Beyond Belief - The Elvis Costello Newsletter:  Issue 20-21 (Spring 1999)


Part Seven: January to May 1979

The fateful year of 1979 opens with the Attractions out on the road during Britain’s worst winter for many years. As they battle through the snowstorms, Armed Forces, the album widely expected to propel EC to superstar status, hits the shops. Meanwhile, a storm of a different kind awaits in the USA...


· 2nd - EC & The As, supported by Richard Hell & The Voidoids and John Cooper Clarke, continue their UK tour at the Pavilion, Hemel Hempstead. · 3rd - "Elvis Plays For Dancers" reports Melody Maker, announcing an additional concert at the 3,000-capacity Hammersmith Palais dancehall which, it seems, is a direct result of the band’s dissatisfaction with their all-seater Dominion dates in December. · 4th - Gaumont, Ipswich. · 5th - As the tour party heads for the Birmingham Odeon, Radar Records issue the much-heralded Armed Forces LP in the UK. Resplendent in a gloriously mad Barney Bubbles-designed foldout sleeve, it comes complete with free postcard pictures of the band and a bonus EP (Live At Hollywood High). EC: "The sleeve was very involved. I loved it. It was very funny. We wanted to make it as impractical and ghastly as possible." Provocative press adverts appear depicting EC with a gun to his mouth alongside the slogan BE MERCENARY. GET ARMED FORCES. NME’s Charles Shaar Murray has reservations about the fact that EC is "running for President with this album" but hears "what I suspect to be some of the best rock music we’ll hear this year". · Although AF is the first EC album to have a (reasonably) co-ordinated release schedule on both sides of the Atlantic, there are, once again, arguments about the track listing. Columbia insists on the inclusion of potential single ‘Peace, Love & Understanding’ in place of ‘Sunday’s Best’ - deemed "too English" - on the US version. "What’s most striking about the album is the change in Costello’s music," notes Kit Rachlis in Village Voice. "Going after a grander, more heroic sound he has opened the music up without sacrificing its density … Costello offsets his new epic style with arrangements that are as witty and sly as his lyrics." · 6th - "I was utterly disgusted and dismayed at the over-reaction of the bouncers," complains fan Tony Fisher in a letter to NME concerning tonight’s gig at the Assembly Rooms, Derby. "They continually harassed the kids for standing, dancing and trying to take pictures." Earlier in the day, Elvis is all sweetness and light as he demonstrates the complexities of the Armed Forces sleeve during an interview on Central TV’s Saturday morning children’s programme Tiswas. · 7th - Empire, Liverpool. · 8th - Free Trade Hall, Manchester. · 9th - St.George’s Hall, Bradford. · 10th - A frustrating "day off" as a scheduled flight to the Netherlands for an appearance on Dutch TV’s Toppop is unable to take off from snowbound Heathrow. · 11th - A miserable early-morning drive through the darkness and snow to Lancaster airport, where the band catches a flight to the Netherlands (they are due at NOS studios by 8:45am to record their Toppop appearance). With filming completed, there’s a further mad dash to catch a flight back to England in time for the evening’s gig at Newcastle City Hall. · 12th - EC & The As guest on a BBC Radio Clyde phone-in show, prior their evening appearance at the Glasgow Apollo. Meanwhile, Dutch TV’s Toppop transmits ‘Senior Service’ & ‘Radio Radio’ from yesterday’s session. · 13th - Capitol, Aberdeen. · 14th - Caird Hall, Dundee. · 15th - Odeon, Edinburgh. · 16th – As the band prepares for a second night at the Odeon, Edinburgh they learn that Armed Forces has entered the UK album chart at number 2. (It will remain on the chart for 28 weeks, becoming EC’s best-selling LP to date and his first to achieve gold record status.) · 17th - Guildhall, Preston. · 18th NME’s Nick Kent travels up to witness tonight’s "magnificent" show at the City Hall, Sheffield. His unsuccessful attempts to weasel his way past a strict "no interviews" policy are reported in the paper’s