Playboy magazine called it “the raw bluesiness of the Stones successfully mixed with a bouncy, early Beatles sound.” American critic Robert Christgau was inspired by it to say: “I like the nerdy way this guy comes on, I’m fascinated by his lyrics, and I approve of his rock and roll orientation.” The guy in question was Elvis Costello and the record was his debut LP My Aim Is True, which hit record shops on July 22, 1977.
Three and a half decades after its release, Entertainment Weekly called the album in question the 75th greatest of all time. It made quite an impression for a guy who had been a data entry clerk for Elizabeth Arden cosmetics.
The album was produced by Nick Lowe, with whom the young Declan MacManus had had an affinity since he used to watch Lowe’s old band Brinsley Schwarz on tour around the UK. Elvis and Nick cut the record at Pathway Studios in the Newington Green area of London, as punk raged around the UK in 1976 and early 1977.
Costello made his singles debut on Stiff Records in March 1977 with “Less Than Zero,” following it swiftly with “Alison.” While neither song made the British charts, the huge media acclaim swirling around the unlikely-looking frontman confirmed the arrival of a major talent.
“Every song has ideas to burn and a memorable chorus,” enthused Mitchell Cohen in Creem magazine. “The title (from the hauntingly tough-tender ‘Alison’) speaks chapters: his aim – his purpose and prowess – is true.”
‘The music business stinks’
Elvis did little to dispel the early media impression of him as an angry young man. “I bear a grudge, I’m vindictive,” he told the London Evening News. “And I couldn’t care less whether this attitude is damaging to me or not because I’d like to take them all to bits and rain havoc on them. They deserve it. They deserve me. They deserve everything they get. I think the whole of the music business stinks.”
Whatever the 23-year-old Costello may have thought of industry institutions such as Rolling Stone, the magazine named My Aim Is True in its year-end critics’ list of albums of the year. It sat alongside Rumours, Hotel California and, perhaps more relevantly to him at the time, Never Mind The Bollocks. Of the many accolades that have greeted the Elvis album in more recent years, it joined the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007 and stood at No.168 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Buy or stream My Aim Is True.