Posts Tagged ‘Elvis Costello’

The songs on This Year’s Model are typically catchy and help the vicious sentiments sink into your skin, but the most remarkable thing about the album is the sound. Costello and the Attractions never rocked this hard, or this vengefully, ever again.”

Elvis Costello’s debut album, 1977’s “My Aim Is True”, arrived less than a year before its follow-up, “This Year’s Model”. But the two records boasted a sound, style and attitude that were far removed from each other — a sign of things to come from the singer-songwriter, whose restless catalogue has swung from one genre to another with little dip in quality along the way.

My Aim Is True was recorded in 1976 and 1977 in London by Costello, who was born there, and a California-based country-rock band called Clover that included members who would later join Huey Lewis and the News and the Doobie Brothers. (Lewis was actually a member of Clover at the time but did not appear on the album, which didn’t credit the band because of contractual reasons.)

For This Year’s Model, Costello enlisted his own band, the Attractions, which he formed after the release of his debut. (Even though they did receive credit, they didn’t receive an official cover co-billing until 1979’s Armed Forces.) And the upgrade, or at least the familiarity of working with musicians he had spent plenty of time on the road with at that point, pushed Costello’s second LP to new levels of intensity. Not that My Aim Is True didn’t have that; This Year’s Model just had more of it.

The critical success of My Aim Is True also gave Costello more confidence as a songwriter. At just 23, he was one of the best young writers of the era, pulling from earlier artists as much as he was riding the new wave of punk upstarts. With This Year’s Model, released on March 17th, 1978, Costello made his masterpiece — an album that bridged his brief past with his wide-open future.

The album’s sessions started in late 1977 and ended in early 1978 at London’s Eden Studios, with Nick Lowe, who worked on My Aim Is True, once again producing. More than a dozen songs were recorded, including some of his most enduring songs: “No Action,” “Pump It Up,” “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea,” “Lipstick Vogue” and “Radio, Radio,” among them. When it came time to release the LP in the U.S., a couple months after the original U.K. debut, two songs were dropped from the track listing —  “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” and “Night Rally,” reportedly because they were too British for American ears — and replaced by “Radio, Radio,” which was released in Costello’s home country seven months later as a stand-alone single.

“Radio Radio” was made more famous by the Saturday Night Live performance. By the time “Radio, Radio” made its debut on record, it was already a notorious chapter in Costello’s short history after Costello and the Attractions played it on “Saturday Night Live” in December 1977 (filling in for the missing Sex Pistols who were due to perform but were having problems securing visas). Costello was slated to play his current UK single “Less Than Zero,” in 1977. Costello launched into a few bars of “Less Than Zero,” but then turned to his band and told them to stop. He then apologized to the live audience, saying, “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but there’s no reason to do this song here,” and broke into a full rendition of “Radio Radio,” which still wasn’t officially available in the States, Lorne Michaels…the God of Saturday Night Live was not pleased.

As a result, he was banned by the TV producer for a dozen years, before being invited back in 1989; he then repeated the stunt, this time with the Beastie Boys and with SNL’s consent, on the program’s 25th anniversary special in 1999.

Costello later claimed he was inspired by Jimi Hendrix, who in 1969 stopped a performance of “Hey Joe” on the show Happening for Lulu and launched into the Cream song “Sunshine Of Your Love,” earning him a ban from the BBC.

Elvis Costello: “Before I got into show business, I thought radio was great, So I wrote a song about celebrating it – the thrill of listening to it late at night. This was my imaginary song about radio before I found out how foul and twisted it was.” in the song, Costello is protesting the commercialization of late 1970s FM radio. Radio stations would become more and more consolidated over the years, and their playlists tightened up considerably. Eventually, deregulation led to a few companies owning the majority of American radio stations, which led to automated stations.

This song is a takedown of radio, but it started out as a loving tribute. Costello wrote the first version of the song as “Radio Soul” when he was in a band called Flip City. They recorded a demo in 1974, but the song was never released.

