Elvis Costello

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It is widely known that Elvis Costello is a musical genius and those that disagree with such a nonrefutable fact are sad, sad people with no friends who can't get a date to save their life.

“Uh-huh, uh-huh, thank you. Thank'uh very muuuch.”

~ Elvis Costello thanking his dad Elvis Presley for all he taught him about music

Elvis Aloysius Costello Presley, Jr. (born 25 August 1954) is an English singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer who was at the forefront of the burgeoning punk, new wave, and ye olde pube rock movements of the mid-to-late 1970s. He is the son of singer Elvis Presley and actor Lou Costello, but the jury is still out on who exactly gave birth to Elvis Jr.

Early life[edit]

Proud parents: Lou Costello and Elvis Presley.

The son of Elvis Presley and Lou Costello, Elvis was born in Paddington, London, England no later than 1954. He was a natural-born singer and actor, receiving both talents from his parents, obviously. His very first showbiz performance took place in front of his childhood home, where Elvis Sr. built little Elvis Jr. a lemonade stand and a guitar. He then taught his son how to play the guitar, which brought in a lot more money than the lemonade sales did. Oftentimes both father and son would perform on their guitars. Meanwhile, Lou was in the kitchen preparing more lemonade, so he was usually running late for the show, and would have to ask the neighbors "who's on first?" because he didn't want to miss his highly talented son Elvis Jr.

In 1971, Elvis's parents divorced, so he moved to Windsor with Lou and decided to drop the "Presley Jr." part of his name. From then on he would be known only as Elvis Costello. He then formed a band called Rusty Nails Give You Tetanus, but when that failed, he formed a new band called Flip You Off in the City, but that ultimately failed too.

Costello quit school after he finished, and worked several odd jobs, the oddest of all being a perfume tester for Elizabeth Arden. The fumes made him high, and he frequently engaged in mindless thought, resulting in song lyrics that he wrote down and later put to music in his spare time when he was alone with his guitar. But all of that changed once he made a demo tape and gave it to Stiff Records. His recording of a song he wrote about his parents' divorce called "I'm Not Angry" caught the attention of his future manager, and the rest is history.


1977–79: Early classic period[edit]

Elvis Costello Presley, Jr. in his prime years.

“'What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?'!? ... Way to blow your street cred, pinhead.”

~ A punk rocker in response to Elvis Costello's slide into hippiedom

As soon as he wrote enough songs, Costello recorded a whole album called My Aim Is True and released it in 1977. The album made it to #14 in the UK, and became a Top 40 hit in the US, after enough copies had been smuggled into the country. Costello's first three singles, "Less Than Zero (And I'm Freezing My Ass Off)", "Alison", and "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes", all failed to chart, but his fourth single, "Watching the Vampiric Detectives (You Hired to Follow Me)", was a big hit and charted at #15 in the UK. Costello insisted on wearing only a pair of Elton John glasses on the My Aim Is True album cover and hence was arrested for indecent exposure during the photo shoot. His backing musicians, The Four-Leaf Clover Shamrocks, refused to strip for the photo shoot and left to join other bands such as Huey Lewis and the News, The Doobie Brothers, and Toto.

Later that year, Costello met three guys: Steve Nieve (piano), Bruce Thomas (bass), and Pete Thomas (drums; no relation to Bruce), who all worked as musical sideshow attractions at a circus. He asked them to be his new backup musicians and named them "The Attractions". Costello developed a love/hate/love/hate relationship with Bruce, which caused Elvis Costello and The Attractions to continuously break up and reunite and break up and reunite and break up and reunite until Elvis got bored with the whole thing and told Bruce to get lost. However, in the meantime they set aside their differences and made great records together.

In 1977, following the unfortunate death of his father Elvis Presley, Costello and his band were asked to appear on the TV show Saturday Night Live because the Sex Pistols had better things to do than play on SNL, and it was too late to find a replacement band. During their performance of "Less Than Zero", Costello forgot the lyrics and the band switched to a new song called "Radio Radio", which led to him being banned from SNL. Undeterred, Costello and The Attractions soldiered on with a worldwide tour of the United Kingdom and the United States. A live album titled Live at the El Mariachimambo was later released, featuring a variety of musicians, and included their cover of the old Burt Bacharach/Hal David standard "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself".

