"Alison" is a song written by and first recorded by Elvis Costello in 1977 for his debut album on Stiff Records. Costello's single never charted. Linda Ronstadt, who covered the song and released her version in 1979, had a moderate hit with it. There have also been several other cover versions of this song.
The song "Alison" was included on Elvis Costello's debut studio album My Aim Is True as the fifth track, and was released in 1977. As "Alison" was recorded before Elvis Costello and the Attractions formed, his backing band on the track was Clover. 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."My Aim Is True (Inset). Elvis Costello. USA: Rhino Entertainment. 2001. R2 74285. The line "my aim is true" gives the album its title.
"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. The single did not chart. 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. Costello's version of the song is featured in the 2002 film Adaptation..
Linda Ronstadt recorded a cover version of "Alison" for her studio album Living in the USA, in 1978, which sold over 2 million copies. Released as the disc's fourth single in the spring of 1979 on Asylum Records, it was produced by her longtime producer Peter Asher. Ronstadt's B-side to "Alison" was "Mohammed's Radio", also produced by Asher.
Ronstadt's version of "Alison" was a moderate hit, reaching number 30 in the U.S. on the Billboardadult contemporary chart. Her single also reached number 66 in the UK Singles chart. 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.