Record Mirror, July 23, 1977

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Record Mirror

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Punching cards to punchy rock

Wally Weely talks to Elvis Costello

Wally Weely

A fortnight ago the young man in the sombre suit punched his last computer programme, collected his final pay packet and, waving goodbye to Acton, he stepped onto the tube train for his last rush hour.

Yep, a fortnight ago Elvis Costello gave up his day job to become a real live pop star. It was a scene from every young man's dream. Keep It As A Hobby Productions "went professional" and Elvis Costello hit the road.

But, as you can see, he didn't hang up his suit, throw away his tie and start growing his hair long. Neither did he turn to safety pins and black plastic bin liners.

Elvis Costello follows no trends. He's an Individualist who dresses like he chooses and speaks his mind at all times.

"Yeah. I'm just me. I'm not part of any movement There isn't any category you can shove me under."

Same goes for this angry young man's music too. His songs are fiery and intense but mysterious too. They have a flavour all their own. Costello scorns yer heavy metal monsters like Led Zeppelin and cracks up over technoflash kings like ELP or Yes. And in an Irish accent as fervent as the Clash's Joe Strummer, Elvis ridicules the new wave too.

"They've all got the same songs, these bands, you know. One about your generation and one about being bored and so on. It's like a formula. I'm not into that I listen to everything from country music to jazz, and I'm influenced by everything I hear. No one song of mine is representative of my style. Every one is different."

That sounds like a refreshing change from all those bands nowadays who pump out the same song for two sides of an album, wouldn't you agree? But that very same variety caused young Elvis not a few heartaches. He couldn't find a record company prepared to sign him up.

"My songs just didn't sound like other songs in the charts. And record companies are so unimaginative they thought that meant they could never be hits themselves."

All except Stiff Records' Jake Riviera who, with characteristic foresight, recognised the potential in Elvis Costello's work. He put the young troubadour into the studios with producer Nick Lowe and various members of that American blue-eyed soul outfit Clover. And Costello's angry bark and two of his biting songs "Less Than Zero" and "Radio Sweetheart" came out as a single back in the spring.

A touch of reggae here, some roaring R&B there, both were good beaty pop songs with strong and thoughtful lyrics. Elvis Costello drew favourable comparisons with such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Graham Parker.

And also came in for a lot of criticism. Many said he was just too derivative.

"That was a real disappointment. I knew how unimaginative the business was ... but I didn't realise the media would be just as bad. It seems like there's a new game critics play now. It's called 'spot the influence'. People seem to listen to what a record sounds LIKE, not what it sounds OF. They forget that songs are as much about the lyrics as they are about the music, and they don't listen to the words.

"I don't write instrumentals, I write songs that mean something and are an event. Anybody with any imagination at all can see that And I don't sound like anybody else either. I sound like me. I'll argue the toss with anybody you like that I sound like me."

An explosive character, I bet Elvis Costello gave his workmates a hard time when "Less Than Zero" came out and sank like a stone. But let's hope they'll give him a second chance when his debut album is released on Stiff at the end of next week. Called My Aim Is True it features his second single (a tender love ballad "Alison," now deleted, and his third 'Red Shoes'. It has drawn rave reviews on the grapevine already.

And for those who prefer to see their heroes live and in the flesh, Elvis Costello starts touring next week too, backed by his brand new band The Attractions playing and singing with all the conviction of a man who knows he's going to be a star attraction himself before the summer's through.

Which is all rather a far cry from punching computer cards in Acton, wouldn't you say?

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Record Mirror, July 23, 1977


Wally Weely profiles Elvis Costello.


Chris Rushton reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Friday, July 15, 1977, Woods Centre, Plymouth, England.


Record Mirror reports on upcoming tour dates.

Images

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Elvis Costello

Plymouth

Chris Rushton

1977-07-23 Record Mirror page 17 clipping 02.jpg

It could have been the Cavern in Liverpool more than 10 years ago. The group with the fragile young faces wore ties, starched collars and short stylised haircuts.

But it's 1977 in Woods, Plymouth, and it is Elvis Costello and his band playing so-called new wave music.

Elvis looks like a slightly stroppy creep of a school prefect — the type that gets beaten up after school hours. But once on stage he takes over the minds and the eardrums, of the audience without ever resorting to clever tricks or smooth talking between numbers.

Every song is rattled out efficiently and effectively with only the barest pause for loud applause. This machine-like performance is not without atmosphere as each song blends with those that came before and unnecessary chat would spoil the climax the group build for.

The music reminds me more of a roughened up Gerry and the Pacemakers than the Sex Pistols … and that's not an insult.

It's difficult to label Costello — and that's always a good sign for any act — but he kept flashing up images of what used to be known as rhythm `n' blues in the days of the Cavern.

True he has added more than a little to it — tight lyrics, smooth aggression and a lot more power — but the old beat 'n' swing is still there.



Elvis finally hits Britain


Record Mirror

Elvis hits the road in Britain this month: Elvis Costello that is, the UK singer / songwriter who last week gave up his full time job to pursue his musical career.

Backing Elv, will be The Attractions: Peter Thomas drums, Bruce Thomas bass and Steve Mason keyboards.

Dates are: Manchester Arches July 21, London Dingwalls 26, Hope and Anchor 27, Huddersfield Poly 29, Liverpool Erics 30, Coventry Mr Georges August 4, Middlesbrough Rock Garden 5, Redditch Tracys 6, London Nashville 7, 14, 21 and 28 and September 4, Plymouth Castaways 23, Scarborough Penthouse 26, Dudley JBs 27, Edinburgh Tiffanies 31, Falkirk Maniqui Ballroom September 1.

His latest single "Red Shoes" is released by Stiff on July 29, off his album My Aim Is True.


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