The following year, after recording a new album called This Year's Model, the band toured Australia. At the end of their concert in Sydney the band forgot to play an encore, and the stage was stormed by 573 kangaroos, 298 koalas, and 35 of the world's most dangerous snakes. The first single from the album, "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea", charted at #16 in the UK. You'd think this song was about nerdy-looking Costello's affair with a supermodel out of his league named Chelsea, but no, it was actually about Costello's involuntary childhood trips with his father to Chelsea, London, which didn't move him, even though he saw some good movies there.

In 1979, Costello recorded a third album called (Screw This, I Should Have Joined the) Armed Forces, which included the hit ABBA pastiche "Oliver's Army (Smoked Us Like Salmon)". Both the song and album hit #2 on the Blitzbop Network's Top 40; however, Costello went looking for trouble when he uttered the term "white nigger" (referring to the oppression of Irishmen during the ongoing Troubles) on "Oliver's Army", causing some radio stations to ban the song. Just a month later, Costello couldn't control himself and went looking for trouble again while on tour in Columbus, Ohio, where he got shit-faced drunk at the Holiday Inn and referred to James Brown as a "jive-ass nigger," then upped the ante by pronouncing Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant nigger." His white honky ass was swiftly kicked out of town, and he later apologized, explaining that he was simply an attention-seeker.

1980–82: Mid-classic period[edit]

Same album, different covers. The one on the left with the fake ring mark was released in the UK. It was originally sold like this in the US, but people there complained of a 'damaged cover'.

To show that he was sincere in his apology, Costello recorded another album called Get Happy!!. On a five-day speed binge, he experimented with various styles of musical clairvoyance whilst in a peak experience of ecstatic trance. His frantic skill of songwriting led him to create this infamous album with 20,000 songs on each side. No one was actually able to play this record on any turntable with the most advanced stylus in the known universe. This breakthrough vinyl record actually inspired a group of amphetamine-wired Japanese fans to invent the CD format. Costello released the song "Race Riot" as a single from the album; not many people were amused by this, so the only performance that he gave in 1980 was on a desolate street corner outside of London.

Costello's career took a plunge, but he continued to record more music, even after everyone stopped listening to it. The album Trust was released in 1981, along with the singles "Clubbedtodeathland", "Sweet Dreams", "You Betta Watch Yo Step, Bitch", and "From a Whisper to a Scream". These songs only sold four copies total and were never played on the radio, due to their alleged themes of domestic abuse. That year, being the attention-seeker that he is, Costello also managed to weasel his way into singing backup on the Squeeze song "Tempted".

Bored with the pop music scene, Costello released a country album entitled Almost Blue. The album was such a departure that it required the following warning sticker on the front: "WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause ear-bleeding to narrow-minded listeners." Thanks to this warning sticker, the album sold millions, and the song "My Goodyear Tires Ran Over Your Roses" reached #6 in Alberta. With this newfound popularity, Costello felt compelled to record even more albums. 1982's ImPeRiAlBeDrOoM, a concept album about a home invasion led by the stormtroopers from Star Wars, was a commercial failure despite its artistry.

1983–86: Late classic period[edit]

Imperial Bedroom's chart unsuccess prompted Costello to follow it up with a more commercially lucrative ska album, I'll Punch Your Clock, in 1983. It was produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley of Madness fame. The single "Everyday I Write the Little Black Book" became Elvis's first #1 hit song in the United States. Despite being in good spirits at this time, Costello also temporarily changed his name to The Imposter and recorded the unsubtly suicidal song "Eating Pills and Soap", perhaps hinting at what was to come.

In 1984, Costello recorded the album Goodbye Cruel World, whose title would become prophetic. Initially, he wanted the album to contain stripped-down folk songs, but made the mistake of hiring back the Madness guys and had them retool the album into a messness of cheesy '80s post-disco synths. Of note, the single "The Only Flame in Town" featured an ambitious crossover between Costello and Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates. Upon release, the album was considered the worst of Costello's career by everyone including himself, and Costello told Bruce Thomas to get lost for the last time. The final breakup with Thomas and the failure of Goodbye Cruel World left Costello feeling suicidal, and he announced his retirement from the music industry.

Instead of ending his life, Costello came out of his brief retirement and performed at the 1985 Live Aid benefit in England. He sang The Beatles' classic "All You Need Is Love", but changed the lyrics and retitled it "All You Need Is a Swift Kick to the Head" to keep the crowd from being able to sing along. Typical attention-seeker.

In 1986, Costello decided to make a comeback. He recorded a quasi-country album called I'm the King of America and decided to take advantage of his famous father's famous name by adding the "Presley Jr." to his name once again, along with a new randomly-chosen middle name, Aloysius. Hence from then on he would be known as Elvis Aloysius Costello Presley, Jr. Since Live Aid had been such a huge success, Costello performed his very own benefit concert, Self-Aid, to benefit himself. Typical attention-seeker.