January 27th issue. "I don’t like the NME much any more and I particularly don’t like some of the things which have been printed about my personal life," EC complains. "He is a workaholic," observes Bruce Thomas. "The only thing I’m worried about is him having a heart attack at 26. He’s driving himself insanely hard." · 19th - Victoria Hall, Stoke-On-Trent. · 20th - "As a modern music combo, they proved once again that they are peerless," reports Des Moines from tonight’s gig at Leeds University. "It mattered little that Costello’s huge repertoire of memorable classics was needlessly hurried, many of his songs’ subtle nuances sacrificed because of his apparently obsessive desire to impress." · 21st - Coventry Theatre, Coventry. · 22nd - De Montfort Hall, Leicester. · 23rd - Civic Hall, Oldham. · 24th - EC guests on Nicky Horne’s Capital Radio show Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It playing some of his favourite records. His choices include the Bay City Rollers’ ‘Rock & Roll Love Letter’, Sandie Shaw’s ‘Girl Don’t Come’ and the Left Banke’s ‘Walk Away Renee’ - alongside tracks by the Jam and the Pretenders. · 25th - Odeon, Taunton. · 26th - University, Exeter. · 27th – Dave Edmunds makes a guest appearance for ‘Mystery Dance’ at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff. · 28th - Locarno, Bristol. · 29th - Gaumont, Southampton. · 30th - Back in London there’s a visit to the BBC TV studios to film ‘Oliver’s Army’ for Top Of The Pops before this evening’s much-anticipated Hammersmith Palais gig closes the British tour. Included in the set are a new song - ‘Opportunity’ - and Steve Nieve’s ‘Sad About Girls’. During the encores, Martin Belmont guests on ‘Pump It Up’ and Dave Edmunds on ‘Mystery Dance’ but Charles Shaar Murray observes that "Elvis and his boys are completely dead on their feet. Shagged out, wiped out, drained. Trying to be dynamic, but the starter won’t start. There’s only so far you can pump it up." · The close of the UK tour finds EC in dispirited mood: "I suppose it was naivety and a slightly puritan streak I had early on when I saw people just responding without any kind of understanding or consideration. We’d play a set where we’d play brilliantly all night, and we’d do our hit single which had been on Top Of The Pops and people would go crazy. Yet they would be bewildered by the rest of what we were playing, and that just seemed to me like, well, you’re being tricked into it because you’ve seen us on TV. It felt like a trick … I nearly walked away from it. I remember Pete Thomas trying to talk me out of it." (PT remembers this as a regular occurrence: "He was always going to pack it in. About three times a week since the word go. I said once ‘You can’t give up, because all people will have then is the Boomtown Rats!’")


· 2nd - Radar issue ‘Oliver’s Army’ b/w ‘My Funny Valentine’ as a UK single. It swiftly becomes EC’s biggest hit to date - "my pop star moment" – eventually racking up sales of 400,000. "The Attractions get better and better all the time, while Nick Lowe’s knowledge of the subtler areas of production grows apace," notes Melody Maker. · With their album already climbing the US charts, the band flies out to America for the infamous Armed Funk tour. The stakes are high, with Jake Riviera observing that "we either make it all the way with Armed Forces, or we don’t. If this album doesn’t break in America, then Columbia will still keep us but we’ll be considered pretty much a spent force." With the record company looking to make EC the next Bruce Springsteen, press ads herald AF triumphantly as WORLD ELVIS COSTELLO ALBUM THREE ("Where Are You During The Big One?"). "A mixture of paranoia and arrogance made the tour party as mean and squirrelly as any platoon of marines trapped behind enemy lines," writes Fred Schruers later in a perceptive Rolling Stone article cataloguing those aspects of the tour which turned it into an accident waiting to happen: a punishing schedule (57 shows in just 68 days); provocatively short sets; open hostility towards the press ("I’m not interested that you’re