My Aim Is True
|My Aim Is True|
|Studio album by|
|Released||22 February 1977|
|Studio||Pathway Studios, London|
|Elvis Costello chronology|
|Singles from My Aim Is True|
|Christgau's Record Guide||B+|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
The album was recorded at Pathway Studios in Highbury, London Borough of Islington in 1976, over the course of six four-hour studio sessions, in a total of approximately twenty-four hours. It was the first of five consecutive Costello albums produced by Nick Lowe and cost £2,000 to record. The backing band was made up of members of Clover, but they were uncredited on the original release due to contractual difficulties; some early publicity for the album identified the backing band as "The Shamrocks".
In 1977 Rolling Stone magazine named the album one of the best of the year. In 2003, the TV network VH1 named My Aim Is True the 80th greatest album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 168 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2004, it was ranked 37 of the top 100 albums of the 1970s by Pitchfork which said the album was "held by many as the most impressive debut in pop music history." In 2007, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Costello had been performing in clubs and pubs in Liverpool and London since 1970 and had created some demo tapes, but he had had little success in obtaining a recording contract. When Stiff Records was founded in 1976, Costello submitted his demos there and found some interest, but initially they wanted him as a songwriter for Dave Edmunds. Edmunds, however, was reluctant, so the company had Costello and Clover re-record some of his songs, with Lowe producing, to try to persuade him. The new recordings were good enough on their own for Stiff Records to abandon that idea.
The label then suggested that he share a début album with Wreckless Eric, but Costello had written enough songs, most of them at home late at night (so as not to wake his wife and young son) or on the London Underground while commuting to work, to have an entire album of his own. Costello called in sick to his day job (as a data entry clerk) to rehearse and record the album with Clover, which was cut in a series of six four-hour sessions for about £1,000.
Costello stayed at his day job as the first two singles, "Less Than Zero" and "Alison", were released without much success. Finally, the label decided to release the album in the summer of 1977, and he was asked to quit his job and become a professional musician. Stiff Records would match his office wages and gave him a record advance of £150, an amp, and a tape recorder. Three weeks after its release, Costello was on the cover of a music paper. He described this situation as being "an overnight success after seven years".
Packaging and artwork
The album cover was designed by Barney Bubbles, who was uncredited on the sleeve. The cover art features rows of tiny black and white checks (surrounding the photo of Costello) on which the phrase "Elvis Is King" is written. Costello's pose on the cover would become an iconic look for him, with the Buddy Holly glasses and the knees bent inwards together. He struck a similar pose in the photo on the back of the original sleeve.
Initially, the LP cover had a black & white photo on the front, and a yellow back. The first 1000 UK copies also came with a form asking the buyer to send in the address of a friend, who would then receive a free copy. The form was titled: HELP US HYPE ELVIS. The free copies that were sent out in response to returned forms were customised with a large special sticker. The form and the sticker were also designed by Barney Bubbles. First pressings came with writings on the dead wax with on the A side "Elvis is King" and "Porky Prime Cut" and on the B side "on this side too" and "porky prime cut too". Early issues were also printed with many different coloured backs. Later issues then had a green tint on the front picture and a green back. The Demon re-issue originally had a yellow tint on the photo and a yellow back, and the reissue has a green tint photo.
According to Costello's own website, a second version of the album (with an identical track listing) was recorded over a 2-day period in July 1977. This second version was recorded by Elvis Costello and his new permanent backing band, The Attractions, with the intention of replacing the original tracks contained in My Aim Is True once the initial pressings had sold out. This never came to pass, however, and all released versions of the album continue to use the original recordings with members of Clover as the backing band. As well, although several reissues of My Aim Is True have featured various demos and 1977-era recordings as bonus tracks, the July 1977 album re-recordings have never been issued in any format.
On 8 November 2007, Costello reunited with the members of Clover from the original recording sessions to perform the songs from My Aim Is True. This marked the first ever (and to date only) live public performances of these songs by the original ensemble that recorded them. The event took place at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, and was a benefit for the Richard de Lone Special Housing Fund, which assists those with Prader-Willi Syndrome.
All songs written by Elvis Costello.
- Side one
- "Welcome to the Working Week" – 1:22
- "Miracle Man" – 3:31
- "No Dancing" – 2:39
- "Blame It on Cain" – 2:49
- "Alison" – 2:54
- "Sneaky Feelings" – 2:09
- Side two
- "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" – 2:47
- "Less Than Zero" – 3:15
- "Mystery Dance" – 1:38
- "Pay It Back" – 2:33
- "I'm Not Angry" – 2:57
- "Waiting for the End of the World" – 3:22
- "Watching the Detectives", released in the UK as a single in October 1977, was not on the original UK release of the album, but was added to the US release as the last track on side one.
- The original UK Stiff and US Columbia LPs and US Columbia CD faded the track "Mystery Dance" at the end. When Demon issued the CD in the UK, the track had a cold ending, with reverb added. This same ending was used on the subsequent remastered Demon CD and US Rykodisc CD. The Rhino 2-CD set and both single-disc and 2CD editions of the Hip-O discs (all three sharing identical masterings) restore the original faded ending.
- There were three outtakes from the album: "Radio Sweetheart" was picked to be Costellos debut single but got pushed to the b-side of the single "Less Than Zero" and then left off the album due to a difference in sound. "Stranger in the House", featuring pedal steel guitar, was not included as it was thought to be commercial suicide to release a country song in 1977. The song was given away as a free single with the first 50 000 copies of This Year's Model. Both these songs appeared on the 1993 CD reissue. The third outtake was a lost version of "Living in Paradise". The 1993 CD also includes seven "pre-professional" recordings, including early versions of "Mystery Dance" and "Blame it on Caine".
- Elvis Costello – vocals, guitar, piano and drumsticks on "Mystery Dance"
- John McFee – lead guitar, pedal steel guitar, backing vocals
- Sean Hopper – piano, organ, backing vocals
- Johnny Ciambotti – bass, backing vocals
- Mickey Shine – drums
- Stan Shaw – organ on "Less Than Zero"
- Nick Lowe – backing vocals, piano, drumsticks and bass on "Mystery Dance"
- Andrew Bodnar – bass on "Watching the Detectives"
- Steve Goulding – drums on "Watching the Detectives"
- Steve Nieve – organ and piano overdubs on "Watching the Detectives"
- Barry "Bazza" Farmer - engineer
- Wendy Sherman - art direction, design
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- "American album certifications – Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.