Though he has many virtues, Elvis Costello has not won renown for his social grace. Therefore it was rather surprising to see him on national television early Wednesday morning on the Tomorrow Coast-to-Coast show chatting away with Tom Snyder.
Costello's last-minute appearance was only his second time on American network television since the English songwriter and singer first arrived back in 1976. In 1977 he made a memorable debut on Saturday Night Live during a performance that truly tested the "live" aspect of that show. Costello didn't much like the song he and his backup group the Attractions had been coaxed to play by the record and television people, so eight bars in he stopped and said, "there's no reason you should have to listen to this song ladies and gentlemen," and then launched into the acerbic "Radio, Radio." That move infuriated the show's technical crew because it completely threw off all the pre-arranged camera cues.
"They told me I'd never appear on this network again," recalled Costello, "but here I am." And indeed there he was, affable and dressed to the hilt in a spiffy three-piece suit. In the past Costello has been branded as an unruly talent, but during his recent tour of the U.S., he has seemed much more relaxed.
In answer to Snyder's question, Costello referred to his past behavior, which he attributed to the pressures involved in starting a career. "You get 20 years to do the first album," he said. "But the next one has to be done in six months and it's a load."
Snyder seemed somewhat apprehensive at the start of the interview, possibly because his last meeting with an iconoclastic British pop star ended in an on-camera wrangle with the testy John Lydon. By the end of this 15-minute segment. however, Snyder was oozing friendship.
In addition to talking Costello and the band played two songs from their newly released sixth album Trust. In particular, the version of "Watch Your Step" was excellently performed. Costello opened his section of the program with the ballad "New Lace Sleeves."