interested," snaps Jake to Schruers at one point); tour manager Des Brown leading a violent "no photos or tape recorders" policy; a belligerent road crew decked out in combat fatigues. Even the tour bus claims to be heading for CAMP LEJEUNE NC (a reference to the notoriously brutal Marine Corps training camp) but "Elvis and his troops did not seem equal to the grand military metaphors of the promotional campaign that preceded them," concludes Schruers sadly. "They seemed, rather, to be conducting a messy police campaign bound to make doubters and enemies out of his strongest American partisans." · 6th - An inauspicious start at the Paramount Northwest Theatre, Seattle WA where a 50-minute set leads to angry crowd scenes, obliging the road crew to empty the hall by playing loud feedback through the PA. Outside the hall, EC posters are torn down and set ablaze. · 7th - Paramount Theatre, Portland OR. · 8th - BBC1 TV’s Top Of The Pops includes ‘Oliver’s Army’. The US tour party reaches Eugene OR . · 9th – "Costello barely played 40 minutes before lock-stepping offstage with no intention to return," records Schruers of tonight’s gig at the Community Theatre, Berkeley CA. Afterwards, respected critic Greil Marcus encounters a hostile backstage reception from EC & Jake and notes that "the concert was meant as an insult and performed as such, and people caught on. When I came out they were jumping up and down in the balconies. An hour later people tried to break into the box office." Seats are ripped out of the theatre and the tour bus suffers broken windows. · 10thCommunity Theatre, Berkeley CA. · 11th - Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz CA. · 12th – A week of sold-out shows in Southern California begins with an appearance at the Fox Theatre, San Diego. · 13th – More audience complaints after a 35-minute (!) set on the first of two nights at the Long Beach Arena, Long Beach CA. · 14th - "From the moment Elvis scuffled onstage at the spiffy, cavernous Long Beach Arena (curtained in half so he could play to a smaller crowd), he seemed like some leering, jerking marionette being strung along through its scenes," reports Mikal Gilmore in Rolling Stone. New song ‘Motel Matches’ is premiered and a free Valentine’s Day promotional single ‘My Funny Valentine’ b/w ‘Peace, Love & Understanding’ (on red vinyl!) is distributed to the audience. · 15th – Nominated in the "best new artist" category at the US Grammy awards, EC is beaten to the prize by, er, A Taste Of Honey (don’t ask!). · 16th – Another tour highlight as pedal steel guitarist John McFee augments the band for two sets at the country-orientated Palomino Club, Los Angeles CA. Jim Reeves’s ‘He’ll Have To Go’ and George Jones’s ‘If I Could Put Them All Together (I’d Have You)’ are appropriate inclusions. So too is ‘Psycho’, a chilling Leon Payne song destined to becomes a favourite among the more sweaty-palmed of EC’s audience when an overdubbed recording from this gig is issued as the b-side of the 1981 ‘Sweet Dreams’ single. "For the first time, I came away from an Elvis Costello concert with the feeling that something had, after all, been revealed," observes Mikal Gilmore, but for Paul Grein "the show ended on a puzzling note, with Costello declining to appear for a second encore despite overwhelming demand." · 17th - Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara CA. · 18th - Fox Theatre, San Diego CA . · 19th - Dooley’s, Tucson AZ. · 20th - Dooley’s, Phoenix AZ. · 22nd - BBC1 TV’s Top Of The Pops includes a repeat showing of ‘Oliver’s Army’ - still climbing the UK charts. · 23rd – Despite EC having consistently introduced ‘Peace, Love & Understanding’ has his new single during the tour, Columbia decide to issue ‘Accidents Will Happen’ b/w ‘Sunday’s Best’ (it just fails to crack the Hot 100, stalling at number 101 in early April). Opera House, Austin TX. · 24th - Opera House, Austin TX. · 25th - Cullen Auditorium, Houston TX . · 27th - Convention Center, Dallas TX. · 28th - A scheduled show at the Kingfish, Baton Rouge LA is cancelled due to EC having picked up a stomach bug.