In “Radio Soul,” Costello sings lovingly about radio, without any trace of vitriol: I could sail away to the songs that play upon that radio soul, Radio soul It’s a sound salvation

When he reworked the song in 1977, he changed the title and completely flipped the meaning, reflecting his newfound take on the topic.

The song serves as a linchpin of This Year’s Model, even though it wasn’t part of the original release and closed the album it first appeared on. It represented a more robust sound for Costello, thanks to both the addition of the Attractions and Lowe’s punchier production, and a more biting undertone that helped build Costello’s standing as one of punk’s most promising Angry Young Men.

He also became one of the era’s most prolific genre jumpers, making R&B, country, baroque pop and Americana albums over the next decade. But “This Year’s Model” serves as Costello’s model, the record that introduced Steve Nieve’s defining keyboard riffs and fills, a sturdier musical backing and Costello’s sneering vocals — all of which would find their way in and out of various albums over the years. He’s made more cohesive records since then. And more innovative ones. But he’s never made a better one.

Released: 17th March 1978.

Elvis Costello / Brutal Youth 2LP red vinyl

Perhaps realizing that The Juliet Letters was one step too far, especially after the willfully eclectic pair of “Spike” and “Mighty Like a Rose”, Elvis Costello set out to make a straight-ahead rock & roll record with “Brutal Youth”, reuniting with the Attractions (though Bruce Thomas appears on only five tracks) and Nick Lowe (who plays bass on most of the rest). Unfortunately, all this nostalgia and good intentions are cancelled by the retention of producer Mitchell Froom, whose junkyard, hazily cerebral productions stand in direct contrast to the Attractions’ best work. Likely, Froom’s self-conscious production appealed to Costello, since it makes “Brutal Youth” look less like a retreat, but it severely undercuts the effectiveness of the music, since it lacks guts, no matter how smugly secure it is in its tempered “experimentation.” Costello certainly had the raw elements for a dynamic little record here the band, when they can be heard, sound good, and many songs (highlighted by “Pony St.,” “Kinder Murder,” “13 Steps Lead Down,” “You Tripped at Every Step,” and “20% Amnesia”) are fresh, effective evocations of his classic work — but it needed to be punchier to succeed. He needed to be produced by Lowe, instead of just having him sit in on bass. Elvis Costello’s wonderful “Brutal Youth” album from 1994, which featured the full Attractions line up on a number of songs, limited edition 2LP . The album was produced by Mitchell Froom and was well received, reaching number two in the UK album charts, thanks in part to excellent word-of-mouth and a top thirty hit in “Sulky Girl”.

Although a relatively long album at 15 songs, it’s a real cracker with some wonderful material, including moving ballads like ‘All The Rage’, ‘Favourite Hour’ and ‘Still Too Soon To Know’ and fiercer, spiky numbers like ‘Just About Glad’, ‘20% Amnesia’ and ‘My Science Fiction Twin’.

Anyway, Brutal Youth is issued as this double coloured vinyl pressing via Music On Vinyl on 31st July 2020. It’s limited to just 1000 units with only 300 earmarked for the UK.

The record mostly features Costello with The Attractions Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas and Nick Lowe (on bass), but original Attractions member Bruce Thomas does play the bass on five tracks.

Listen: Elvis Costello Rings in the New Year with “Farewell, OK 2020”

Elvis Costello has revived a classic ’50s/’60s-era rock and roll sound for his surprise, end-of-year track “Farewell, OK 2020.”

After stoking excitement for the release on social media, Costello eventually offered the rollicking track with artwork reminiscent of The Twilight Zone, and a caption reading, “The Shape Of Things To Come 2021.” Lyrics include, “Farewell, OK/ You’ll be on way/ You’ll be on your own now/ Much to my dismay.”

Despite the pandemic, Costello released his newest studio project Hey Clockface in October.

From his 1983 album “Punch The Clock”it’s a song that Elvis Costello wrote with Clive Langer during the Falklands War, reflecting the dark irony of profiting off the sales of ships on which their own sons would die.

