Watch the earliest known recording of Elvis Costello performing live, 1974
Delving back into the Far Out Vault, we have unearthed some rare footage of Elvis Costello’s first-ever recorded performance which dates back to the summer of 1974. The clip sees the music man churn out a host of reasons why he was set to be a star.
Costello began his career as part of London’s pub rock scene in the early 1970s and started to build momentum. He was soon swept up as part of the punk and new wave movement in the mid-to-late ’70s, despite being stylistically very unique.
A few years building a cult following resulted in Costello releasing his debut album, My Aim Is True, to critical acclaim. While the record only achieved moderate commercial success, Costello’s style and approach to music had earned him a cult following and his esteem began to grow evermore healthily. Following the success of his debut record, Costello followed it up with his second album, This Year’s Model, which was released a year later and is widely credited as being of the best record’s of that particular era.
Rock and roll acts of rebellion on mainstream American TV would follow, as would majestic performances for the President of the United States amid music royalty at the White House, but Costello always remained grounded after his struggles to reach the top.
For a number of years, Costello worked a few different office jobs to support himself, most famously at Elizabeth Arden, where he worked as a data entry clerk and would later describe it as the “vanity factory” in the lyrics of his song ‘I’m Not Angry’. Just one example of the singer’s ability to turn mundane modernity into something inspirational.
After forming a couple of bands and playing regularly around London, Costello would finally be given his big break when he was signed to the independent record label Stiff Records on the basis of a demo tape in 1976. It was at this moment label manager Jake Riviera suggested Costello changes his name and, not holding back, he adopted the name ‘Elvis’.
Two years prior to that moment, Costello had been booked to perform at a free event at the E1 Festival in Stepney, London. A cameraman, filming the community event on an early video camera which only shot in black and white, records the face painting, jazz bands, Indian bands, prize games and more before panning over to the main stage. There, above the warm festival atmosphere, he finds a fresh-faced 19-year-old Elvis Costello.
Costello, fronting his second band Flip City on a warm Sunday on July 21, 1974, was already taking a liking to the spotlight. The band, made up of Steve Hazlehurst on guitar, Mich Kent on bass and Dickie Faulkner on percussion, were playing what was only their third official gig to date.
The Flip City set at E1 Festival would include renditions of ‘I’m A Hog For You’ and ‘This Old Heart Of Mine’ and their performance can be seen below, starting at around the 42:20 mark. It’s a glimpse of a legend before he’d made his name.