Record Collector, September 1983

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Record Collector


Elvis Costello

Peter Doggett

A complete guide to his British and American releases, promos, and rarities

Elvis Costello has come a long way since My Aim Is True in 1977. Then he was the archetypal angry young man, pouring out songs of revenge, self-hatred and guilt, and taking the image onto stage with him. Anyone lucky enough to catch his live show in the first year after he signed with Stiff was treated to a breathless exhibition of violent rock and roll, often lasting no more than 40 minutes but of such an intensity that it left his audiences exhausted.

Since then, subdued by a couple of unfortunate twists in his personal life which were the direct result of his quick rise to stardom, Costello has matured, so that by the end of 1981 he could be found on stage with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, recording in Nashville, or turning out exquisite ballads ideally suited for Frank Sinatra. Along the way, he was become established as perhaps the most consistent pop songwriter in Britain today, with a loyal following sufficient to take his every release straight into the charts.

At times he has moved too far away from the pop mainstream to rival the sales of Duran Duran or Kajagoogoo; but unlike most of his contemporaries he seems to be building a long term career, conducted on his own terms, which should see him still at the top of his profession when the rest of the New Wave is just an entry In the rock encyclopedias.

His personal involvement with his record company ever since he left Stiff in 1978 has enabled him to keep a strict control over the way in which his material has been released, so that there have been none of the quick buck greatest hits albums or glut of singles from any one LP which many artists have had to suffer. Almost every one of his singles contains material not previously released on album; almost all of his LPs check in at more than forty minutes of music; and his determination not to be swayed by commercial considerations has meant that even his most esoteric recordings have been released.

For every "Oliver's Army" or "Watching The Detectives" which has made the Top Twenty, Elvis has released a "New Amsterdam" or "Man Out Of Time," songs which although not instant successes have to be rated by many as amongst the most significant of the past six years.

This month we have complied a complete listing of all Costello's U.K. releases, together with notes which detail their American equivalents, together with information about reissues, compilations and promos – the last category containing at least one item (A Conversation With Elvis Costello) that ranks with the best of his work. Where singles have been issued with picture sleeves, values have been given for records with and without their covers. All prices refer to the original release of each item, with its original packaging – which occasionally, as with the This Year's Model and Get Happy albums, involves covers and record labels which are not printed correctly. Values have been listed for the most notable promotional items, and a rough rule-of-thumb guide for the rest is around £15 for a U.S. 12" promo, and £6 for a U.K. 7" issue.


Stiff BUY 11
Less Than Zero / Radio Sweetheart (March 1977; PS)...£8/£4

Produced by Nick Lowe, Elvis' first single failed to make the charts, despite a live promotion campaign from Stiff. The A-side reappeared (in a remixed form) on the My Aim Is True as well as on the A Bunch Of Stiff Records compilation the following month and the 1st Heroes And Cowards album (Stiff SEWL 1000). The flipside was remixed for the Greatest Stiffs compilation later in 1977, and reappeared on the Ten Bloody Marys cassette in Britain and the Taking Liberties album in America.

Stiff BUY 14
Alison / Welcome To The Working Week (May 1977; PS) ...£7/£3

Another Lowe-produced flop, which to date has been Costello's most covered song — notably by Linda Ronstadt on her Living In The USA album. (Ronstadt also covered a clutch of Elvis songs on the Mad Love LP In 1980). "Alison" was remixed with an added synth string section for American single release, appearing three times as an A side: Columbia 3-106. backed by a live version of "Miracle Man"; 3-10705, with "Watching The Detectives"; and a Hall of Fame single, 13-33401, coupled with "Accidents Will Happen." Both songs came from the My Aim Is True LP.

Stiff BUY 15
(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes / Mystery Dance (July 1977) ...£2.50

The only Costello single to date issued without a picture sleeve completed a trio of chart non-contenders. Again, both songs were from My Aim Is True, with "Mystery Dance" joining "Alison" on the Heroes And Cowards compilation.

Stiff BUY 20
Watching The Detectives / Blame It On Cain / Mystery Dance (October 1977, No. 15;PS) ...£5/£l.75

"Detectives," Costello's first chart entry, appeared in at least three different sleeves a colour picture cover, a plain Stiff sleeve and the now very rare (worth about £8) telephone directory cover, which consisted of a chunk of the London phonebook with the Stiff Records number highlighted. The single was also issued on a promo (BUY200J), which coupled long and short versions of the A-side, while some promos also apparently had different takes of the live songs on the flipside. Excerpts from "Detectives," "Alison" and "Red Shoes" appeared on a Stiff promo single (FREEB 2), together with parts of nine other Stiff releases, linked by Les Prior.

