Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Alamy)


The 'soundtrack' of Elvis Costello's life

Elvis Costello’s longevity speaks for itself. It’s over 40-years since he first catapulted into the limelight thanks to his star power. Since then, he has had a career that has outlived most, which, alongside his songwriting talent, has made Costello an icon of British music. His record collection is as eclectic as you would imagine and the varied influences that have played a part in his life, or at least they would do if he gave sincere answers, but, instead, Elvis decided to have some fun.

One of his generation’s leading voices, Costello’s work as a middle-man between punk and the mainstream often belies his vast contribution to both sides of the tracks. The singer has always had music in his soul, Elvis Costello may not share the same acclaim as some of the most notable acts that were born out of a mid-seventies creative surge that pulsed through Britain. Still, it’s undeniable that the singer-songwriter is rightly a national institution and a welcomed treasure.

Whilst most artists fall into creative traps out of laziness after operating for such a long time, Costello has done the opposite and his 2020 effort, Hello Clockface was a pertinent reminder of the national treasure’s capabilities. Back in 2006, Costello spoke with The Guardian and opened up about the soundtrack of his life; these are the records that have a sentimental attachment to his life.

Or they would have done if Costello didn’t decide to make up each song and attach a bizarrely entertaining yet entirely fabricated back-story to each of them.

The first record that crops up is ‘That’s No Reason To Cry (From ‘Fire Truck Blues’)’ by Frank Sinatra, which Costello says is the record that taught him that he shouldn’t play with matches. The singer then explained why: “Following the critical acclaim for the Bob Gaudio-produced Watertown, Frank Sinatra entered Western Studios in May 1971 to create what was to be the second of four ‘Elements’ concept records for Reprise.

“Unfortunately, the Santa Ana winds of that year fanned wildfires throughout the Los Angeles area and the project was scrapped on grounds of taste. This incredibly moving reading of David Ackles’s ‘That’s No Reason to Cry’ is all that remains. It was accidentally released on an Italian compilation of later Sinatra material in 1987.

When Costello isn’t on stage, there’s a good chance that you’ll find him on the golf course, but, who knows if even that is true? Talking about what made him fall in love with the sport, he claimed it was down to the made-up track, ‘I’m Tee-Ed Off With You’ by Bing Crosby and Alice Cooper. “Someone slipped me a cassette of this back in the Eighties and I couldn’t believe my ears,” Costello commented. “Following David Bowie’s hit duet with Crosby on the ‘Little Drummer Boy’, Bing and the shock rocker shared a novelty tune about their mutual passion, golf.

“It has been rumoured that Alice’s gender was kept secret from Crosby in order to lure him away from the golf course but this rehearsal tape consists more of one-liners than any actual singing and it is Alice who is on the receiving end of the crooner’s still very sharp tongue.”

Costello also revealed the track that he wants played at his funeral, which comes courtesy of his namesake Elvis Presley and the obscure track, ‘Out Of Left Field’. “‘When you least expect it, fate stumbles in.’ From these opening lines, this is a triumph,” Costello praisingly said.

He then added: “Recuperating from his near-death experience in the summer of 1977, Presley turned not to gospel but to Southern soul ballads and, specifically, the songs of Dan Penn. His voice unshackled from the pharmaceutical fog of years of abuse, this was his best performance since 1969. His rendition of ‘Raining in Memphis’ would be played at his state funeral, when the end finally came, but it is this moment of self-realisation that is most affecting.”

Costello also confessed his love for an entirely fictional band called, The Detroit Saints’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’, which he claimed to have a visceral memory of picking up all those years ago. “I picked up this 45 in a second-hand shop in Flint, Michigan in the early Eighties and fell in love with it. It has never been collected on any punk compilation to my knowledge,” Costello recalled.

He then added: “In 1979, a disenchanted Iggy Pop returned to his home state after falling out with RCA over their failure to turn Lust For Life’s critical success into substantial sales. Assembling a gaggle of garage band musicians, appropriately enough, in the Detroit suburb of Pontiac, he recorded lacerating versions of current disco smashes, including this profound and profane deconstruction of the Bee Gees’ massive hit.”

This list would typically be accompanied by a playlist which cultivated all the tracks mentioned above together; unfortunately, in this case, none of these songs on the list exists which makes that job an impossible one.

Elvis Costello’s ‘favourite’ records

  • Frank Sinatra – ‘That’s No Reason To Cry (From ‘Fire Truck Blues’)’
  • Bing Crosby and Alice Cooper – ‘I’m Tee-Ed Off With You’
  • Rod Stewart – ‘Rainy Night In Soho’
  • The Detroit Saints – ‘Staying Alive’
  • Elvis Presley – ‘Out Of Left Field (From ‘Uncle Penn’)’