember sitting in a restaurant in Amsterdam working our way through a bottle of 1961 Haut Briand. I was going On about how, "What England needs now is a new William Blake." Elvis said, "What England needs now is a new Jeremy Bentham." I knew then we had something in common.

Goodbye

September 15, 1996 — It's often said I was sacked for the things I'd written in my book The Big Wheel, but the real wedge between us was when Cait from The Pogues came on the scene. We used to call her Beryl because she looked like Beryl The Peril in the Beano, long and gawky. Then one day they were sitting on the bus together and were an item, and he was glaring at me with this shit-eating death look.

There was a meeting before we started King Of America in 1985 — he was going through an identity crisis when he decided he was Declan McManus again, not Elvis Costello. The Attractions disbanded, but drifted back gradually and did Brutal Youth in 1994. During that album we became matey again. It rattled along for a couple of years, then went weird again. The defining moment was a gig in Spain in 1996. He was doing "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" and, in the middle, I played a little blues lick. Next day he said, "I don't want you camping it up on-stage any more." He said the classic line, "There's only room for one star on that stage."

He came up to me at the end of the tour. I said, "Whenever," and he said, "Whenever." There was no thank you, no goodbye. The Hall of Fame induction [March 10, 2003] was the first time we'd seen each other for nearly seven years. When he launched into "one day you'll have to face the deep dark truthful mirror" I thought, Yeah, but when are you going, to do that? He's not in a position to say those things to anybody, I don't think he's done it himself.

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Mojo, No. 116, July 2003


Johnny Black interviews Bruce Thomas.

Images

2003-07-00 Mojo page 154.jpg
Page scan.


2003-07-00 Mojo photo 01.jpg
Photo.


2003-07-00 Mojo cover.jpg
Cover.

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