|Single by Elvis Costello|
|from the album My Aim is True|
|Released||21 May 1977|
|Genre||Pub rock, new wave|
|Writer(s)||Elvis Costello (credited as Declan Patrick MacManus)|
|Elvis Costello singles chronology|
|Single by Linda Ronstadt|
|from the album Living In The USA|
|Genre||Country Rock, new wave|
|Linda Ronstadt singles chronology|
"Alison" is the fifth track on Elvis Costello's first album, My Aim Is True, released in 1977. As "Alison" was recorded before Elvis Costello and the Attractions formed, his backing band on the track was Clover. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 318 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and Entertainment Weekly voted it as one of Costello's top 10 greatest tunes.
The song features in the film Adaptation. (2002). The line "my aim is true" gives the album its title.
Costello has divulged little on the meaning of the song other than to say that it is about "disappointing somebody" and to deny suggestions that the lines "somebody better put out the big light" and "my aim is true" refer to murder. He has also declined to reveal who the song is about, writing in the liner notes for Girls Girls Girls, "Much could be undone by saying more." The chorus is based on "Ghetto Child" by The Detroit Spinners.
"Alison" was released as a single in the United Kingdom with a B-side of "Welcome to the Working Week" and as two singles in the United States; one with a mono version of the same song on the B-side, the other with "Miracle Man".
The US (and Canadian) single versions of "Alison" are unique in that someone at CBS in the US decided to add synth-strings, background singers and echo to the song.
Linda Ronstadt version
Linda Ronstadt recorded a cover version of "Alison" on her album Living in the USA, in 1978, which sold over 2 million copies. Released as the disc's fourth single on Asylum Records, it was produced by her long time producer Peter Asher. Ronstadt hit No. 30 in the U.S. on the adult contemporary chart and No. 66 in the United Kingdom. Years later, Costello joked that he might have been publicly derisive of Ronstadt's version, "but I didn't mind spending the money that she earned me". Costello donated royalties from Ronstadt's version to the African National Congress after she played at Sun City in South Africa.
- Everything but the Girl recorded an acoustic version on their Covers E.P., which was also included on their album Acoustic. The song also played a role in the movie Get Over It.
- Costello and Billie Joe Armstrong, of Green Day, played the song live together on VH1 Classic's "Decades Rock Live". The performance originally aired on 19 May 2006.
- "Alison". Pump It Up: Elvis Costello's 10 Greatest Tunes (Entertainment Weekly). 9 October 2004.
- "Alison". 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Rolling Stone). 9 December 2004.
- Girls Girls Girls (Inset). Elvis Costello. USA: Columbia Records. 1988. C2K-46897.
- My Aim Is True (Inset). Elvis Costello. USA: Rhino Entertainment. 2001. R2 74285.
- Griggs, Simon (26 November 1998). "Elvis Costello Interview". Archived from the original on 29 June 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
- Anthony, David (23 September 2014). "American Football covers Elvis Costello". The A.V. Club. Onion, Inc. Retrieved 23 September 2014.