MARCH 1979

· 1st - Brother’s, Birmingham AL. · 2nd - Municipal Auditorium, Mobile AL. · 3rd - Agora Theatre, Atlanta GA. · 5th - Memorial Hall, Kansas City MO. · 6th – More controversy at the Henry W. Kiel Auditorium, St.Louis MO where EC delivers what Billboard describes as "one of the biggest slams ever hurled by a performer at a concert host". Local radio station KSHE - chosen by Columbia as the concert sponsor - are more than a little miffed when Elvis, having already namechecked the allegedly more supportive rival station KADI, introduces ‘Radio Radio’ with a dedication to "all the local bastard radio stations that don’t play our songs - and to KSHE". Costello albums go from ‘heavy rotation’ to no rotation on KSHE until Alan Frey of EC’s US management company (ARSE!) manages to smooth things over. · 8th - Another new song - ‘B Movie’ - is unveiled at the Civic Center, St.Paul MN. It remains a regular in the set for the rest of the tour. · 9th – Yet another Top Of The Pops showing for ‘Oliver’s Army’. The record has now climbed to number 2 in the UK chart where, frustratingly, it stalls for three consecutive weeks (thwarted by an unholy alliance of the Bee Gees’ ‘Tragedy’ & Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’). Uptown Theatre, Milwaukee WI. · 10th - Aragon Ballroom, Chicago IL. · 11th - University Of Indiana, Bloomington IN. · 12th - War Memorial Auditorium, Nashville TN. · 13th - Elvis & George Jones complete their postponed duet recording of ‘Stranger In The House’ at CBS Studios in Nashville. "He was in really excellent health," notes EC. "I felt really comfortable being around such professionals." · 14th - Park West Club, Chicago IL. · 15th - An unremarkable show at the Agora Club, Columbus OH is the prelude to one of the most notorious nights in EC’s career. Pete Thomas: "There was this Holiday Inn in the middle of nowhere. I can remember seeing this other bus and the general feeling was - another group! It was as if sailors came into harbour and saw another boat there - and then, whooaah, it’s Steven Stills!" Trying to piece together what actually happened is even more futile now than it was at the time, but the version which has passed into legend is that, returning to their hotel after a "distressingly routine set", EC & Bruce Thomas are involved in a drunken argument with members of the Stephen Stills band - including back-up singer Bonnie Bramlett. The contretemps rapidly escalates and some unfortunate remarks are attributed to EC, who seeks to outrage his opponents with insults both to America and its music. Ray Charles is reportedly dismissed as "nothing but a blind, ignorant nigger" and James Brown as "a jive-ass nigger" while Stills himself leaves the scene of the quarrel with the words "Fuck off, steel nose!" ringing in his ears (a reference to the nasal reconstruction surgery he required to repair damage allegedly inflicted by cocaine use). Finally, there is a scuffle, from which EC emerges with an injury to his arm caused either by Bramlett alone or by a whole group of Stills’s roadies, according to whose story you wish to believe. "I only remembered that the thing had even taken place when I returned to my hotel room and discovered that my arm hurt somewhat," EC tells NME. · 16th - As an infuriated and vengeful Bonnie Bramlett gets busy calling up every reporter she knows, EC and his tour party hit the road bound for the Masonic Temple, Detroit MI unaware just how serious the repercussions from last night’s incident will prove to be. · 17th - Victory Theatre, Dayton OH. · 18th - Memorial Auditorium, Freedom Gardens, Louisville KY. · 19th - On his night off, EC attends a Nicolette Larson gig in Cleveland, still nursing his arm in a sling. · 20th - Agora Ballroom, Cleveland OH. · 21st - En route for the Forum, Harrisburg PA the tour party are cheered by the news that Armed Forces has reached the Billboard Top 10. ‘Idle Hands’ - an early version of ‘Temptation’ - features in the set for the first time. · 22nd - Shea’s Buffalo Theatre, Buffalo NY. · 23rd - Landmark Theatre, Syracuse NY. · 24th - As the tour ploughs on through New York state, the storm over EC’s alleged racism begins to break. Tonight’s set at the Auditorium, Rochester opens, as do most of the remaining shows, with a heartfelt ‘I Stand Accused’. · 25th - Another new song - ‘High Fidelity’ in a much slower arrangement than