That single now sells for about £15. Finally, all four Stiff singles were repackaged twice: once as an Elvis Costello four pack (GRAB 3), and again as part of a boxed set of singles BUY 11 to BUY 20. This was issued in a first pressing of 5000 copies in a brown box, and then made available indefinitely. Later pressings carry the words "Made In England" on the labels. The "Detectives" single was reproduced intact in America, as Columbia 1-10896.

Radar ADA 3
(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea / You Belong To Me (March 1978, No. 16;PS) ...£4/£l.75

Radar Records was a breakaway from the Stiff organisation, formed by Jake Riviera specifically to handle Costello, Nick Lowe and the Yachts. Both tracks on this first Elvis single for the label came from the forthcoming This Year's Model LP. "Chelsea" also appears on the "That Summer" soundtrack LP (Arista SPART 1088) along with "Watching The Detectives," and on the "Americathon" LP alongside "Crawling To The USA" (CBS 70172, Oct 1979).

Radar ADA 10
Pump It Up / Big Tears (June 1978, No. 24, PS) ...£4/£2

The A-side came from This Year's Model, while the B-Side appeared later on Ten Bloody Marys and Taking Liberties, besides making an appearance on a U.S. Columbia promotional double set, "Breaking The Rules" (CBS A25-881) in 1980. Columbia issued just one single from the This Year's Model LP: "This Year's Girl"/"Big Tears" (1-10762).

Radar ADA 24
Radio Radio / Tiny Steps (October 1978, No 29; PS) ...£5/£2

The 7" picture sleeve of this release is now quite rare, but rarer still is the 12" promo, only a few hundred of which are rumoured to have been pressed. A publicity statement that only a handful escaped, however, appears to have been slightly exaggerated and you shouldn't have to pay much more than £20 for a copy. Both songs are on the Ten Bloody Marys cassette. In America "Radio Radio" was coupled with Nick Lowe's "Cruel To Be Kind" and Mink De Ville's "Soul Twist" on a 12" Columbia promo, Now See Them Live (Col AS 443).

Radar ADA 26
American Squirm / Peace, Love And Understanding (October 1978 PS) ...£6/£3

This single was actually credited to Nick Lowe, but the B-side featured Elvis and the Attractions powering their way through Nick's old Brinsley Schwarz song. The flip reappeared on the U.S. Armed Forces LP and the British Ten Bloody Marys cassette.

Radar ADA 31
Oliver's Army / My Funny Valentine (Feb. 1979, No 2;PS) ...£3/£1

Elvis' biggest hit, taken from the Armed Forces album, was obviously felt to be too British-oriented to be issued in America, where his solo version of "Valentine" was coupled with "Peace, Love and Understanding" for a 7" promo single in red wax (Columbia AE7 1172). "Valentine" also appeared on Ten Bloody Marys and Taking Liberties.

Radar ADA 35
Accidents Will Happen / Talking In The Dark / Wednesday Week (May 1979 No.28; PS) ...£4/£2

The A-side taken from Armed Forces, was coupled with two songs that had been issued on a special Radar single (RG1), given free to members of the audience at Elvis' shows at the Dominion in London in December 1978, and in New York in January 1979. RG1, issued in a picture sleeve, now sells for about £8. "Accidents" was released In two different picture sleeves in the U.K., and also appeared in the States backed by "Sunday's Best" (3-10919).

F-Beat XX 1
I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down / Girls Talk (January 1980, No, 4;PS) ...£3/£1.50

This single was originally planned for the 2-Tone label (TT7), and many thousand copies were pressed up. Originally only a few leaked out to the public, but later copies were given away free at gigs, and so the value of the item has dropped to about £15. In the U.S. the single appeared on Columbia 1-11194, and again as the A-side on an EP (1-1125l pic. sleeve) which also included "Secondary Modern" and "King Horse" from Get Happy.

F-Beat XX 3
High Fidelity / Getting Mighty Crowded (4/80 no. 30, PS) ...£3/£2

"High Fidelity" appeared with two different F-Beat label designs, as well as in promotional form as XX 3-A, with both sides featuring identical versions (and label designs) of the A-side.

F-Beat XX 3T
High Fidelity / Getting Mighty Crowded / Clowntime Is Over (April 1980, 12'; PS) ...£4

Elvis' first 12" featured the track, from the 7" plus a slow version of "Clowntime" from the Get Happy LP. Both flipside tracks appeared on the Ten Bloody Marys compilation tape.

