Newcastle Evening Chronicle, December 17, 2014

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Newcastle Evening Chronicle

Newspapers
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The iconic singer-songwriter Elvis Costello
and his links to Newcastle


Graeme Whitfield

Graeme Whitfield tells how singer Elvis Costello’s classic hit, "Pump It Up," was written in a Newcastle fire escape!

Music fans of a certain vintage will be pleased to hear Elvis Costello’s 1978 hit "Pump It Up" getting a fresh outing as the music on a Save the Children TV advert encouraging people to wear Christmas jumpers.

What few will, perhaps, realise is the song’s connection to Tyneside – written "on a fire escape in Newcastle," as Costello tells fans whenever he plays in the North East.

Born Declan MacManus in London in 1954, Costello was the son of Ross MacManus, a musician who played with the Joe Loss Orchestra who found brief and unexpected fame as the voice of the R White’s Lemonade advert.

Declan had played in various folk and pub rock bands, but it was when he adopted his unusual new name and caught onto the coattails of the punk scene that he kickstarted a career in music that is still active nearly 40 years later.

Costello signed to the Stiff record label and set off with his new backing band, the Attractions, on the Live Stiffs tour with labelmates Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric and Ian Dury.

The tour became infamous for its sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll excess and it was after one particularly raucous gig at Newcastle Polytechnic that Costello wrote "Pump It Up" on a fire escape behind the old Swallow Hotel in Newcastle City Centre.

The song was performed for the first time on the next concert on the tour (at Lancaster), recorded shortly afterwards and released as the second single on Costello’s second album This Year’s Model.

"Pump It Up" got to Number 24 in the charts but has remained a favourite in Costello’s live set even as his music has expanded beyond the initial punk sound characterised, as he put it, by "anger and frustration."

Costello surprised many in 1981 by recording an album of country songs in and in a 38-year career has released 24 albums which have taken in jazz, soul, classical and even hip-hop.

He has written songs with many of his heroes — including Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach — and had his tunes recorded by many others, notably Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. He produced classic albums for The Specials, The Pogues and Squeeze and has even been known to try to his hand at acting (appearing the US sitcom Frasier as an untalented English folk singer).

Visits to Tyneside during his illustrious career have been many, with memorable concerts at the City Hall, the Tyne Theatre and the Sage Gateshead — almost always singing "the song written on a fire escape in Newcastle."

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Evening Chronicle, December 17, 2014


Graeme Whitfield profiles Elvis Costello and recalls how "Pump It Up" was written following a Nov. 4, 1977 show at Newcastle Polytechnic.

Images

2014-12-17 Newcastle Evening Chronicle photo 01.jpg
Elvis Costello on stage in 1980.

Elvis Costello at Newcastle Opera House, October 9, 2003.
2014-12-17 Newcastle Evening Chronicle photo 02.jpg

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