His recording of it is distinguished forever by the haunting trumpet playing of the late Chet Baker, said to be Baker’s last recorded music. There’s been some confusion over authorship of the song. Most sources agree that Elvis wrote the lyrics to a tune written by Langer for Robert Wyatt, of Soft Machine, to record.

In fact, Elvis confirms this himself in an interview on the UK Channel Four show “Loose Talk.” Elvis said he wrote both the music and words:

ELVIS COSTELLO: “I came up with the melody first, which I put on cassette. I was singing it wordlessly, maybe just humming while playing the melody on an organ. I sang the vocal melody over these beautiful changes. It was for Robert Wyatt. He had the hope that I would write something bright and optimistic that would be the way Robert intended it, sort of like Neil Diamond’s `I’m a Believer,’  maybe something more poignant, but it should be like a conventional pop lyric. Instead of which I wrote a very specific song about something else entirely, and that reflects what was happening at that moment, that particular conflict of all these dilemmas that blew up and came out of the lyric of `Shipbuilding.’ “

In 2008, he told magazine he was proud of the song: “It’s a pretty good lyric, yeah. The key line for me is, ‘Diving for dear life, when we could be diving for pearls.’ That we should be doing something beautiful, better than this. I wrote the lyric before the Belgrano (Argentinean Navy cruiser sunk by British forces during the 1982 Falklands conflict in controversial circumstances). I’ve been to see the monument, stood and read the names of all the men… well, boys who died. Whatever you say about the conflict of war, that crime alone will see Thatcher in hell.”

Chet Baker played live with the band, as opposed to overdubbing his solo, according to co-producer Alan Winstanley “So we had to edit the multi-track just to get the trumpet right,” he said. “What you’re hearing is three different band performances spliced together. Amazingly, they’re all the same tempo, with no click track.”

Elvis Costello Variety Legends Embed

Elvis Costello has released a new album, “Hey Clockface”, recorded in Helsinki, Paris, and New York. The album, released October. 30th, is his first new music since 2018, and is at times playful, on other occasions introspective. The highlight is its jaunty title track; listen to it and many of the other tracks below. Hey Clockface was recorded in Helsinki, Paris and New York and mixed by Sebastian Krys in Los Angeles. Following the solo recording of tracks, No Flag, Hetty O’Hara Confidential and We Are All Cowards Now at Suomenlinnan Studio, Helsinki by Eetü Seppälä in February 2020, Costello immediately travelled to Paris for a weekend session at Les Studios Saint Germain. Costello tells us, “I sang live on the studio floor, directing from the vocal booth. We cut nine songs in two days. We spoke very little.  His strikingly good 31st studio album, “Hey Clockface,” which dropped October 30th, and a deluxe vinyl boxed set commemorating his third album, the 1979 masterpiece “Armed Forces,” which arrives just a week later, on November 6th. There is a lot of clock-punching, or smashing, to go around in this sudden flurry of releases.

These old and new works are almost ridiculously incomparable in style, but there is a striking commonality. “Hey Clockface” doesn’t sound remotely like his last album, “Look Now,” which didn’t sound like any of the ones before it. And “Armed Forces” found Costello already shedding the lean, frantic signature sound of the prior record, “This Year’s Model,” to embrace the possibilities of the studio in a more ambitious and even grandiose way. 

Watch the video for “Hey Clockface”/”How Can You Face Me”

Almost everything the musicians played was a spontaneous response to the song I was singing. I’d had a dream of recording in Paris like this, one day.” The assembled album, Hey Clockface is “An Elvis Costello & Sebastian Krys Production” following on from their work together on Elvis Costello and The Imposters Grammy-winning album Look Now. The motion picture of We Are All Cowards Now by Eamon Singer and Arlo McFurlow features images of flowers and pistols, smoke and mirrors, tombstones and monuments, courage and cowardice, peace love and misunderstanding. Specifically, what Costello had done was take time out before and during those tour dates to book quick, experimental sessions — by himself, as a clanging one-man rock band in Helsinki, and with a jazzy combo of Parisians put together by his keyboard player Steve Nieve in France. (He had even booked time with his touring band and his old producer Nick Lowe in London, with a whole different set of songs earmarked to work on, but those plans got scotched and will wait for another day and another album.

