On July 9, 1977, just over a month before his 23rd birthday, Elvis Costello did what many budding young musicians are told. not do: he quit his day job.
Costello had worked several odd jobs before finding his big break. After school he took a job as an Admiralty chart corrector in Liverpool; he then worked in a bank office, where the words on the computer screen were so small that he needed glasses within six months. This job ended when he got into a fight with an employee who accused Costello of stealing stamps. “I had my hand around his throat before I knew what I had done,” he wrote in his 2015 autobiography, Faithless music and disappearing ink.
He eventually found himself employed as a computer programmer for the Elizabeth Arden cosmetics company, which sold, as Costello put it, “defective lipstick and powder at a discount, so if I had been in the glam rock, I might have made a killing.” It was by no means Costello’s idea of a dream job, but it paid the bills.
“I graduated from high school in 1973. It was the first year of a million unemployed in England lately – in Liverpool, all over the north, it was worse. I had a lot chance of finding a job,” he said. rolling stone in 1982. “I had no ambition to pursue an education; I just got out and got the first possible job. … I got a job as a computer operator, which turned out to be relatively paid well: about £20 a week I was just putting tapes on the machines and feeding the cards, lining up the printing machines – all the manual work that the computer itself doesn’t have arms to do.
In the late 1970s, developments in computer technology were state of the art, but by today’s standards they have slowed considerably.
“The IBM computer didn’t even have a screen, so reams of paper were wasted in the mundane dialogue between man and circuitry,” Costello wrote. “If you entered an incorrect command, the IBM golf ball printer simply typed ‘Error’ in response. If you made the same error more than twice, the printer was programmed to respond: ‘YOU HAVE AGAIN FUCKED, STUPID CHILD.””
Once Costello realized how easy the job was, it gave him plenty of time to catch up on the things that were much more dear to him.
“I read the papers all day because I was a computer operator and no one realized that it was the computer that was thinking,” he said. Q in 1996. “I was wearing a white coat, and people thought I was a rocket scientist because I was the only person in the building who could operate the machine. It was so specialized. Now everyone everyone has one at home. It was as big as this room, as the Billion Dollar Brain, flashing lights and all. Everyone thought I was a genius. It was brilliant. I just jumped all the time.”
So for Costello, the computer gig was going well. He worked on music in his spare time. “It was a great job. I brought my guitar,” he said. “I used to work evenings when it was the end of the month and pay was due. I would stay late, sometimes work 36 hours just on coffee, write two or three songs and read the music press. “
But that didn’t mean he liked the job. One of the songs written around this time was “I’m Not Angry”, which, contrary to its title, implied that Costello had something to be angry about – such as his day job: “I spent all my time in a vanity factory, wondering when they gon’ come and take it all back.”
Listen to Elvis Costello’s “I’m Not Angry”
On another occasion, Costello brought his guitar into the building early in the morning and removed it after everyone had gone home. He had another song idea in mind.
“Perhaps it had to do with the impression of a constant stream of bills to the Duchesses for the beauty treatments they had received at the Arden Salon on Bond Street,” he wrote. at the outlet every Friday, but I had developed a strong sense of fashion promise and disguise. I wrote a song taking the opposite view, called “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”, and added a handful of disconnected footage from some of the movies I had memorized.
Watch Elvis Costello’s “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” Video
Costello had already released his debut single, “Less Than Zero”, in March 1977, and worked steadily on what would become his debut album while employed at Elizabeth Arden.
But he knew he was not going to be able to keep this double duty for long if he wanted his musical career to take off. He finally resigned on July 9, 1977 and my aim is true was released less than two weeks later, on July 22, to widespread acclaim in the UK and US. Welcome to the work week.
Ranking of Elvis Costello albums
Even with a career spanning over four decades, numerous collaborators and multiple record labels, his discography has had far more hits than misses.