Elvis Costello's Quotes

1 I don't know much about Morrissey . Apart from the fact he sometimes brings out records with the greatest titles in the world that somewhere along the line he then neglects to write songs for.
2 [on Margaret Thatcher and 'Tramp The Dirt Down'] The song's not a party political broadcast, there's no manifesto. It just says, 'I'll only be happy when this woman's dead.' And some people no doubt might find that extreme. But it's meant to be. I make no apology for that song. It's an honest emotional response to events, and writing it was like casting out demons or something. And the song itself is the result of a form of madness, because when you get to that point of thinking these thoughts, actually wishing somebody dead, it really does become a form of madness. It's a psychopathic thought. And it's fucking disturbing to find it in your own head. But it would be cowardly not to express it. Because once it's there, if you don't get it out, it's only going to come back and haunt you some more. I also think you have to remember that it's not only her that the song is aimed at. It's what she represents. The way she's changed the way people value things. It's like some kind of mass hypnosis she's achieved. People are afraid to speak out. You know, one thing I thought I'd be asked when people heard it was whether I was saying it might've been a good thing if she'd died in the Brighton bombing. I don't think so. It would have made things 10 times worse, because then she would have been a martyr. We would have had a dead queen. So really, in a profound sense, the song is hopeless. It's a hopeless argument. Because I think it's a hopeless situation. So, no, it's not in a large, historical sense, going to change anything.
3 Generally, I think the best that can be achieved by songs like 'Tramp The Dirt Down' is something like 'Free Nelson Mandela' achieved. The record didn't get Mandela released, but it did increase the membership of the anti-apartheid movement, because Jerry Dammers very intelligently printed their address on the sleeve. And the record introduced Mandela to a lot of people who maybe otherwise would never have heard of him. And there's a point where political art only works on that level - the communication of basic information.
4 [on Steve Nieve ] He is incredible, and I don't think he gets nearly enough notice for the work that he's done. Both as a composer and certainly in the work we've done together, he's constantly surprising. It's hard to say what he's playing half the time, and what instruments he's playing: all sorts of sounds are coming out. It's fantastic.
5 Everything in show business is [theatrical] to a degree, you know. You don't go up there in your street clothes. And I've worked with a nom de guerre - a nom de plume, a nom de plank - all my career. So to me it's not unusual to take on a character to go up there. It doesn't make what you're singing about less sincere.
6 I get to play festival occasions with an orchestra - a jazz orchestra or a symphony orchestra. Believe me, that stops it from getting monotonous. Each performance requires slightly different dynamics really, really keeps the music from getting routine.
7 My mother tells the story of me bringing a 45 home and saying, 'It's unbreakable!' and bending it...and it broke.
8 It was difficult to develop an original style. I have no idea who it was I might have been imitating, whether consciously or unconsciously.
9 Was I purposefully fucking up my life to give myself something to write about? I think I did that for about a year. At the very most. Then I began to mistrust the results. Because if you do that, it's like when they pour acid in rabbit's eyes or something. What does it prove? It proves that it hurts the animal. Very smart. It's unnecessary research. And I guess I did some unnecessary research for a while. Then I'd write something that would scare the hell out of me. Like there's a couple of songs on Get Happy!! that, when I read them back, I just scared the hell out of myself. And I thought, 'Uh-uh...better not think any more about this...it's going too far.' Because you can think too fucking much, you know? And it gets a bit fucking evil.
10 I'll never admit that I'm drunk. But we all drink. And sometimes it's for the right reasons...to let your mind off the leash for a while and have a bit of fun, and then you don't mind if you make a bit of a prat of yourself. And it doesn't matter if you end up shouting at people, or have a punch-up or whatever, as long as you wake up the same person. It's when you don't want to wake up the same person that you've got a problem.
11 It's when you're drinking and you're not happy, that's when you've got to worry. That's when it's gonna affect the way you look at things, because you're probably drinking for the wrong reasons. And that's when things start to get warped and you don't think anything through.
12 Do I resent people looking for the autobiographical in my songs? No, I don't resent it. I just blame John Lennon . It's The Plastic Ono Band, that album started it all. After that, everything was supposed to be fucking confessional. The early '70s were full of all these people baring their fucking souls for public scrutiny. There were records whose authenticity depended on their confessional aspect, and if you read certain magazines and the background interviews, you knew what these songs were about. And that, for me, always used to spoil it. Particularly when you found out what dickheads some of the people were that they were writing about. I'd rather have them be like Smokey Robinson songs, which could be about anyone.
13 Writing about music is like dancing about architecture - it's a really stupid thing to want to do.
14 [on Van Morrison 's "Astral Weeks"] It might be the best record of original thought that anybody's ever made. It's so completely unlike anything that went before it. And the vocal performances are the freest that I think Van ever recorded.
15 You can always say it could be better, but if you're not careful with ambition, the next thing you know you're sailing a statue of yourself down the river . . .
16 Sometimes doing an old song is like returning to the text of a play. It's not invalid, just because it's old, otherwise nobody would be acting [ William Shakespeare ]--not to say that everything I do is Shakespeare!. But it's inevitable that it changes its meaning or impact. That's why I never really sing anything from a nostalgic point of view, because even if it's 25 years old, it's in the moment. That's the beauty of live performance.
17 Be nice to the British boy. I'm the only ally you have left.
18 There is something kind of absurd about people who live in such a comfortable, cushioned, spoiled society tattooing themselves and piercing themselves to make them appear tribal. We're trying to act like we're some sort of tribe that's been discovered in the mall.
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