the recorded version - is premiered at the Palace Theatre, Albany NY and remains in the set for the remainder of the tour. · 28th - Village Voice runs a story on the "Columbus incident" which is now escalating alarmingly out of control. Amid accusations of racism, EC’s records are dumped from radio playlists and withdrawn from record stores. "There were elements of the liberal press in New York that was waiting for this kind of thing," EC observes later. "They proceeded to get the wrong end of the stick and beat me about the head with it." While the press frantically try to track him down, EC remains "unavailable for comment" as he prepares for tonight’s gig at the University Of Vermont, Burlington VT. · 29th - "Looking a bit clownish in a checkered coat and pink tie, Elvis steams with the kind of fervour that turns his four-piece band, which can often sound as raw as a clockwork toy, into an insistently kicking mule," observes Fred Schruers of tonight’s gig at the Orpheum Theatre, Boston MA. Backstage, the atmosphere remains tense, despite EC’s feeling that this is the best show of tour so far. · 30th - By the time he arrives in New York for ‘Elvis Costello Weekend’ EC has, reportedly, received over a hundred death threats - prompting him to employ the services of two burly bodyguards ("There were two guys with guns with him at all times. A car would backfire and everyone would hit the floor. It really was that bad," recalls photographer Roberta Bayley). With the story now breaking big time in the national press and civil rights groups clamouring for a boycott of his shows, EC decides to tackle the problem head on. Around 50 journalists answer the call to attend a hastily-arranged press conference at CBS Headquarters in Manhattan which Elvis describes as "the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do". "You could see straight away how nervous he was," recalls Kurt Loder. "He was shaking, all clenched up, real tense … it was real obvious from the moment he walked in, man, that whatever was gonna happen was gonna be just awful." Sadly, EC’s apparent determination to explain ("I was misquoted out of context … it became necessary for me to outrage these people with the most obnoxious and offensive remarks I could muster, to bring the argument to a swift conclusion and rid myself of their presence. It worked pretty good - it started a fight...") rather than just offer a simple apology and get the hell out serves only to fan the flames. "The press conference was unsuccessful because I was fried on that tour. It was at that point that everything - whether it be by my self-perpetuated venom - was about to engulf me. I was, I think, rapidly becoming not a very nice person. I was losing track of what I was doing, why I was doing it, and my own control." Elsewhere in the same building, CBS bosses are surveying the wreckage grimly; one observer records that they "made it official, albeit unstated, policy to let Elvis die a quick death and take the heat off the record company. A high ranking source within Columbia said later that ‘the big guys were very upset’ and weren’t willing to weather the storm of bad press that would accompany bigger sales. No further singles were released and the album quickly vanished from the charts and playlists. There was even talk within the company of dumping him from the label." Meanwhile, the show must go on, in tonight’s case at the Capitol Theatre, Passaic NJ. · 31st - In the light of recent events, posters which have adorned the streets of New York for the past few weeks have taken on a chillingly prophetic ring: "ARMED FORCES" LAND IN NY!!! MARCH 31- THE PALLADIUM. APRIL 1 - NOWHERE. However, despite continuing calls for the shows to be banned, and the presence of Rock Against Racism pickets, the band proceeds with two sets at the Palladium, New York City NY. "The shows were awesome," reports Gorman Bechard. "Elvis’s vocal ability was in top form. He was appreciative of the audience, thanking them many times…" Another witness to the 75-minute second show recalls "a strange performance, indeed, as Elvis was on the floor at times and swinging his microphone cord around à la Sinatra. He was either totally smashed or really enjoying himself (or both!)". [Answers on a postcard, please - Ed.] "Mr Costello’s voice is extremely unpleasant," records the New York Times rather less enthusiastically.