Later that year, Costello reconvened with The Attractions for one last kick in the can at greatness and recorded the album Chocolate Blood, featuring the song "I Want You (She's So Heavy)". For this album, he temporarily changed his name to Napoleon Dynamite and recorded some songs under that name, after a psychic experience where he saw a movie of the same name eighteen years into the future.

1987–96: Really late post-classic period[edit]

Costello had made a strong comeback with Chocolate Blood but struggled to maintain the momentum thereafter. The Attractions deserted him once more, and he lost his recording contract with Columbia Records. In 1989, he signed a new contract with Warner Bros. and released the album Spike, dedicated to his dog; the single "Veronica" became his biggest US hit ever. Around this time, Costello dubbed himself "The Beloved Entertainer" during the great moniker gap in the late '80s. This was due to an overwhelming fear of Soviet-style monikers such as The King, The Boss, The Man in Black, and The No-Talent Hack I Can't Believe I Just Paid $150 to See Play Tired Pub Rock Songs and He Still Can't Sing!.

Costello then stopped shaving and spent the next two years growing a long beard, just for added attention, before recording his next album Mighty Like a Rose. It featured the hit single "Kiss from a Rose", a collaboration with Seal, Val Kilmer, and Trevor "Video Star" Horn. Costello then spent the next two years shaving off his long beard.

In 1993, Costello reunited with The Attractions long enough to conceive the album Brutal Youth, about his torturous childhood. Two years later, he released a cover album of old forgotten songs written by other people and titled it Kojak Variety. The following year, deciding to give back to the public, Costello released an album of songs he had wasted his time writing for other people, called All This Useless Beauty.

In 1996, Costello and The Attractions played gigs in coffee shops and lemonade stands in a desperate attempt to keep their slow-dying careers alive, but working with Bruce Thomas again proved futile. The band played their last show at a Starbucks in Seattle that same year. Bruce then left. For good. Seriously.

1997–present: Hopelessly late post-classic period[edit]

Costello then released a "greatest hits" album called You're My Extreme Honey, Babe in 1997, which included a song called "The Bridge I Burned", and it featured Matt, the son of Elvis and Bruce, playing bass.

In 2008, after returning to school and earning a Doctor of Music degree from the University of Hicksville, Dr. Elvis decided to try his luck at acting, mostly because he wasn't receiving enough attention from his musical career. He appeared in minor roles on various TV shows, most notably Sesame Street in 2011, where he performed a song with Elmo and Cookie Monster titled "(The Monster Wanna Eat My) Red Velvet Cookies", a parody of "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes".

As the years continue to pass, Elvis the attention-seeker is never short on ideas. Each year he busies himself with so many projects that cyberspace would run out of bandwidth if all of them had to be listed here, not to mention the fact that readers would turn old and grey and die from boredom trying to read the unending list of projects. Costello continues to write and perform songs, and collaborate with others, creating songs for movies and films, as well as other such things and what have you.

Costello has worked with approximately 3,589 other artists and performers during his career, and has acquired over £4,692,452 in royalties as a result. To this day, he continues to mooch his way into performing alongside really famous entertainers, just to steal some of their thunder, because he is the original attention-seeker. Accept no substitutes.

Personal life[edit]

Over the years, Costello and Bruce Thomas were actually married and divorced three times. They had a son Matt, and twin sons, Dexter and Frank. After the final divorce, he was living with three boys of his own. They were four men living all together, yet they were all alone.

Costello is currently married to Canadian jazz singer Diana Krall. The cover for her really weird sexy 2005 Christmas album was inspired directly by his work.

Costello became a vegetarian in the '80s.

Awards and accolades[edit]

Rolling Stone magazine ranked Costello at #80 in their "100 Greatestest Artists of All-Timeses" list in 2004; he was severely depressed for being ranked so low, being the attention-seeker that he is. He also received a 2003 Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song, "Scarlet Tied Me Up", from the film Cold Mountain.

Costello continues to bite the hand that feeds him, criticizing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his acceptance speech where he blurted, "This is an event to amuse an overfed collection of circus freaks! I'm standing here holding this punk-ass award, looking out in the crowd and I've written, recorded, and pulled more songs out of my ass than all you clowns combined!" The crowd erupted in applause; Rolling Stone co-founder/publisher/editor/megalomaniac/in-house martinet Jann Wenner was said to shriek, "Off with his head!"