New Musical Express, July 30, 1977

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Elvis Costello: The king arrives alive

Nick Kent

Elvis Costello / Island Records

Not really yer actual bona fide gig review, this, seeing as the geezer and 'is combo were only playing in the Island video room for a bunch of Island reps who were there for a single ganders at what they're actually peddling into all those record stores out in the sticks.

But then again, our El put on the best show I've seen since Talking Heads at the Roundhouse — and, God, he's just so damnably good that if you're going to get all the usual superlatives rammed down your brain-plate on this latest hot property, then it might as well be me who's doing it to you.

Anyway, Costello's younger than you thought (only 22, one year older than Johnny Rotten as it happens), he's not too flashy, plays great sparse guitar, and he's got all these amazing self-penned songs going for him. The stuff from the album is great as it is — and it's even better when you hear it live because the band is really hot.

Former Chilli Willi drummer Pete Thomas does not merely keep a rock-steady beat, but he adds all these embellishments which perpetually take it away from routine, while former Quiver bassist Bruce Thomas (no relation) is the perfect sympathetic counterpart.

That just leaves an organist, Steven Young, who looks like Costello's brother and who plays in an eminently suitable, particularly Doors-like style, both understated and very, very sinister — the perfect accompanying tool for Costello's often peculiarly sinister songs of revenge and guilt.

Stand-outs from the Aim collection on this showing were "Blame It On Cain" (featuring Costello's only real guitar solo), "The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes" and "Waiting For The World To End" — but, God, each song has something going for it.

Better by far, though — and this is what really excited me — is the new stuff, principally the three closing numbers, which brought the performance to a riveting climax. This triumvirate — the tortured reggae "Watching The Detectives," the intense "Lipstick Vogue," and finally "Lip Service" — take Costello's already exceptional talents onto a whole new level of intrigue.

"Watching The Detectives," for example, is a song about a couple watching Starsky And Hutch until the guy notices his girlfriend has forsaken him totally for the TV action, and he promptly kills her. It's absolutely loaded with brilliant lines and couplets that simply jump out and bedazzle.

Forget all those Springsteen comparisons — the latter'll die before he ever writes anything half as good as this.

Forget the Van Morrison schtick too. They're worlds apart, and Elvis is currently worlds better if A Period Of Transition is Morrison's best form.

The amazing thing is that after the "Detectives" epiphany, Costello simply outdoes himself first with "Lipstick Vogue," full of pained, vengeful longing and a sudden, stuttering, single-note guitar solo break that says it all — and finally "Lip Service." "That's all you'll get from me," he screams; this is a song of vengeance in the classic "Positively Fourth Street" tradition.

Hearing it just reminded me how long it's been since rock songs have been that sharp, that great.

Oh, and forget that "Balladeer of the New Wave" nonsense some fool in the comics tried to stick him with last week. When all the self-conscious new-wavers are drowning, Elvis will be on top. No shit.

Like he says in "Detectives," it just "takes his little fingers to blow you away".

Free album offer untainted by corruption shock

Phil McNeill


Stiff Records are beginning to realise the truth of Friedrich Plato's old adage: "Folks is so paranoid these days it's easier to sell 'em diamond-studded safety pins than to give 'em free records."

After all the shit Stiff ran into on the free Damned single, wouldn't you that their letest brainwave whereby they give free Elvis Costello albums away would hit trouble at the starting gate?

The scheme: the first 1,000 copies of Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True LP contain a "Help Us Hype Elvis" leaflet.

You fill it in, send it to stiff, and they mail out an album gratis to the lucky recipient of your choice.

The scam: according to "a source," most of the 1,000 were sent for export, and most of the remainder were scarfed up by Bizarre Records.

Bizarre were unobtainable to comment on this accusation, which, if true, would seem to imply that they, possibly in collusion with Stiff, had grabbed the goodies in order either to sell 'em at inflated prices or use the vouchers themselves, or just have a more desirable product on their shelves.

Jake Riviera of Stiff, however, instantly sprang to Bizarre's defence, "We've had a very good relationship with Bizarre for ages. They're not in it to clean up."

In fact Stiff printed up to 1,200 leaflets in order to cater to the odd 200 who'll probably buy the album and not take up the option on the freebie. 700, Jake says, went to Virgin Records for nationwide distribution. Of the rest, some went to Bizarre, others elsewhere.

He certainly denies that even a substantial amount have been sent abroad. "Elvis Costello isn't exactly enormous in Belgium. If this person waits two weeks he can come round and see the forms that have been returned. We've had seventy replies already.

"Free records are just too much aggravation."

One thing, though: as Stiff shipped 11,000 copies of the album in the UK the instant it was released, might it not have been fairer to people if they could tell before buying whether they were getting an album with or without the free offer?

<< >>

New Musical Express, July 30, 1977

Nick Kent reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Fri., July 22, 1977, Island Records, London.

Phil McNeill reports on the "Help Us Hype Elvis" promotion. (page 10.)

Nick Kent interviews Nick Lowe. (pages 24-26.)

NME details upcoming appearances. (page 4.)


1977-07-30 New Musical Express cover.jpg page 39 page 4
Cover and clippings.

Attractions of the other Elvis


page 4

Elvis Costello and the Attractions are currently on tour to promote their new album My Aim Is True on the Stiff label. And there have been four changes in their date sheet, listed in last week's NME. Their gig at Liverpool Eric's is switched from this Saturday to next Tuesday (2), while Plymouth Castaways moves forward one day to August 22. They have new bookings at High Wycombe Nags Head (tonight, Thursday) and Swindon The Affair (August 15). The band comprises (left to right) Steve Mason, Elvis Costello, Pete Thomas and Bruce Thomas.

pages 24-25
Page scans.

The Rockpile Tapes

Nick Kent

page 26

Dave Edmunds has had his definitive quote on Nick Lowe's talents down pat for a long while now. "There are loads of guys around in bands or whatever writing songs" – he opines with a rather fetching theatrical dogmatism – "but Nick Lowe is a songwriter. In the classic sense."

He'd stated it in our first interview over four months ago when Rockpile, Edmunds' self-confessed dream band featuring Nick Lowe on bass, Terry Williams ex of Man on drums, and a stocky unknown quantity called Billy Bremner on second guitar, had been given an albeit modest consummation: the obligatory smallprint news-story backed up be a string of UK club dates designed to flex the corporate muscles before the masterplan was set into traction, namely a prestigious support-place on Bad Company's three-month American tour.

And even now, when Lowe has suddenly thrown the switch on this ensemble's...

Remaining text and scanner-error corrections to come...

Photos by Chris Gabrin.
1977-07-30 New Musical Express photo 02 cg.jpg 1977-07-30 New Musical Express photo 01 cg.jpg


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