North Texas Daily, February 1, 1978

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North Texas Daily
  • 1978 February 1

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Punk rock's Costello sells anger, music

Elise Knox

New cries of "We Want Elvis" are beginning to rise slowly across the nation. Only the "Elvis" resurgence does not refer to singer Elvis Presley, but to a pasty-faced nerd named Elvis Costello.

Costello, the latest punk rock import from England. performed to an over-capacity crowd of 400 at Faces in Dallas last Saturday night.

The performance was at least entertaining, and at most, an inspired but untalented attempt at music. I admit though, I did enjoy Elvis Costello immensely.

Costello's words and music are angry and, in some cases, decibels beyond actual hearing ability. On stage he wears a baggy brown suit, complete with skinny tie, black-rimmed glasses and loafers, as he spits and sweats onto the mic.

The crowd looked mild, in contrast to the ones viewing the Sex Pistols, the Ramones or Bowie. Most were young, moderately drunk, progressively getting more stoned and very impersonal.

Perhaps Costello has captured the quality to infect the masses with impersonal anger. Almost every song underlines anger with revenge.

According to Costello's Cinderella story, he began his career as a computer operator and song writer. After many refusals from recording companies, his first two singles, "Less Than Zero" and "Alison" appeared on the Stiff label.

Being turned down by the music companies didn't make Costello bitter. According to press releases, he was already bitter. "It was no shock to be confronted by these idiots," he said. "I didn't ever think that I was going to walk into a record company to meet all these fat guys smoking big cigars who'd say something like, 'Stick with me son, I'll make you a star.'"

Release of his album, My Aim Is True, publicity and concerts placed Costello into the public eye, and definitely into music news. Sounds and Melody Maker had him on their covers simultaneously, and Saturday Night Live featured him as a guest performer.

"There's nothing glamorous or romantic about the world at the moment," he said. "I don't attempt to express people's feelings, I'm not the arbitrator of public taste or opinion."

The feelings may be Costello's, mad and defiant, but they do reflect a public emotion. "Music has to get people," he said. "In the heart, or in the head, I don't care where, as long as it gets them."

Tags: FacesDallasThe AttractionsElvis PresleyThe Sex PistolsDavid BowieLess Than ZeroAlisonStiff RecordsMy Aim Is TrueSoundsMelody MakerSaturday Night Live


North Texas Daily, February 1, 1978

Elise Knox profiles Elvis Costello and reports on his concert with The Attractions, Saturday, January 28, 1978, Faces, Dallas, Texas.

Reader Greg Lange responds in a subsequent issue.


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North Texas Daily, February 14, 1978

Elivs Costello gains praise

Greg Lange

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Elvis Costello's Jan. 28 performance was hardly what I would call "an untalented attempt at music." It achieved its intended artistic purpose: to "get to the people." Everybody had a good time.

Costello has edited his music down to basic rock 'n' roll. The oppressive frivolities of scaring guitar leads and boring drum solos are unnecessary. The emphasis is on simple rhythm. The beat of the music is the essential force. This characteristic, also present in most punk rock. is performed by Costello without indulging in the various repulsive excesses of punk rock which give that form of music its unique appeal. Costello's music possesses what few, if any, punk rock bands have: subtlety and class. Elvis Costello is not a punk rocker, and such off-hand classification, typical of many ignorant critics, is sure to alienate potential fans.

The snobbish manner in which Knox wrote the review leads me to assume that she has no true feeling for and little first-hand knowledge of good rock music. The public has no need for cheap opinions.

Photo by Elise Knox.
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Page scans.


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