The ensemble, dubbed, “Le Quintette Saint Germain” by Costello, was recruited for these dates by Steve Nieve (who plays grand piano, upright piano, organ, mellotron and melodica) and features Mickaél Gasche on trumpet, flugel horn and serpent, Pierre-François “Titi” Dufour on cello, and the drums, percussion and high harmonies of Ajuq. Listen to the beautiful instrumentation on “The Whirlwind”

Reed player Renaud-Gabriel Pion plays contrabass clarinet, bass clarinet, Bb clarinet, tenor saxophone, bass flute and cor anglais. The Paris sessions were recorded by François Delabrière. Watch the video for “We Are All Cowards Now”

The New York sessions were produced by composer, arranger and trumpet player, Michael Leonhart in collaboration with guitarists, Bill Frisell and Nels Cline and completed, lyrically and vocally by Costello, “via Electrical Wire.” The musician had been teasing the first two songs’ release in late spring and early summer with a series of tweets that featured some of the songs’ lyrics and illustrations from the music videos. Costello performs Hammond organ, Fender Jazzmaster, upright piano, Rhythm Ace and “all other noises.”

“She could kill a man with a single stroke,” he sings on “Hetty O’Hara Confidential.” “She is not the one you want to provoke.” Watch the lyric video for “Hetty O’Hara Confidential” 

As with all of us, 2020 has been a memorable year for Elvis Costello, though he has several unique reasons. On February 14th, he became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, at a ceremony overseen by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

And though his celebrated career is decades old, Costello had never won a Grammy Award for one of his albums. That all changed at the 62nd Grammy Awards, held on January . The musician won for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for his Oct. 2018 release, Look Now. The legend had previously won in 1999 for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, with Burt Bacharach.

“You may be joking, but I don’t get the gag,” he sings in “No Flag.” “I sense no future, but time seems to drag.” Watch the lyric video for “No Flag” There’s some days where none of it matters, and it doesn’t mean anybody would want to stay there forever, but maybe it’s better to write that out in a song.” Costello says he has no need to “live in the past, trying to summon up some old kind of fury. Because I’ve got all the fury that I need right now. Put on ‘No Flag’ and tell me which track on ‘This Year’s Model’ is more aggressive than that. There isn’t one.”

All songs written by Elvis Costello except as noted. On Aug. 28, Costello surprised his audience with the release of a spoken word song, “Phonographic Memory,” described as “the B-Side of the recently released, ‘We Are All Cowards Now’“Phonographic Memory” imagines a post-war ceremony involving an archive recording of the voice of Orson Welles and someone identified only as “President Swift”. The recording takes the form of a short story recited over an open-tuned acoustic guitar soundtrack and as such is unique in Costello’s recorded catalogue.

Elvis Costello / Hey Clockface

Elvis Costello returns with a new album, Hey Clockface, in October.

It was recorded in Helsinki, Paris and New York and mixed in Los Angeles. The album features the songs ‘No Flag’, ‘Hetty O’Hara Confidential’ and ‘We Are All Cowards Now’. Following the solo recording of those three tracks at Suomenlinnan Studio, Helsinki in February 2020, Costello immediately travelled to Paris for a weekend session at Les Studios Saint Germain. Costello says: “I sang live on the studio floor, directing from the vocal booth. We cut nine songs in two days. We spoke very little. Almost everything the musicians played was a spontaneous response to the song I was singing. I’d had a dream of recording in Paris like this, one day.”

Like 2018’s Look Now, the album is produced by Elvis Costello and Sebastian Krys. It’s available as a 2LP vinyl set and on CD. The official (US-based) store has an enormous array of bundles, with some signed options.

