In June 1977, Allan Jones of the Melody Maker took a familiar route to the offices of Stiff Records in West London. His appointment, that day, was with a notably irascible young singer-songwriter from Hounslow. In the course of a frequently startling interview, the man who had chosen to call himself Elvis Costello railed against pretty much everything he could think of, beginning a sequence of encounters that would be among the sharpest and most volatile to appear in the music press over the next few years.

In June 1977, Allan Jones of the Melody Maker took a familiar route to the offices of Stiff Records in West London. His appointment, that day, was with a notably irascible young singer-songwriter from Hounslow. In the course of a frequently startling interview, the man who had chosen to call himself Elvis Costello railed against pretty much everything he could think of, beginning a sequence of encounters that would be among the sharpest and most volatile to appear in the music press over the next few years.



“I don’t want any of that rock’n’roll rubbish,” Costello told Jones, with a bile and urgency that matched the rhythms of his music. “I don’t want to go cruising in Hollywood or hang out at all the star parties… Too much rock has cut itself off from people. It’s become like ballet or something. Ballet is only for people who can afford to go and see it. It’s not for anybody else. You don’t get ballet going on in your local pub.

“There’s a lot of rock music that’s become exclusive and it’s of no use to anyone. Least of all me. Music has to get to people. In the heart, in the head. I don’t care where, as long as it fucking gets them.”

Thirty-seven years later, it is easy to throw such words back in the face of Elvis Costello, enlightened polymath, trusted cohort of rock’s A-list, from Paul McCartney on down, and, of course, composer of the odd ballet score. Nevertheless, while his modes of attack may change, Costello still has the ability to get to people, in the heart and in the head. Uncut’s latest Ultimate Music Guide, just arrived in UK shops, is a strong illustration of that talent, and a 60th birthday celebration of one of the most smart, questing and quotable rock craftsmen that Britain has ever produced.

In our new Ultimate Music Guide, then, you’ll find Costello going into battle with the British rock press, as some of his finest historical skirmishes are reprinted in full. You’ll also find incisive new reviews of every Costello album to date, with fresh perspectives on some of those less garlanded entries in the daunting EC canon – including that ballet piece, “Il Sogno”.

At 60, Costello remains as adventurous as ever. Just as the issue was going to press, a copy of Lost In The River: The New Basement Tapes turned up in the Uncut office, with Costello playing a leading role in the creative development of a bunch of lost Bob Dylan lyrics. It’s a perfect fit for Costello, as a scholar of musical history and the art of songwriting, who can draw on an encyclopaedic knowledge of music and turn it to his own, richly characterful ends.

“There are still people who want everything I’ve done documented and explained,” he complained to Allan Jones in 1989. “Like I say, it’s all in the past… none of it means a damn. You can’t go digging around forever in the past. It’s history. Let it go. It’s what I’m doing now that counts. That’s what I want people to realise.”

We do. But first, it’s hard to begrudge us a dig through one of rock’s most auspicious careers. You can order a copy of Ultimate Music Guide: Elvis Costello here, Download from Zinio or Download onto other devices. Our aim, rest assured, remains true…

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