The Attractions

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The Attractions
Costello and the Attractions in 1979. L–R: Pete Thomas, Elvis Costello, Steve Nieve and Bruce Thomas
Costello and the Attractions in 1979.
L–R: Pete Thomas, Elvis Costello, Steve Nieve and Bruce Thomas
Background information
GenresNew wave
Years active1977–1986, 1994–1996
Past membersElvis Costello
Steve Nieve
Bruce Thomas
Pete Thomas

The Attractions were an English backing band for the English new wave musician Elvis Costello between 1977 and 1986, and again from 1994 to 1996. They consisted of Steve Nieve (keyboards), Bruce Thomas (bass guitar), and Pete Thomas (drums). They also released one album (and two associated singles) as an independent entity, without Costello, in 1980.

They have been called one of the best backing bands in rock history.[1][2][3]


Backing for Costello's 1977 debut album was provided by the American West Coast band Clover.[4] On the eve of that album's release, Costello formed his own permanent backing band, the Attractions, consisting of Steve Nieve (born Steve Nason; keyboards) from London, Bruce Thomas (bass guitar) from Stockton-on-Tees, and Pete Thomas (drums) from Sheffield.[5] The two Thomases are unrelated.[6]

Bruce Thomas was the oldest group member (29 when he joined), with the most professional experience prior to being an Attraction. He had previously been a member of the band Quiver, who had released two albums on their own in 1971/72, as well as functioning as the backing band for several albums by the Sutherland Brothers.[5] These albums were credited to "The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver"; Thomas played on the early recordings credited to this group, including the minor American hit "(I Don't Want to Love You But) You Got Me Anyway", which peaked at No. 48 in 1973. He left the group before their biggest success, 1976's "Arms of Mary", a No. 5 UK hit and a No. 1 hit in many European countries. Thomas was also a member of Moonrider for their lone album in 1975, and recorded as a session musician for Al Stewart in the early to mid-1970.

Pete Thomas, who was born the same month as Costello, had recorded one album as a member of Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers.[5]

Only Nason, who had classical training, had never recorded or played with a rock band before.[7] Just 19 when he joined the group, Nason was given the stage name "Steve Nieve" (pronounced as "naive") by Ian Dury;[8] while Elvis Costello & The Attractions were playing a series of concerts with Dury before they recorded their first single, Nason innocently asked Dury "What's a groupie?" Dury immediately dubbed Nason "Steve Naive", and the name stuck (although the spelling was altered.)

According to Pitchfork's Tyler Wilcox, the band replaced the "middle-of-the-road elements" of Clover to create a "minimal, hard-edged sound befitting the burgeoning punk scene in England at the time".[9]

Costello and the Attractions made their live debut on 14 July 1977, shortly before the release of My Aim Is True (1977).[10][11] A few live tracks were appended to the B-side of Costello's single "Watching the Detectives", issued in October 1977, which Nieve performed on.[6][7] In December 1977, the Attractions appeared with Costello on Saturday Night Live as a last-minute replacement for the Sex Pistols. They played "Watching the Detectives" and began "Less Than Zero" before Costello abruptly cut the band off and counted them into the then-unreleased "Radio Radio". The impromptu stunt angered producer Lorne Michaels and resulted in Costello's banning from Saturday Night Live until 1989.[9][12][13]

The Attractions' first album with Costello was This Year's Model (1978),[6] but the band did not officially receive co-billing credit until 1979's Armed Forces.[14] Costello later stated that he and the Attractions reached a level of musical agreement during the recording of Armed Forces that would never be matched again.[15] From there, the Attractions backed Costello on all of his albums and singles until 1984,[5][9] with the exception of "New Amsterdam" (1980), a solo single recorded by Costello. On 1984's Goodbye Cruel World and its associated tour, Nieve was billed as "Maurice Worm".

In 1980, the Attractions recorded an album of their own, entitled Mad About the Wrong Boy.[5] The album features original compositions by all three group members, and was produced by Roger Bechirian. Steve Nieve wrote the music for several songs under the pseudonym "Norman Brain"; for these songs, his then-girlfriend Fay Hart provided lyrics, leading to a writing credit of "Brain/Hart". The Brain/Hart composition "Single Girl" was released as the first single from the album, followed by the Nieve-composed "Arms Race" as the second single. Neither single charted.