Elvis Costello is also working with Universal Music on a major reissue campaign which will start with a six-record set based on his 1979 album “Armed Forces”.

Speaking to promote the forthcoming album Hey Clockface, Costello said that his “catalogue has been in some disarray for a number of years” and that he recently “went to a meeting at a record company for the first time since the ’90s” to discuss reissue plans”.

He added: “who better than the person who wrote the songs to tell you what else is there [in the archive] – things that I never released, live recordings”.

He tells  us that Armed Forces will be “the first” thing to come out and that “the package will include three live recordings ranging from the summer of ’78 to the summer of ’79, so it traces the development of the Attractions as a live act, from a club combo to a successful pop group – it’s quite interesting to hear. I had expert help in photographing my handwritten notebooks. So you’re getting something”

Curiously, Elvis also says: “We’ve done a new version of one of my albums from my  back catalogue, and that’s going to come out next April. And we’re making a compilation based on [1998 album with Burt Bachararch] Painted From Memory in the hope that we’ll complete the picture with some other songs we’ve written that people still haven’t heard”.

When asked if he was going to do this with all his albums, the response was “If we can”.

Interesting stuff. Elvis Costello and Demon Records were early pioneers of the expanded CD reissue’s Of Costello Albums with a series of excellent releases in early-to-mid 1990s. The same albums were reissued about 10 years later with even more material – an extra CD’s worth. Despite these seemingly exhaustive reissues, Universal Music still managed to release new 2CD deluxe editions of My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model in 2008.

Elvis Costello’s new album, Hey Clockface will be released on 30th October 2020.

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Elvis Costello releases “No Flag”, recorded in Helsinki, Finland. In the late ’70s, Elvis Costello burst onto the then-fledgling punk scene as the quintessential angry man: getting banned from Saturday Night Live, for example, for playing “Radio, Radio”—the song he was explicitly told not to play. Forty-some years and numerous albums later and Costello’s angriest side has now returned, a bit wiser and a lot more jaded, with his most barbed-wire-filled track in years, “No Flag.” Employing some spooky synth percussion to kick it off, “No Flag” then quickly shifts to a hypnotic tantrum-filled riff, Costello dually assaulting with an aggressive guitar line and lyrics that rage against the weak idols that have let everyone down in 2020: “No flag waving high above / No sign for the dark place that I live / No God for the damn that I don’t give.” As caustic as it is, it’s a refreshing return to form for Costello, at an ideal time for angry, catchy protest songs

Asked about the choice of recording location, Costello, explained, “I wanted to go somewhere nobody knew me. So, this is ‘The Helsinki Sound.’

Elvis Costello releases “No Flag”

The instrumental credits list only: “Elvis Costello – Mouth, Drum, Fender Jazzmaster, Hammond Organ and Bass.”

Image may contain: text

Elvis Costello has indeed shared another new song whilst in lockdown. Titled “Hetty O’Hara Confidential,” a description of the song reads as “the tale of a tattler who outlives her time.” Fair enough

A few weeks ago, Costello shared “No Flag,” which was his first new song in over a year. He trekked to Finland in February and worked for three days at Suomenlinnan Studio, a recording facility a 20-minute ferry ride from downtown Helsinki. This song is from those sessions, which Costello produced. “Hetty O’Hara Confidential” was recorded and engineered by Eetü Seppälä and mixed in Los Angeles by Sebastian Krys.

Earlier in the quarantine, Costello performed an acoustic set from his home in Vancouver in order to raise funds for UK healthcare support network Artists4NHS. Following the death of singer/songwriter John Prine, Costello penned an essay in tribute to Prine.

“These were songs that no one else was writing, filled with details that only Prine’s eye or ear caught; the arcane radio, the damaged and the destitute,” Costello wrote. “The songs were filled with what sounded like sound advice from a friend in a crowded bar or a voice in the margins, but never one that was self-pitying or self-regarding.”

Costello’s next song arrives on August. 14th.

