King of America

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King of America
Elvis Costello-King of America (album cover).jpg
Studio album by
Released21 February 1986
Elvis Costello chronology
The Best of Elvis Costello and The Attractions
King of America
Blood & Chocolate
Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[5]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[6]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[7]
Entertainment WeeklyA[8]
Rolling Stone[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[12]

King of America is the tenth studio album by British rock singer and songwriter Elvis Costello, credited to "The Costello Show featuring the Attractions and Confederates" in the UK and Europe and to "The Costello Show featuring Elvis Costello" in North America. Released on 21 February 1986, it peaked at No. 11 on the UK album chart and No. 39 on the Billboard 200. In The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll for the year's best albums, King of America finished at No. 2,[15] and it was also selected as one of Rolling Stone magazine's top twenty albums of the year.[16] In 2000, it was voted No. 540 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[17]

Released in the United Kingdom as F-Beat ZL 70946, and in the United States as Columbia JC40173, some songs have a country music feel, reflecting Costello's interest in Americana, whilst "American Without Tears" deals with the experience of Irish immigrants in the US and "Little Palaces" references Costello's working-class roots.


During late 1984 and early 1985, Costello undertook a series of solo tours, sharing the bill with musician T-Bone Burnett.[18]: 3  Costello and Burnett recorded a single together in early 1985, "The People's Limousine" (credited to 'The Coward Brothers'), and ventured to imagine appropriate backing musicians for Costello's new songs.[18]: 3–4  They booked time at Ocean Way and Sunset Sound studios in Los Angeles, and assembled members of the TCB Band who had backed Elvis Presley in the 1970s (Costello being more familiar with their work on records by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris).[18]: 4  Other sessions included the jazz bassist Ray Brown and New Orleans drummer Earl Palmer, and a group of musicians dubbed 'the Confederates', featuring T-Bone Wolk, Mickey Curry, and producer Mitchell Froom.[18]: 5, 10  Costello's usual backing musicians the Attractions appear on only one track, "Suit of Lights", but returned to record in full his next album Blood & Chocolate.

In the album credits, Costello uses three different pen names for himself: his given name of Declan MacManus; his stage name of Elvis Costello; and the nickname given him by producer Nick Lowe earlier in his career, the Little Hands of Concrete, this being a reference to his habitual breaking of guitar strings during recording sessions.[18]: 3–4 

The version of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", a song first recorded in 1964 by Nina Simone, was released as a single and peaked at No. 33 on the UK singles chart. However, it missed the Billboard Hot 100, as did the follow-up single released only in America: "Lovable". The single by Burnett and Costello as the Coward Brothers did not chart in either nation. Though not released in 1986, "Brilliant Mistake" saw release as a single in 2005.

Release history[edit]

The album was released initially on vinyl in 1986, with the Rykodisc Records reissue arriving nine years later on a single compact disc with five bonus tracks, including the Coward Brothers single. Early limited edition pressings also included a six-track bonus disc: Elvis Costello & The Confederates – Live on Broadway, 1986.

In 2005, Rhino Records issued a two-disc, remastered version of the album. The bonus disc contained all five bonus tracks from the Rykodisc version and all six Live on Broadway tracks, as well as ten more bonus tracks. The Rykodisc and Rhino editions are both out of print.

The album was issued a third time on CD by Universal Music Group, after its acquisition of Costello's complete catalogue in 2006. This release was a standalone version featuring no bonus tracks, and features the same mastering as the Rhino edition.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Declan MacManus (Elvis Costello) except as noted; track timings taken from Rhino 2005 reissue.

Side one
1."Brilliant Mistake" 3:45
2."Lovable"MacManus, Cait O'Riordan2:53
3."Our Little Angel" 4:06
4."Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus, Gloria Caldwell3:22
5."Glitter Gulch" 3:17
6."Indoor Fireworks" 4:10
7."Little Palaces" 3:49
8."I'll Wear It Proudly" 4:25
Side two
1."American Without Tears" 4:34
2."Eisenhower Blues"J. B. Lenoir3:46
3."Poisoned Rose" 4:07
4."The Big Light" 2:33
5."Jack of All Parades" 5:18
6."Suit of Lights" 4:06
7."Sleep of the Just" 3:51

1995 bonus tracks[edit]