Due to their frequent use of pseudonyms and their associations with Bechirian, the Attractions were widely – but erroneously – rumoured to have been behind Blanket of Secrecy (BoS), a synthpop trio recognised at the time only by the pseudonyms 'Tinker', 'Tailor' and 'Soldier'. The group's lone album, Walls Have Ears, was produced by Bechirian and issued in 1982.

Guitarist Martin Belmont was briefly added to Attractions live line-up in 1981, but never recorded as an official member of the band. He did, however, make a guest appearance on the 1981 Costello single "From A Whisper to a Scream", which was also included on the album, Trust.[16]

In early 1986, Costello released King of America, billed to the Costello Show and made largely without the Attractions, who played on only one track, as well as the non-LP B-side "Baby's Got A Brand New Hairdo", billed to 'The Costello Show Featuring The Attractions'.

Later that same year Costello reunited with The Attractions to record the album Blood & Chocolate,[17] the final Attractions release for several years. The original group reunited for several tracks on Costello's 1994 album Brutal Youth and toured together over the next two years. They recorded one further album as a group (1996's All This Useless Beauty) but split for good in 1996.

Nieve and Pete Thomas continued to back Costello through various touring and recording line-ups, and are still members of his current backing group the Imposters. The split between Costello and Bruce Thomas, however, appears permanent. Bruce Thomas made a brief appearance with his former bandmates when the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, but when Costello was asked why Thomas did not play with them at the event, he reportedly replied, "I only work with professional musicians."[18]


For Elvis Costello solo material, please see the Elvis Costello discography.

The Attractions / Costello albums[edit]

The Attractions non-Costello albums[edit]

The Attractions minimal appearance on[edit]

The Attractions non-Costello singles[edit]

  • "Single Girl" b/w "Slow Patience" (F-Beat Records, 1980)
  • "Arms Race" b/w "Lonesome Little Town" (F-Beat Records, 1980)


  1. ^ Bray, Ryan (17 March 2018). "This Year's Model Is Still Elvis Costello at His Angry Best". Consequence of Sound. Archived from the original on 11 July 2021. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  2. ^ Troper, Morgan (5 February 2021). "Between the Grooves: Elvis Costello – 'This Year's Model'". PopMatters. pp. 1–12. Archived from the original on 14 September 2021. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  3. ^ Mendelsohn, Jason; Klinger, Eric (27 April 2012). "Counterbalance No. 79: Elvis Costello's 'This Year's Model'". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  4. ^ "BBC Four - Elvis Costello: Mystery Dance - Interview with Director Mark Kidel on making the documentary". 1 January 1970. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Indie and New Wave Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 0-85112-579-4.
  6. ^ a b c Thomson 2004, chap. 4.
  7. ^ a b Costello 2015, pp. 231–239.
  8. ^ Smith, Michael (25 August 2014). "Playing Favourites".
  9. ^ a b c Wilcox, Tyler (11 October 2018). "An Ode to Elvis Costello's Stellar Backing Bands, the Attractions and the Imposters". Pitchfork. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  10. ^ Hinton 1999, chap. 2.
  11. ^ Costello 2015, pp. 237–242.
  12. ^ Mamo, Heran (25 January 2021). "Elvis Costello Recalls 'SNL' Stunt That Got Him Banned: 'I Just Wanted Them to Remember Us'". Billboard. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  13. ^ DeRiso, Nick (17 December 2015). "Why Elvis Costello Got Banned from 'Saturday Night Live'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Archived from the original on 28 December 2021. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  14. ^ Murray, Charles Shaar (6 January 1979). "Elvis Costello: Armed Forces". NME. Archived from the original on 13 April 2021. Retrieved 18 March 2022 – via Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  15. ^ Melis, Matt (10 October 2018). "10 Times Elvis Costello's Aim Was True". Consequence of Sound. Archived from the original on 27 February 2019. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  16. ^ "Stone Cold Crazy: A Very Candid Conversation with Martin Belmont". 21 April 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  17. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Blood & Chocolate - Elvis Costello & the Attractions,Elvis Costello | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  18. ^ Crandall, Bill (28 February 2003). "Elvis Costello talks about being inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  19. ^ Lopez, Julyssa (15 July 2021). "Elvis Costello on Why He Remade 'This Year's Model' Entirely in Spanish". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 23 January 2022. Retrieved 31 August 2023.
  1. ^ Re-recording of This Year's Model with new vocalists singing to the Attractions' original backing tracks.[19]