Elvis Costello (born Declan Patrick MacManus; 25 August 1954) is an English singer-songwriter. He began his career as part of London's pub rock scene in the early 1970s and later became associated with the first wave of the British new wave movement of the mid-to-late 1970s. His critically acclaimed debut album, “My Aim Is True”, was recorded in 1976. Shortly after recording his first album, he formed The Attractions as his backing band. They toured and recorded together for the better part of a decade, though differences between Costello and members of The Attractions caused them to split by 1986. Much of Costello's work since 1986 has been credited to him as a solo artist, though partial reunions with some members of The Attractions have been credited to the group over the years.
Steeped in wordplay, the vocabulary of Costello's lyrics is broader than that of most popular songs. His music has drawn on many diverse genres; one critic described him as a "pop encyclopaedia", able to "reinvent the past in his own image".
Costello is the son of Lilian Alda (née Ablett, b. 1927, Liverpool) and Ross MacManus (later Ross McManus; 1927–2011), a musician and bandleader. He is of Irish heritage. Costello lived in Twickenham, attending Hounslow Secondary Modern School, which is now St Mark's Catholic Secondary School, in neighbouring Hounslow. With a musically inclined father (who was a jazz trumpeter and sang with The Joe Loss Orchestra), Costello's first broadcast recording was alongside his dad in a television commercial for R. White's Lemonade (I'm a Secret Lemonade Drinker). His father wrote and sang the song; Costello provided backing vocals. The advertisement won a silver award at the 1974 International Advertising Festival.
Costello moved with his Liverpool-born mother to Birkenhead in 1971. There, he formed his first band, a folk duo called Rusty. After completing secondary school at St. Francis Xavier's College he moved back to London where he next formed a band called Flip City, which had a style in the pub rock vein. They were active from 1974 through to early 1976. Around this time, Costello adopted the stage name D.P. Costello. His father had performed under the name Day Costello, and Elvis has said in interviews that he took this name as a tribute to his father. Costello worked at a number of office jobs to support himself, most famously at Elizabeth Arden – immortalized in the lyrics of "I'm Not Angry" as the "vanity factory" – where he worked as a data entry clerk. He worked for a short period as a computer operator at the Midland Bank computer center in Bootle. He continued to write songs and began looking for a solo recording contract. He was signed to independent label Stiff Records on the basis of a demo tape. His manager at Stiff, Jake Riviera, suggested a name change, combining Elvis Presley's first name and Costello, his father's stage name. The backing for Costello's debut album was provided by American West Coast band Clover, a country outfit living in England whose members would later go on to join Huey Lewis and the News and The Doobie Brothers. Costello released his first major hit single, "Watching the Detectives", which was recorded with Steve Nieve and Steve Goulding (drums) and Andrew Bodnar (bass), both members of Graham Parker's backing band The Rumour. Later in 1977, Costello formed his own permanent backing band, The Attractions, consisting of Steve Nieve (piano), Bruce Thomas (bass guitar), and Pete Thomas (drums; unrelated to Bruce Thomas).
Elvis Costello - MIRACLE MAN [DEMO] – This song first appeared on Elvis’ debut album: “My Aim is True”, 1977. The album was recorded at Pathway Studios in Holloway, London Borough of Islington, over the course of 1976 during late-night studio sessions, in a total of twenty-four hours. It was the first of five consecutive Costello albums produced by Nick Lowe. The backing band was made up of members of Clover -- featuring future members of Huey Lewis & The News. Taken from “My Aim Is True” (Deluxe Edition), 2007.
