On Sunday, Elvis Costello played for Rock Against Racism. The night before, he and his entourage had engaged in some Rock Against Journalism.
A reporter sent to cover Costello's New Brighton warm-up gig prior to the carnival wound up with a broken wrist and five stitches in his head — the work, he claims, of Costello's manager Jake Riviera.
In a now familiar display of 'concern' for his charge, Riviera (ne Andrew Jakeman) demanded that all press be excluded from backstage after the gig. And after a heated exchange, Mike Simpson of the local Birkenhead News was trundled unceremoniously out of the superstar's sight.
Apparently, Simpson had been attempting to glean why the Great Man had decided to play a small town like New Brighton. Costello is rumoured to have lived in the area for some time, but the last contact he had with the unfashionable side of the Mersey was primary school.
In answer to what seemed to Simpson a fairly innocuous question, Riviera said that he did not like people with "long hair, velvet jackets, flared jeans... or hippies wearing plimsoles."
Further attempts by Simpson to be granted an audience were rewarded with a headlong flight down a staircase. The reporter later received treatment for a head injury requiring five stitches and a broken right wrist.
When questioned on the subject by Thrills, Riviera said: "Lots of people came backstage as they always do when you play small clubs. I asked one particular group of three people. 'Are you journalists?'
"They said they worked for a local paper and flashed NUJ cards all over the place. One of them said he worked for Record Mirror as well and wanted to ask Elvis some questions.
"I asked him to leave. He asked why, and I said we didn't do interviews. Elvis isn't doing interviews with anyone at the moment. Plus he was trying to talk to his mum at the time. I asked him to leave again.
"The people with him left, and he said he didn't want to get hurt, and I said he wouldn't get hurt if he would just leave.
"He said, 'I won't leave unless you give me a valid reason.' So I said, 'I don't like people with long hair'. He said that wasn't a valid reason. So I said, 'Here's a valid reason', and hit him.
"A few punches were thrown and then Elvis leaped in. Des Brown (Costello's tour manager) pulled Elvis off. He was saying, 'Ease off, champ'. The guy was just a pissed blockhead who wouldn't take 'No' for an answer."
And how exactly did Mike Simpson happen to find his way down that flight of stairs?
"I don't know, man. I was in the dressing room counting my teeth and making sure I still had all my bridgework. I'd just been punched in the mouth four times and I wasn't at my most alert."
A colleague of Simpson's denies that Riviera was punched four times. "There wasn't time," Eric Harwood — also of the Birkenhead News — told Thrills. Simpson has now taken a fortnight sick leave because he can't type with his arm in plaster, and is seeking legal advice.
This is not the first time local journalists, photographers or fanzine writers have complained of assaults backstage at Riviera's hands. Let's hope it is the last.