It now seems slightly odd that Elvis Costello first came to prominence in the summer of 1977 with My Aim Is True, which was was essentially a soft rock/ country-tinged album. Somehow, however, he managed to avoid being buried in the punk avalanche before achieving his well-documented run of hit singles and albums — quality always shines through.
Sadly, the internet is not awash with Elvis Costello websites. With all due respect, he's not as photogenic an artist as, for example, David Bowie — Costello's medium has always been his songs rather than his image. This is relevant for the hunter of Elvis in cyberspace: over the years I've noticed that the less image-driven an artist is, the fewer the number of websites there are devoted to them.
Start with the Armed Forces Webring, which consists of 13 sites, and the Elvis Costello Official Site, which is apparently the responsibility of Rhino Records, whose major re-issue campaign of Costello's back catalogue is set to go right into 2003. The site isn't fully developed yet and at the moment its main aim is, unsurprisingly, to promote the reissues. However, I'm not going to condemn it as another one of those boring official sites: Rhino has for many years now been synonymous with quality releases, and their own website is pretty good too. If they can carry this quality over into EC's website, then it'll be a good 'un.
It's my belief that every substantial artist deserves one mega-information site — a 'Teenage Wildlife' or 'Nick Cave Collector's Hell'. In Costello's case, The Elvis Costello Home Page fulfils this role. A word of warning though — I had problems with the index page and an inability to link to the other pages within the site. Using the URL listed below should avoid these problems; a new one is on the way. Anyway, it's the definitive site, regularly updated with news and the now de rigueur gig history, dating back as far as 1972 when Costello was a member of Rusty and then Flip City.
The discography of both official and unofficial releases is massive: it's easy to forget that Costello's labels have issued a bewildering number of promo items and packaging variations over the years. There's also material on musical allusions, television and radio appearances and so on.
Where to surf to next? There are three other sites well worth checking out. Firstly Real Life Becomes A Rumour demands attention. Judging by the URL it seems to be connected in some way to the last site: there haven't been many recent updates, but the site still contains a welter of good stuff, particularly on the plethora of live Costello tapes. Bright Blue Times is another excellent site, which scores high on the eye-candy scale. There are some interesting insights into Costello's oeuvre, including some by the man himself.
An added bonus is that the site successfully manages to steer clear of the usual features found on in-depth websites. Finally, among the A-grade sites I should mention Beyond Belief, from the fanzine of the same name, which sadly ceased publication in March this year. However, the online edition is still going strong and remains highly recommended for all the latest on Costello's activities.
In my humble opinion, the B-list consists of the following sites, all of which are good in their own way, but which lack the in-depth feel of the aforementioned sites. The Elvis Costello Discography can be viewed as HTML or in boring old text format: it's now a little out of date, not having been updated since 1999, when the project was incorporated into The Elvis Costello Home Page. Elvis Costello Online is also a pretty good site, with up-to-date news, and The Stamping Ground contains a good selection of articles, a picture gallery, interviews in Real Audio format and desktop themes.
There are also a handful of sites specialising in specific areas of Costello's career. Flip City — The True Story is an attempt to put the record straight regarding Costello's pre-fame stint with the band, following inaccuracies in the music press and certain biographies. The site also includes a handful of sound files.