F-Beat XX 5
New Amsterdam / Dr Luther's Assistant (6/80, no. 36. PS) ...£2/£1
F-Beat XX 5E
New Amsterdam / Dr Luther's Assistant / Ghost Train / Just A Memory (June 1980, PS) ...£3
F-Beat XX 5P
tracks as above (June 1980, picture disc) ...£5

The four tracks on the EP, two of which were issued on a budget-priced single, were basically solo Costello recordings, far removed in form and style from most of his previous work. The EP featured a picture cover based around Sal Forlenza's painting "Jazz City Opus 1958," while the picture disc featured a shot of Costello cuddling a bunch of tulips. The first 1500 copies of the pic. disc were issued with a black rim, and are accordingly more valuable. In America "New Amsterdam" was coupled with "Wednesday Week" as a straightforward single (Columbia 1-11284), followed up by "Getting Mighty Crowded"/"Radio Sweetheart" as a taster for the Taking Liberties album.

F-Beat XX 12
Clubland / Clean Money / Hoover Factory (December 1980, No.60;PS)

The strongest track from the Trust LP failed to set the charts ablaze, despite the bonus of two unreleased songs, soon to be included on the Ten Bloody Mary. and Taking Liberties compilations. "Clean Money" was remodelled to become "Love For Tender" on Get Happy. In America the single from Trust was "Watch Your Step"/"Luxembourg" (Col. 1-60519), also issued as a 12" promo with "Watch Your Step" on one side and a TV interview with Tom Snyder on the other. Copies sell for around £15.

F-Beat XX 14
From A Whisper To A Scream / Luxembourg (2181, PS). ...£3/£1.50

The second single from Trust became Elvis' first for almost four years not to make the charts, despite an appearance on Jim'll Fix It to plug the A-side!

F-Beat XX 17
Good Year For The Roses / Your Angel Steps Out Of Heaven (September 1981, No. 6; PS) ...£2/£1

The first evidence of Costello's trip to Nashville in May 1981 to record with Columbia producer Billy Sherrill took him back into the Top Ten (ironically for a man renowned for his song writing, two of Elvis' three Top Ten hits have come with other people's songs). The single was issued in America on Columbia 18-02629.

F-Beat XX 19
Sweet Dreams / Psycho (December 1981. No. 42; PS) ...£2/£1.25

The second Nashville single tailed to live up to the success of the first, despite another non-LP flipside, recorded live at the Palomino Club in Los Angeles on February 16th 1979. Another live version of "Psycho" appeared on the Fundamental Frolics LP (BBC Records RED 435. issued In November 1981).

F-Beat XX 21
I'm Your Toy / Cry, Cry, Cry / Wondering (4/82, No. 51, PS). ...£2/£1
F-Beat XX 21T
I'm Your Toy / My Shoes Keep Walkin' Back To You / Blues Keep Calling / Honky Tonk Girl (April 1982, 12") ...£2.50

Elvis' third country single was recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall on January 7th 1982, with backing from the Attractions and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and was a version of a song he had originally recorded on the Almost Blue LP (renamed there, as here, from the correct "Hot Burrito No. 1" which was its original title when recorded by the Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969). In an interesting sales ploy, different out-takes from the Nashville sessions were used on the flip of the 7" and 12" singles, but little chart success resulted.

F-Beat XX 26
You Little Fool / Big Sister / The Stamping Ground (June 1982. No. 52; PS) ...£1.50/£1

The A-side came from the forthcoming Imperial Bedroom LP, while the other two tracks have yet to appear on album — although "Big Sister" was also included on NME's special offer Dancin' Master cassette. "The Stamping Ground" is credited to The Emotional Toothpaste.

F-Beat XX 28
Man Out Of Time / Town Cryer (July 1982. No. 58;PS). ...£1.25/£1

F-Beat XX 28T
Man Out Of Time / Town Cryer / Imperial Bedroom (7/82, PS) ...£2

Most critics agreed that "Man Out Of Time" was the strongest track on the Imperial Bedroom LP, but it still flopped, despite the issue of a promo single that featured a spoken intro to the full version of the song on one side, and an edited DJ mix on the other. "Town Cryer" was a (very) fast version of the ballad that closed the LP, while the third song on the 12" was an album title track, written after the LP was recorded! In America the 7" appeared as Col. 18-03202, though a 12" promo coupled the A-side with "Beyond Belief" (AS 1510).

F-Beat XX 30
From Head To Toe / The World Of Broken Hearts (September 1982, No. 43; PS) ...£1.25/£1

In apparent desperation, Costello returned to cover versions. The A-side was originally recorded by Chris Clark, though Elvis was more familiar with the Escorts' U.K. cover. The flip side is a Pomus / Shuman song which Elvis found on an Amen Corner LP.