Elvis Costello I'M NOT ANGRY – Taken from “My Aim Is True”, 1977.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - ALISON (LIVE) – Taken from Armed Forces, Elvis Costello's third album, his second with the Attractions, and the first to officially credit the Attractions on the cover. It was released in the UK by Radar Records and in the U.S. by Columbia in 1979. The album had the working title Emotional Fascism. Initial pressings of the album in the UK and U.S. included a promotional three-song single, Live at Hollywood High, which was recorded on 4 June 1978. The live tracks, also produced by Nick Lowe, are "Accidents Will Happen," "Alison," and "Watching the Detectives". The UK edition included 4 postcards featuring pictures of the band. The American version omitted "Sunday's Best" and instead included Costello's version of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding", which had been released the previous November as the B-side of Nick Lowe's "American Squirm" single, at the end of side two. Taken from the [Bonus Tracks] remix, 2001.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - WATCHING THE DETECTIVES –From “Live At The El Mocambo” – recorded in 1978 and released only as a Canadian promotional album in the same year. The concert was issued as a mainstream release on September 29, 2009 by Hip-O Records, with the same content of the 1978 promotional album.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - RADIO, RADIO – From the CD “Live At Hollywood High” - (officially released as Live at Hollywood High/The Costello Show Vol. 2) is a recording by Elvis Costello and the Attractions from a 1978 concert at Hollywood High School in Los Angeles, California. Three songs from the concert were originally included as a bonus 7" vinyl EP that sold with initial pressings of the Armed Forces album in 1979. A 2002 re-issue of Armed Forces added six tracks to the three from the EP (for a total of nine tracks) and placed them in proper running order. In 2010, the Hip-O Select label released a full version of Live At Hollywood High with all 20 tracks from the concert on one CD.
Elvis Costello - THE BEAT [1997/LIVE AT THE NASHVILLE ROOMS] - Also taken from "My Aim Is True" (Deluxe Edition), 2007.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - GREEN SHIRT – First appeared on "Armed Forces", Elvis Costello's third album, his second with the Attractions, and the first to officially credit the Attractions on the cover. It was released in 1979.
Elvis Costello - VERONICA - "Veronica" is one of several songs Costello co-wrote with Paul McCartney. From the CD "Spike", 1989.
George Jones And Elvis Costello - STRANGER IN THE HOUSE – Written by Elvis Costello, and performed on George Jones’ duet album "My Very Special Guests", 1977.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - HOT BURRITO # 1 (I'M YOUR TOY) [LIVE] – Written by Chris Ethridge & Gram Parsons, and taken from the reissue of “Almost Blue” an album by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. It was recorded May 1981 in Nashville, and released on 23 October 1981. The record's songs consist entirely of country covers, including works originally written by Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, George Jones and Gram Parsons. It is Costello's first album not to be produced by Nick Lowe.
Elvis Costello – SHIP OF FOOLS – Originally recorded by the Grateful Dead on their “From the Mars Hotel” album, 1974 – this version is from the Grateful Dead tribute CD, “Deadicated”, 1991
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - (WHAT’S SO FUNNY ‘BOUT) PEACE, LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING - “(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” is a 1970s song written by English singer/songwriter Nick Lowe and recorded in the best-known version by Elvis Costello. The Elvis Costello & The Attractions version was first issued as the B-side of Lowe’s 1978 single “American Squirm” credited to “Nick Lowe and His Sound”. At the time, Lowe was Costello’s producer, and he produced this track as well. When the song became a hit, it was quickly appended as the last track to the U.S. edition of Costello's album Armed Forces. It has appeared on most of Costello’s "Best of" compilations over the years, as well as on the soundtrack to the film “200 Cigarettes”.
Dave Edmunds - GIRLS TALK [LIVE] – Written by Elvis Costello. David William "Dave" Edmunds is a Welsh singer, guitarist and record producer. Although he is primarily associated with pub rock and New Wave, and had numerous hits in the 1970s and early 1980s, his natural leaning has always been towards 1950s style rock and roll. From Small Things:The Best of Dave Edmunds, 1982
Roy Orbison - THE COMEDIANS (LIVE) – written by Elvis Costello, and taken from “A Black & White Night Live”, a Roy Orbison album released posthumously by Virgin Records from the HBO television broadcast, Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night. On piano was Glen D. Hardin, who had played piano for Buddy Holly as well as Elvis Presley. Lead guitarist James Burton, drummer Ronnie Tutt and bassist Jerry Scheff were also from Presley's group. Male background vocals and some guitars were provided by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther and Steven Soles. Female background vocalists were k.d. lang, Jennifer Warnes and Bonnie Raitt.