One half year ago Elvis Costello was a computer operator in London. This summer he was arrested for assembling his band outside the London Hilton Hotel and playing material from his debut album on Stiff Records for CBS recording executives. The Columbia officials were gathered for an annual corporate meeting, and evidently they liked what they heard; Elvis's record, My Aim is True, is now available on the Columbia label.
Elvis is entering the music business with many eyes following him. His first single, "Less than Zero," appeared on a Stiff sampler album. My Aim Is True followed shortly, and became a quickseller in England. The sound is R&B/rock 'n' roll of the Bruce Springsteen variety, and the tunes are crisp, original and very catchy. Until recently, the record was not easily found in America, as supplies from Stiff were limited and Elvis's word-of-mouth following snatched up available copies. His radio exposure in the Bay Area is good, thanks to extensive play on KSAN FM. The story at present is this Elvis has an excellent album, Columbia is behind him, and an American radio audience is waiting for him. This computer operator is in position for real success.
The man looks like a cross between Woody Allen and Sargent Bilco: short hair, oversized black horn-rimmed glasses, the usual suitcoat and rolled up jeans. His music is fifties rock 'n' roll with a seventies outlook. Lyrically, Costello expresses disappointment, frustration and real anger, as in "Watching the Detectives:"
"I don't know how much more of this I can take.
She's filing her nails
While they're dragging the lake.
She's watching the detectives:
Oh, it's so cute!
"Watching the Detectives," not found on the original Stiff album, was probably written after the record's first release and before the second Columbia issue. If you are planning to buy it, purchase a Columbia pressing, because this song is possibly the best on the record.
There are other standouts: "Less than Zero," "(The Angels Waste Wear My) Red Shoes," "Waiting for the End of the World," and "Welcome to the Working Weeks" are notables. The record has 13 songs, rather unusual these days, and they are all good. Costello sings of impotency, sexual frustration, personal tragedy and social disorder, and has a real flare for good rock lyrics:
I said, "I'm so happy I could die!"
She said, "Drop dead," and left with another guy.
That's what you get when you go chasing after danger...
If you haven't heard Elvis Costello yet, you should see to it. Maybe the next time you mention "Elvis" to a friend, he will answer "which one?"