A&M AMS 8267
Party Party / Imperial Bedroom (November 1982, No. 48, P8). ...£1

The change of label came because the A-side was the title track to a motion picture, the soundtrack LP to which appeared on A&M. Not wanting to give too much away, Elvis found an orchestral version of the flipside to make up the numbers.

Imp IMP 1
Pills And Soap / extended version (May 1983, No. 16) ...£1.50

Costello wanted this single out fast, while F-Beat was undergoing a change of distribution. Instead of waiting, he decided to form a new label, and issue this single as "The Imposter." Originally, the single was only going to be available for less than a week, but eventually nearly 150,000 copies were pressed — although it has now officially been deleted. It gave Elvis his biggest self-composed hit since "Oliver's Army." The song was remixed for his latest LP.

F-Beat XX 32
Everyday I Write The Book / Heathen Town (7/83, PS), ...£1.25
F-Beat XX 32T
Everyday I Write The Book / Heathen Town / Night Time (July 1983, PS) ...£2

Elvis' latest single is also the first from the Punch The Clock album to be issued under his own name. The flipside is an LP out-take, while the third track on the 12" is another old Escorts' number. The single has also been issued in 7" form in the U.S.A.

F-Beat XX 33
Let Them All Talk / The Flirting Kind (not yet released)

This is planned as Elvis' next single, although no release date has yet been set. The A-side comes from Punch The Clock, while the flip was only left off the LP at the last minute.


Stiff SEEZ 3
My Aim Is True (July 1977, No. 10) ...£4

Costello's first LP was launched with a special offer campaign that allowed the first 1000 buyers to get a copy sent free to a friend. Bert Muirhead, in his book Stiff: The Story Of A Record Label, reckons that there are at least eleven different cover variations for this album, which in one form or another is still available in the shops. The U.S. version of the album (Columbia JC 35037) had an extra track, "Watching The Detectives."

Radar RAD 3
This Year's Model (March 1978, with free single; No. 4) ...£8

The first 5000 copies of Elvis' first Radar LP came with a free single (Radar SAM 83), which contained Costello's "Stranger In The House" and a live rendition of the Damned song "Neat Neat Neat." The single now sells for about £4, and adds that much to the price of the basic album. At least some of the early pressings also came with the cover artwork out of alignment, so that part of the front cover design appeared on the back. Many copies also contained a message in the run-off grooves asking purchasers to ring a given telephone number for their special prize. The offer appears to have been a hoax. In America the album was issued on Columbia JC 35331 with "Radio Radio" taking the place of "Night Rally." When Radar folded in 1980, the album was reissued as F-Beat XXLP 4.

Radar RAD 16
Armed Forces (February 1979, with single & postcards, No. 2). ...£6

This album also came with a free single (SAM 90), which contained live versions of "Watching The Detectives," "Alison" and "Accidents Will Happen," recorded at Hollywood High in 1978. These three tracks also appear on a Columbia 12" promo, AS529, now selling for about £15. The British version of the album had a fold-open sleeve, and a set of postcards, besides the free single. The sleeve of the American album (Columbia JC 35709) sported a different, simpler cover, and replaced "Sunday's Best" with "Peace Love And Understanding." Like This Year's Model, Armed Forces was later reissued as F-Beat XXLP 5.

F-Beat XXLP 1
Get Happy (March 1980, with poster, No. 2) ...£4

Get Happy contained twenty soul-tinged tracks, and was perhaps Costello's strongest record to date. It came with a rather pointless free poster and a "pre-worn" sleeve. Many copies listed Side One on the sleeve as Side Two on the record, and vice versa. F-Beat issued a promo set of the LP, comprising two 45rpm, 12" singles, each featuring the songs off one side of the LP, and each having photo-copied descriptions of the contents pasted to the white sleeves. Sets now sell for around £30. In America the album appeared intact on Columbia JC 36347.

F-Beat XXC 6
Ten Bloody Marys & Ten How's Your Fathers (November 1980, cassette only) ...£5

In America, Columbia wanted to release a Costello compilation of rare B-sides, unreleased sides and EP tracks not available on album. In Britain, the twenty-track set appeared only as a cassette. Both collections gathered together all but a handful of the non-LP tracks issued to date, together with a couple of unreleased songs (which later appeared on singles). Because the first three Costello albums had had different track listings in the U.K. and U.S., the American album (Taking Liberties, Columbia JC 36839) contained "Sunday's Best," "Night Rally" and "Chelsea" in favour of the British "Radio Radio," "Watching The Detectives" and "Peace Love And Understanding." The Americans issued a 4-track 12" promo single from the LP (AS 847), while in Britain F-Beat pressed a 6-track 7" promo (EL-1).

