'My Aim Is True:' Facts And Trivia About Elvis Costello's Debut

By | July 18, 2020

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Elvis Costello with a Fender Jazzmaster guitar, March 1977. A photoshoot for the cover of his debut album 'My Aim Is True'. (Photo by Estate Of Keith Morris/Redferns/Getty Images)

Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True is among the greatest debut albums in rock history, containing classics including "Alison," "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" and "Less Than Zero." To this day, it holds up as one of Costello's best, even though it's one of those releases that probably shouldn't even exist. Though he's lumped in with the punk movement, Elvis Costello was fundamentally different: He was married, with a newborn, living in the suburbs and working a day job. Recorded with a borrowed backing band on his sick days, My Aim Is True is proof that anyone can be a rock star -- all it takes is an abundance of talent and determination. 

The glasses were there, so was the Fender Jazzmaster and the attitude, but as he entered the minuscule recording studio on sick days from his day job Declan MacManus had yet to adopt the name that made him famous: Elvis Costello. 1977's My Aim Is True, a 12-song set that clocks in at just 32 minutes, is filled with songs of sexual frustration, romantic frustration, and general youthful anger. By combining punk, vintage rock 'n roll, and whip smart lyrics, Elvis Costello created something totally unique with this landmark album.

Costello was working a day job while recording the album

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source: getty

In the mid ‘70s, Costello was performing as a singer-songwriter around England with little acclaim. His life revolved around his day job working in data entry at the cosmetics company Elizabeth Arden during the day, and quietly writing songs to keep from waking his wife and newborn son at night. Money was short for the young family, and Costello writes in his autobiography that he could barely afford to buy new records, a pastime that brought him true joy:

My wages had only increased a little from my days as a lackey in the bank to my current job bluffing my way through the computer world next to a lipstick factory. I made about £30 a week, so I took any available overtime. Mary did a little part-time work, such as parenthood allowed, and we got by. About once every four or five weeks, I might save enough money to buy a record. So, if I abstained from the beer and cheese roll that often passed for my lunch, I might get to buy Blood on the Tracks or Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys.

Costello’s songs were good enough to get him noticed by Stiff Records, who offered to sign him on as a songwriter for Dave Edmunds, but not as a performer. Costello felt that the offer was better than nothing, but Edmunds balked at the idea. Rather than sending Costello on his way, Stiff asked him to re-record his demos with the members of Clover, an American country-rock band then based in the UK, as his backing band, and Nick Lowe producing. 

(Huey Louis, a vocalist and member of Clover, wasn't needed for the sessions. He would later change the spelling of his name to Huey Lewis, and members of Clover would form his backing band, The News.)