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“Thank you. Thank you very much.”
Elvis Costello (born 25 August 1954), born Elvis Costello Presley, Jr., 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.
edit Early life
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. Often times 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.
edit Musical career
edit 1977–79: Early classic period
“What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?!? ... Way to blow your street cred, pinhead.”
Costello's first song "Less Than Zero (And I'm Freezing My Ass Off)" was released in 1977. As soon as he wrote enough songs, he recorded a whole album called My Aim Is True. 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 insisted on wearing only a pair of Elton John glasses on the album cover and hence was arrested for indecent exposure during the photo shoot. His backing musicians refused to strip for the photo shoot and left to join bands such as Huey Lewis and the News and The Doobie Brothers. 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 made records. Their first big hit song was called "Watching the Detectives (You Hired to Follow Me)".
In 1977, following the death of Elvis Presley, Elvis 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". This performance led to a worldwide tour of the United Kingdom and the United States. A live album was later released, featuring a variety of musicians, and included their version of the old Burt Bacharach/Hal David song "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.
In 1979, Costello recorded a third album called (Screw This, I Should Have Joined the) Armed Forces, which included the hit song "Oliver's Army (Smoked Us Like Salmon)". Both the song and album hit #2 on the Blitzbop Network's Top 40. Once again, Costello went looking for trouble 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.
edit 1980–82: Mid-classic period
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 while 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 songs: "Watch Your Step", "Clubland", and "From a Whisper to a Scream". The latter only sold three copies and was never played on the radio, due to its alleged themes of wife-beating. Being the attention-seeker that he is, Costello 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. This album was so horrible that it required the following warning sticker on the front: "WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause your ears to bleed." 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 Imperial Bedroom, a concept album about a home invasion led by the stormtroopers from Star Wars, was a commercial failure despite its artistry.
edit 1983–86: Late classic period
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. The single "Everyday I Write the Book" became his first hit song in the United States. In 1984, Costello told Bruce Thomas to get lost for the last time, then recorded the album Goodbye Cruel World, widely considered the worst of his career by everyone including himself. The final breakup with Thomas and the failure of Goodbye Cruel World left Costello feeling suicidal. Instead of ending his life, he changed his name to The Imposter and recorded the unsubtly suicidal song "Pills and Soap".
After a brief retirement, Costello performed at the 1985 Live Aid benefit in England. He sang the Beatles' classic "All You Need Is Love", but changed the lyrics and re-titled 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 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 another kick in the can 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.
edit 1987–97: Really late post-classic period
Costello struggled making his comeback, until he finally had a new recording contract and released the album Spike, dedicated to his dog, in 1989. 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 My Grandfather Play Tired Folk 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 single "Kiss from a Rose" (in keeping with the album's whole "rose" theme), a collaboration with Seal that was later featured on the Batman Forever soundtrack. 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.
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.
edit 1997–present: Hopelessly late post-classic period
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 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.
edit Acting career
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".
edit Personal life
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.
edit Awards and accolades
Rolling Stone magazine ranked Costello at #80 in their "100 Greatest Artists of All Times" 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 & 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 editor, megalomaniac, and in-house martinet Jann Wenner was said to shriek, "Off with his head!"