Who, May 2, 1994

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Talking with... Elvis Costello


B.D.

Over the past 17 years, Elvis Costello (né Declan McManus) has become accustomed to people believing they know what is best for his career. But when English journalist Tony Parsons savaged The Juliet Letters — the 1993 album Costello recorded with the classically trained Brodsky Quartet — the 38-year-old London singer-songwriter was livid and hit back with a dipped-in-poison open letter to Parsons's editor. "He dragged the musicians from the quartet into a squabble with me, and that was unfair," reasons Costello. "These people were not equipped for this mysterious world of pop bitchiness."

Costello's reaction was one of life imitating art: In his early days, he explained that his songs were motivated by only two things — guilt and revenge. His albums leap-frogged in style from country (Almost Blue) to peppy soul pop (Get Happy!) to classic acoustic songwriting (The King of America). But after two sabbaticals from his long-time collaborators, the Attractions, Costello decided to record his latest album with their assistance. "The first day was a shambles," he says of the reunion. "Everyone was trying so hard to play well, but after that things came very quickly." The big surprise for fans was the return of bass player Bruce Thomas to the fold, as his biography, The Big Wheel, painted Costello in a less than flattering light.

"My initial reaction was that it was kind of sad," says Costello of the book. "But worse things have been said about me by people I don't know. I don't think it's worth not playing together over that."

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Who magazine, May 2, 1994


B.D. profiles Elvis Costello.

Images

1994-05-02 Who page 96 clipping 01.jpg
Photo by Amelia Stein.

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