  1. "The People's Limousine" (The Coward Brothers) (Henry Coward and Howard Coward) – 3:43 IMP single No. 006
  2. "They'll Never Take Her Love from Me" (The Coward Brothers) (Leon Payne) – 2:55 IMP single No. 006 B-side
  3. "Suffering Face" – 3:08 demo recording
  4. "Shoes Without Heels" – 4:20 released as the B-side to "Blue Chair"
  5. "King of Confidence" – 2:48 session outtake

Live on Broadway, 1986 (limited edition bonus disc)[edit]

  1. "That's How You Got Killed Before" (Dave Bartholomew) – 3:14
  2. "The Big Light" – 3:08
  3. "It Tears Me Up" (Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham) – 3:27
  4. "The Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line" (Ivy J. Bryant) – 2:42
  5. "Your Mind Is on Vacation" / "Your Funeral and My Trial" (Mose Allison) / (Sonny Boy Williamson) – 5:16
  6. "That's How You Got Killed Before" (Reprise) (Dave Bartholomew) – 7:00

2005 bonus disc[edit]

Tracks 1–8 and 13 are solo demo recordings; tracks 15–20 are the Live on Broadway tracks; track 21 is a previously unreleased performance from the Broadway show.

  1. "Having It All" – 3:57
  2. "Suffering Face" – 3:08
  3. "Deportee" – 3:35
  4. "Indoor Fireworks" – 3:50
  5. "I Hope You're Happy Now" – 3:06
  6. "Poisoned Rose" – 4:12
  7. "I'll Wear It Proudly" – 3:26
  8. "Jack of All Parades" – 3:32
  9. "The People's Limousine" (The Coward Brothers) (Coward & Coward) – 3:43 IMP single No. 006
  10. "They'll Never Take Her Love from Me" (The Coward Brothers) (Payne) – 2:55 IMP single No. 006 B-side
  11. "King of Confidence" – 2:48 session outtake
  12. "Shoes Without Heels" – 4:20 released as the B-side to "Blue Chair"
  13. "End of the Rainbow" (Richard Thompson) – 3:28
  14. "Betrayal" – 2:25 session outtake with The Attractions
  15. "That's How You Got Killed Before" (Bartholomew) – 3:14
  16. "The Big Light" – 3:08
  17. "It Tears Me Up" (Penn/Oldham) – 3:27
  18. "The Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line" (Bryant) – 2:42
  19. "Your Mind Is on Vacation/Your Funeral My Trial" (Allison) / (Williamson) – 5:16
  20. "That's How You Got Killed Before (Reprise)" (Bartholomew) – 7:00
  21. "True Love Ways" (Buddy Holly & Norman Petty) – 3:33


Additional personnel[edit]


  1. ^ Nelson, Elizabeth; Bracy, Timothy (24 March 2021). "Elvis Costello Best Albums: His Full Discography Ranked". Stereogum. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  2. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Elvis Costello | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  3. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "King of America – Elvis Costello". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 14 December 2020. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  4. ^ Wolk, Douglas (March 2005). "Elvis Costello: King of America". Blender. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  5. ^ Kot, Greg (2 June 1991). "The Sounds Of Elvis, From San Francisco And Beyond". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert (1990). "The Costello Show (Featuring Elvis Costello): King of America". Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-73015-X. Archived from the original on 14 December 2020. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  7. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Costello, Elvis". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  8. ^ White, Armond (10 May 1991). "Elvis Costello's albums". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 21 October 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  9. ^ Deusner, Stephen M. (8 May 2005). "Elvis Costello: King of America". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 14 December 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  10. ^ "Elvis Costello: King of America". Q (108): 129. September 1995.
  11. ^ Sheffield, Rob (19 May 2005). "King Of America: Elvis Costello". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 5 November 2007. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  12. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Elvis Costello". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). London: Fireside Books. pp. 193–95. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Archived from the original on 13 December 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Discography Elvis Costello". Spin. Vol. 24, no. 12. December 2008. p. 76.
  14. ^ Torn, Luke (June 2005). "The Costello Show Featuring Elvis Costello: King of America". Uncut (97): 132.
  15. ^ "The 1986 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. 3 March 1987. Archived from the original on 24 November 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  16. ^ "Rolling Stone's Best Albums of 1986". Album of The Year. Archived from the original on 14 December 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  17. ^ Colin Larkin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 185. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  18. ^ a b c d e King of America (Media notes). Elvis Costello. Rhino Records. 2005. R2 74724.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)

External links[edit]