Elvis Costello came on the scene in the late 1970s in the same new wave invasion from the UK that brought Joe Jackson and the Police. In 1977 Costello released his first album My Aim is True the first of five consecutive albums produced by Nick Lowe. Lacking his own backing band, the US band Clover played on the album although they were not credited.
The album was recorded over 24 hours of studio time and cost less than $4000. Costello did not quit his day job until Stiff Records agreed to match his weekly wages, plus a modest advance, an amp and a tape recorder. After having spent about 7 years playing in London pubs, Costello went from office worker to next big thing in about three weeks after his album was released. He describes this situation as being “an overnight success after seven years”.
Elvis Costello’s debut album has been widely rated as one of the most impressive debut albums in pop history, and he was able to demonstrate on his following albums a knack for songwriting that separated him from most of his contemporaries and allowed him to prosper long after the fascination with new wave music ended.
For his remaining albums in the 70’s and through 1985 Costello’s band was the Attractions. By 1980 they had moved beyond the primary new wave sound and began to branch out into different musical genres, recording an album of country covers, one with a horns section and a soul infused album.
Tension in the band led to a breakup and a short lived retirement for Elvis Costello in the mid 80s. When he returned it was first with a different band. 1986’s King of America was recorded with members of the band that had backed Elvis Presley in the late 60s and 70s, the TCB Band. T-Bone Burnett co-produced the album and it’s Americana feel was far removed from Costello’s first releases.