Born Declan Patrick MacManus on this day, back in 1954, but rose to prominence as “Elvis Costello” in the late 1970’s.
I can still vividly recall the first time I heard Elvis Costello and the Attractions. As a kid, we didn’t have “cable TV”, so MTV wasn’t part of my life, but there was a show on broadcast TV called “MV3”, that was what you might call a mashup of American Bandstand and MTV… Anyhow, I used to hear a lot of new music on that show as it primarily played what was known then as New Wave music – the Romantics, Bow Wow Wow, the Three O’clock, stuff like that… This would have been late ’82/early ’83.
Anyhow, it was on this show that I first heard “Pump it Up” by EC&tA and I was an instant fan. I have remained a fan for the last 40 years. It wasn’t until later I learned that song was already 5 years old, but I snatched up his ‘This Year’s Model’ album and it went into heavy rotation for a long while. And when I could find them, I picked up all his earliest records.
He and his band somehow managed to take Motown-like music and fuse it with the energy and brashness of punk rock and it was magic. That he looked like a goofy nerd while blasting out this awesome music made him even more endearing.
But unlike the vast majority of punk and new wave bands, he was clever, and his band could really play. The music was raw, but deliberate unlike a lot of the music at the time.
Right around the time I first discovered him, he hit paydirt with the hit single ‘Veronica’, which frankly at the time I didn’t really care for. It was such a departure from his earlier albums, it didn’t even seem like the same artist.
Keep in mind though, I was very young and VERY arrogant about music back then… I was far too immature to understand musical growth in an artist, it felt like a betrayal, or in the popular parlance of the time that he “sold out” for commercial success. What can I say, I was a dumb kid…
Anyhow, luckily for me I grew out of that short-sighted stupidity and learned to embrace musical change.
After years of missing out on his live show, we finally got to see him a few years back out at the Concord Pavillion. He put on a great show (especially considering he was about 60 years old at the time!) and it was frankly shocking how many great songs he pulled out. When an artist is as prolific as he is (something like 25 albums released to date!), it’s easy to forget just how many great songs he’s put out over numerous decades. It’s remarkable that his music has changed drastically over the years, but it all remains relevant decades later.
Well done Sir! Best wishes to you on this day, and thank you for all the great tunes!