Q, June 2016

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Elvis Costello

"Without my glasses on I look like a murderer"

Paul Stokes

How bad eyes and gappy teeth shaped the singer-songwriter

When was the last time you went to Chelsea?

I saw Liverpool get beaten there a few years ago. Funnily enough, in the late '60s I used to go just to see football. Fulham one week; Chelsea the next, because I lived in Twickenham [South West London]. At Fulham you could support the away team for a laugh, Chelsea I wouldn't have tried that, there were girls there you wouldn't want to fight. But I'd go, just to see a game.

When was the last time someone called you Declan?

All my family call me that and some friends. Not my band, they've always called me EC. I don't respond when strangers walk up and use it, trying to be familiar. It's for people who knew me before I had the other identity.

When was the last time you drank R White's Lemonade?

I don't think I ever drank it actually! They didn't send it round after the advert [Costello and his dad sang on the theme tune to the R White's advert]. It's really curious how that ad keeps coming up. Only a handful of those jingles have survived, like Shake n' Vac, and I happen to sing backing vocals on one of them! My dad used to sing a lot of ads, for him it was another day in the office, but for me it was a bit of luck. I was 17 and they needed that kind of voice. To be honest, it wasn't much but the cheque was handy a few times between '73 and '78.

When was the last time you lost your glasses?

It's embarrassing but I'm always doing that. My eyesight is peculiar in that I can read without them but because I'm short-sighted I stare when I look ahead. Without them I look like I should be on a post office wall: "Have you seen this man?" I look like a murderer. Usually, I'll have been reading and they'll be on top of my head.

When was the last time you cooked a meal for someone?

It was dinner for my lads, my nine-year-olds. Salmon, I think. My wife [singer Diana Krall] is probably a better cook but she's on tour at the moment. Although it's not like there's two urchins with their noses pressed up against the glass going: "When's mum coming home?" I get by as a cook. I've never poisoned anybody... unless it was on purpose! [Laughs]

When was the last time you asked someone for their autograph?

I asked Gregory Peck for his autograph when I was about 10. He was filming in the local park. He was very nice. I think it was Arabesque with Sophia Loren.

When was the last time you went to the dentist?

I didn't go for years and I lived to regret it, but now I'm pretty good. They ask if you're going to get that new smile, but it's not going to happen! If I did that it would change the way I sound. The gap in your front teeth affects the way you sing, a lot of air goes through it. Think about [other gap-toothed singers] Ray Davies and Jane Birkin, Madonna too. When you think Madonna, you think me! [Laughs] Actually, she says she learnt to play the drums by playing along to "Pump It Up"! You didn't know that, did you?

Elvis Costello plays four nights at London's Palladium, starting 10 May.

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Q, No. 359, June 2016

Paul Stokes interviews Elvis Costello.


2016-06-00 Q page 130.jpg
Photo by Mary McCartney.

2016-06-00 Q cover.jpg


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