APRIL 1979

· 1st - The notorious ‘April Fools Day Marathon’ sees the band play three separate club dates in a single day ("more a matter of stamina than creativity" according to Bruce Thomas). The 1,200 tickets are distributed in a radio give-away which provokes such an overwhelming response (250,000 according to one report) that Jake Riviera is prompted to ask CBS for money to book Shea Stadium. When the record company refuses, Jake - ever the diplomat - arranges delivery of a truckload of shovels to the executives concerned. "If you really want to bury my act," runs the accompanying message, "I thought you could do with some more help." On stage for his early evening set at the Lone Star Café, EC half-jokes that "this idea of playing three clubs in one night is somebody’s idea of an April Fool joke - and I think I know who that fool is!" Ruth Polsky is among 60 lucky souls crammed into the tiny venue and claims to have detected a change in EC’s stage persona: "Sullen glares and an infuriatingly aloof emotionality were replaced by an abundance of startling smiles and a look of real pleasure to be interacting so closely with the crowd (augmented by hundreds of sidewalk viewers straining for a glimpse through the glass window)." A little later in the evening Mick Jagger is part of another tightly-packed audience at the Bottom Line. "With the audience close enough to see the bug-eyes he was making at them, Costello came out with his fists up," reports Richard Grabel. Outside the club, Fred Schruers encounters one of the Rock Against Racism pickets "I address one bearded fellow who’s holding a banner saying, KICK ‘IM AGAIN BONN. ‘Aw, he’s still cool with me,’ says the picket. ‘I think it’ll be best if Elvis finds he doesn’t have loyal fans, but fans who keep an eye on what he says.’" Six hours after opening at the Lone Star, EC & The As take the stage at Great Gildersleeves where the intrepid Ruth Polsky observes a band which now looks "10 leagues past exhaustion (Steve Nieve had circles under his eyes practically reaching his mouth) and Costello was worn down to raw passion. He prowled and pounced like a wolf, thrust his guitar toward different parts of the audience, drove the band on relentlessly." The set ends at around 3.30am, and as the crowd files out Riviera-Global staff - as they have done at all 3 shows - hand out copies of ‘Talking In The Dark’/’Wednesday Week’ ("a present from Elvis – thanks for coming"). · 5th - Men’s Gym, State University, Binghamton NY. · 6th - Mcdonough Arena, Georgetown University, Washington DC. · 7th - "I suppose they’ll clear the Yanks out first, wot?" observes Jake Riviera, musing on the possible dangers of tonight’s gig at the Tower Theatre, Philadelphia PA - within range of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor. · 8th - Tower Theatre, Philadelphia PA. · 10th - Calderone Concert Hall, Hempstead NY. · 11th - Hard Rock Cafe, Hartford CT. · 12th - Grace Hall, Lehigh University, Bethlehem PA. · 13th - Dillon Gym, Princeton University, Princeton NJ. · 14th - Final show of the tour is at the Walsh Gym, Rhode Island College, Providence RI. · 15th - Easter Sunday, and the end of the road for EC’s relationship with Bebe Buell: "Elvis and I met in LA, in the summer of 1978, and parted very painfully within a year. It was devastating. I adored this man. To me, this was Clark Gable, this was Humphrey Bogart. Humphrey Bogart with an Irish temper and a penchant for drink. And stardom and cocaine and drink and rock & roll just turned him into someone I didn’t know anymore. I think he was afraid of his own shadow at that point and he went back to his wife. On Easter Sunday, 1979." · Elvis (or "Earl Manchester") films a brief cameo appearance – miming to ‘Crawling To The USA’ outside the gates of "Buckingham Palace" – for the movie Americathon. · As the tour party retreats back to England, the controversy over EC’s alleged racism continues to rage in the US press (surprisingly, little is made of the incident back in the UK). "I suppose if you allow uncontrolled anger to run away with you," Elvis later reflects, "and if you make a career out of contriving anger, up on stage, whether you’re feeling angry or not, sooner or later you’ll find yourself saying things, using words you don’t mean. It’ll all come back at you … I have to live with the fact that people hate me because of it. You work hard, and then you become best known for a confused, idiotic incident." Ross MacManus is moved to write to Rolling Stone defending his beleaguered son: "My own background has meant that I am passionately opposed to any form of prejudice based on religion or race … This is the water that Elvis has been born and bred in, and he swims in it as naturally as a goldfish. His mother comes from the tough, multi-racial area of Liverpool, and I think she would still beat the tar out of him if his orthodoxy were in doubt." Final word on the subject goes to Ray Charles himself who offers this admirably restrained view to the press: "Anyone could get drunk at least once in his life. Drunken talk isn’t meant to be printed in the paper and people should judge Mr Costello by his songs rather than his stupid bar talk."