F-Beat XXLP 11
Trust (January 1981, No. 9) ...£4

This album was issued intact in America as Columbia JC 37051. In Britain, F-Beat issued a 12" promo, 4 Tracks From The Trust LP, which contained "You'll Never Be A Man," "Pretty Words," "From A Whisper To A Scream" and "New Lace Sleeves." The last of these tracks also surfaced on a Texas radio promo (Q-102-EP).

F-Beat XXLP 13
Almost Blue (October 1981, No. 7) ...£4

At least four different-coloured sleeves were used for the surprisingly short album from the Nashville sessions, also issued in America as Columbia FC 37562. Early copies of the U.K. release came with a sticker warning narrow-minded people that they wouldn't like the album, while later issues carried a more boring "contains the hit singles" sticker. Promotional copies of the LP were issued both here (B.C. CHAT 1) and in America (Columbia AS 1318). These featured a drawing of the band by bassist Bruce Thomas on the front cover (almost all of which were autographed by Elvis and the group), and a track listing and DJ guide on the back of the sleeve. The actual promo LP came with Costello's brief spoken introductions to each song. Autographed copies have been selling for as much as £50. F-Beat also issued a very rough-looking (and sounding) promo EP, which featured four tracks: "Good Year For The Roses," "Colour Of The Blues," "Why Don't You Love Me" and "Sweet Dreams."

F-Beat XXLP 17
Imperial Bedroom (July 1982, No. 6) ...£4

Imperial Bedroom was the first Costello release outside Japan to include a lyric sheet although the design of the inner sleeve which carried the lyrics suggested that they weren't meant to be studied too academically. Greeted universally as Elvis' finest work, the album was promoted with a double-album press set, A Conversation With Elvis Costello (B.C. CHAT 2). This featured lengthy spoken introduction to each of the tracks on the album, spread over four 12" 33rpm sides. Unlike the Almost Blue promo, this set provided much insight into the way the songs had been written and recorded, and might even have been worth a full commercial release. Certainly, it's an absolutely essential item for Costello collectors, though you may have to pay more than £20 for a Mint set. The album was also issued in America as Columbia FC 38157.

F-Beat XXLP 19
Punch The Clock (August 1983) ...£4

The latest Costello album is his first to be issued by F-Beat through RCA rather than WEA; and the distributors, rather than F-Beat, put together a promo package of 2 45rpm green label LPs, no doubt destined for collectability in the future. Advance reports from the States suggest that this could be the album finally to break Elvis as a major artist in America.


Costello also appears on the following releases: "Stranger In The House" (Epic SEPC 8560, April 1980), a duet on Elvis' song with George Jones, which also appears on Jones' LP My Very Special Guests (Epic EPC 83163); That Summer (Arista SPART 1088), a film soundtrack including "Chelsea" and "Watching The Detectives"; Rock Against Racism's Greatest Hits (RAR 1, 1980), a compilation LP featuring "Goon Squad" from This Year's Model; The Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea (WEA K 60153, March 1981), the double album record of the benefit concerts held in London in December 1979, which includes Costello's live version of "The Imposter"; A Bunch Of Stiff Records (Stiff SEEZ 2) which features the single version of "Less Than Zero"; Hits Greatest Stiffs (Stiff FIST 1), featuring "Radio Sweetheart"; Live Stiffs Live (Stiff GET 1, reissued on MFP 50445 as Live Stiffs in a new sleeve), a live album which includes Elvis' renditions of "Miracle Man" and "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself," and an appearance as part of the ensemble for "Sex'n'Drugs'n'Rock'n'Roll" with Ian Dury.

Costello has also produced records for several artists. He co-produced the Squeeze album East Side Story with Roger Bechirian (A&M AMLH 64854), also making a cameo appearance on "Tempted"; and he also sings back-up on the band's "Black Coffee In Bed" single (like "Tempted," included on the compilation Singles 45s And Under). He produced the first Specials' LP (Specials, 2-Tone CDLTT 5001), and also worked last year with the Bluebells, producing their first single, and also two songs which appeared as a bonus 45 with their last release, Sugar Bridge. Finally, he worked with Robert Wyatt on the single "Shipbuilding" in 1982.

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Record Collector, No. 49, September 1983

Peter Doggett details Elvis Costello releases, promos, and rarities.


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