The release of “Hetty O’Hara Confidential,” by Elvis Costello. The tale of a tattler who outlives her time. Produced by Elvis Costello at Suomenlinnan Studio in Helsinki, Finland, Costello is credited with: Mouth, Hammond Organ, Fender Jazzmaster, Upright Piano, Rhythm Ace & All Other Noises.

Elvis Costello in a black and white photo.

Elvis Costello has shared a new song. It’s called “No Flag.” Traveling alone to the Finnish capital on February 16th, Costello worked for three days at Suomenlinnan Studio, a recording facility a twenty-minute ferry ride from downtown Helsinki.

Asked about the choice of recording location, Costello, explained, “I wanted to go somewhere nobody knew me. So, this is ‘The Helsinki Sound.’”
Costello recorded “No Flag” earlier this year.
Last year, Costello and Amy Allison contributed a song to If You’re Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison (they recorded “Monsters of the Id”). In April, Costello penned a lengthy letter in remembrance of the late singer-songwriter John Prine.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters released their most recent studio album Look Now in 2018.

Elvis Costello Shares New Song “No Flag”

File:1975 Flip City Demos Bootleg front.jpg

A widely circulating bootleg, this is a demo tape of Costello’s early band Flip City, running through a few covers and some Costello originals. The sound is muddy and bass heavy, taken from a several generation copy, but of much historical importance to the Costello fan. Here are early versions of “Living in Paradise” and “Pay It Back” with different lyrics, and a venom-less take on “Radio Radio” called “Radio Soul.” Costello’s links with his idols (Gram Parsons, Randy Newman, Bob Dylan) are more explicit here then on his mature efforts and the cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is a hoot. These songs are also found on the boots Aim to Please and Our Aim Is True with similar sound quality and only one track (“Imagination Is a Powerful Deceiver”) has ever made it on an official release.

Many of his alternative tracks, demos and b-sides have appeared on compilations (Taking Liberties comes to mind) and as bonus tracks on deluxe reissues of his earlier albums. Before Elvis’s first album, 1977’s My Aim Is True, Elvis, then known as Declan P. MacManus was in a band called Flip City. The band played the pub rock circuit in England, much like bands like Ducks Deluxe and Brinsley Schwarz, and though they never officially released anything, they did record three sessions worth of original and cover songs. These songs are interesting not only because of their historical significance, but also it gives a preview of some songs that would later appear on Costello albums in different, rewritten versions. Pay It Back and a early version of Miracle Man (Baseball Heroes) re-emerges on My Aim Is True, while Living In Paradise and a revamped version of Radio Radio (Radio Soul) appears on This Year’s Model. These Flip City demos have been around in bootleg form for years

I only found this because I heard the original version of “Third Rate Romance” on the radio and could barely remember who did it (The Amazing Rhythm Aces). There was also a very good Drifters version of the song on YT.  This version of “Pay It Back” is way better than the official recording,Third Rate Romance is such a natural song for Elvis Costello to cover; he really gravitates to story songs, especially country ones (eg. Different Finger, Motel Matches, Good Year For the Roses). I’ve always thought I’d eventually find him covering The Eagles’ “Lying Eyes”, but it hasn’t turned up so far.

Tracks: 0:00 Exiles Road 3:25 Baseball Heroes 6:17 Radio Soul 10:00 Imagination (Is A Powerful Deceiver) 13:36 Pay It Back 16:10 Radio Soul 20:22 Third Rate Romance 23:45 Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door 27:55 Packin’ Up 30:26 Please Mister Don’t Stop The Band 35:10 Exiles Road 38:22 Wreck On The Slide 42:06 On The Road 45:08 You Win Again 47:15 Sweet Revival

Flip City:
Declan P. MacManus – guitar, lead vocals
Mich Kent – bass, vocals
Steve Hazelhurst – guitar, vocals, keyboards, sax
Malcolm Dennis – drums (early session only)
Ian Powling – drums (last sessions)
Dickie Faulkner – percussion, vocals (last sessions)