MAY 1979

· 4th - UK release of the single ‘Accidents Will Happen’ b/w ‘Talking In The Dark’ & ‘Wednesday Week’ on Radar. The latest Barney Bubbles brainwave is to have some copies of the original cartoon picture sleeve manufactured inside out (a more conventional "photo" sleeve is used on later copies after complaints from retailers). Despite all this, and a much-acclaimed animated video, the record stalls at a disappointing 28 on the chart. · 5th – EC & The As appear live on BBC1 TV’s Saturday morning Multicoloured Swap Shop to perform their new single. · UK release of Dave Edmunds’s Repeat When Necessary album on SwanSong. It includes ‘Girls Talk’ written by EC. · American singer Jo Marshall spends 10 days in England at the invitation of Jake Riviera. During her stay she attends a J Geils Band gig in London with Elvis and his wife Mary, and eventually records some demos at Eden Studios backed by EC (guitar/vocals), Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas & Nick Lowe on fretless bass. Two specially-written Costello songs - ‘Mighty Man’ & ‘True Love’- are recorded, along with her own ‘Big Brown Eyes’ & ‘Talk To Me’ but plans for Nick Lowe to produce an album fall through and Marshall is asked not to use the EC compositions. · 22nd – EC & The As make a surprise appearance supporting Clive Langer & The Yachts at a Radar Records party (‘The Cruise of the Century’) on board the River Mersey’s Royal Iris ferry. "Hi there," says Elvis to a crowd of some 400. "We’re a little nervous because we haven’t played for a while, but we thought we’d come and surprise you..." NME’s Kevin Fitzgerald comments that the band "look anaemic and unhealthy" while Marcus Featherby records the scene picturesquely for Record Mirror: "The lurching swell caused the DJ’s needle to go scudding over his records, and one burly roadie was seen heaving over the side. The boiler rooms under the middle deck made us feel as if we were in a jungle and sweat was trickling down the back of our necks…". · 24th – BBC1 TV’s Top Of The Pops features ‘Accidents Will Happen’. · 25th - Elvis appears on BBC Radio 1’s Roundtable, reviewing the week’s record releases with Mike Read and The Tubes’ Fee Waybill. · 27th – EC & The As go into the legendary EMI Abbey Road studios with producer Nick Lowe, intending to cut ‘So Young’ as a summer single. EC: "This song was borrowed from the great Joe Camilleri, then of Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, after our first trip to Australia. Unfortunately our only Abbey Road session fell on a Bank Holiday and was blighted by flying coffee cups, technical resistance and overwhelming blueness." (The track remains unreleased until 1987’s Out Of Our Idiot compilation.) · 30th - European promotional tour opens with a special concert recorded for the Dutch TV show Countdown at De Flint, Amerfoort which includes a first public performance of ‘So Young’. The event is limited to an audience of 60 - all winners of a TV & radio competition inviting people to send in items they thought EC might like (imitation glasses & bike chains were among the submissions). Each song is played twice in case of technical problems but as the TV signal is being relayed to tape recorders 30km away in Hilversum, the band are unable to review the results of their labours. Jake Riviera reportedly throws a mike stand at someone during the ensuing arguments…

Sources: Pete Frame & Kevin Howlett: ‘Elvis Costello’ (BBC Radio 1), New Musical Express, Rolling Stone, Melody Maker, Sounds, Record Mirror, Creem, Village Voice, New York Times, New York Rocker, Spin, Details, The Aquarian, Imagine, Uncut, Elvis Costello: ‘Get Happy!!’ (liner notes), Richard Groothuizen & Kees den Heyer: ‘Going Through The Motions’, Richard Groothuizen: ‘Elvis Costello - So Far’, ECIS (fanzine), On The Beat (fanzine), Radio 3JJJ (Australia).

Copyright © 1999   BEYOND BELIEF - The Elvis Costello Newsletter
Editor: Mike Bodayle 115 McGavock Circle, Franklin, Tennessee 37064-2938, USA