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The Attractions, consisting of Steve Nieve (born Steve Nason; piano), Bruce Thomas (bass guitar), and Pete Thomas (drums; unrelated to Bruce Thomas). Elvis Costello released his first major hit single, "Watching the Detectives", which was recorded with Nieve and the pair of Steve Goulding (drums) and Andrew Bodnar (bass), both members of Graham Parker's backing band The Rumour (whom he had used to audition for The Attractions).
Stiff's records were initially distributed only in the UK, which meant that Costello's first album and singles were initially available in the US as imports only. In an attempt to change this, Costello was arrested for busking outside of a London convention of CBS (Columbia Records) executives, "protesting" that no US record company had yet seen fit to release Elvis Costello records in the United States. Costello signed to CBS in the US a few months later.
Elvis Costello, Cardiff, 1979
On 17 December 1977, Costello and The Attractions appeared on Saturday Night Live as a last minute fill-in for the Sex Pistols, but Costello ended up causing some controversy himself, and was banned from the program for twelve years. Following a whirlwind tour with other Stiff artists (captured on the Live Stiffs album, notable for Costello's recording of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David standard "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself") the band recorded the frenetic, raucous This Year's Model (1978). Some of the more popular tracks include the British hit "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" and the subversively anthemic "Pump It Up". His U.S. record company saw Costello as such a priority that his last name replaced the word "Columbia" on the label of the disc's original pressing.
In 1993, Costello tested the classical music waters with a critically acclaimed collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet on The Juliet Letters. Costello returned to rock and roll the following year with a project that reunited him with The Attractions, Brutal Youth. In 1995, Costello released Kojak Variety, an album of cover songs recorded 5 years earlier, and followed in 1996 with an album of songs originally written for other artists, All This Useless Beauty. This was the final album of original material that he issued under his Warner Bros. contract. In the spring of 1996, Costello played a series of intimate club dates, backed only by Nieve on the piano, in support of All This Useless Beauty. An ensuing summer and fall tour with the Attractions proved to be the death knell for the band. With relations between Costello and bassist Bruce Thomas at a breaking point, Costello announced that the current tour would be the Attractions' last. The quartet performed their final U.S. show in Seattle, Washington on 1 September 1996, before wrapping up their tour in Japan. To fulfill his contractual obligations to Warner Bros., Costello released a greatest hits album titled Extreme Honey (1997). It contained an original track titled "The Bridge I Burned", featuring Costello's son, Matt, on bass. In the intervening period, Costello also served as artistic chair for the 1995 Meltdown Festival, which gave him the opportunity to explore his increasingly eclectic musical interests. His involvement in the festival yielded a one-off live EP with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, which featured both cover material and a few of his own songs.
In 2002 Costello released a new album, When I Was Cruel, on Island Records, and toured with a new band, the Imposters (essentially the Attractions but with a different bass player, Davey Faragher, formerly of Cracker). On 23 February 2003, Costello, along with Bruce Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt, and Dave Grohl performed a version of The Clash's "London Calling" at the 45th Grammy Awards ceremony, in honor of Clash frontman Joe Strummer, who had died in December of the previous year. In March 2003, Elvis Costello & The Attractions were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In May, his engagement to Canadian jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall was announced. September saw the release of North, an album of piano-based ballads concerning the breakdown of his former marriage, and his falling in love with singer Diana Krall. Read more on Last.fm
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