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Best Elvis Costello Songs [VIDEO]

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With Elvis Costello’s upcoming show at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono, we thought it was a good time to look at his best songs. Of course, there’s some stuff from Costello’s groundbreaking first three albums, but there’s also some gems from later in his career.

While it’s hard to choose just 10 songs for the list considering Costello’s massive body of work, we’ll give it a shot. We had to leave out favorites like “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” “Clubland,” “Veronica,” “Man Out of Time,” “A Good Year for the Roses,” and on and on … Apologies to fans of those songs and all many, many other great tunes we left out, but here are our top 10:


Every Day I Write the Book

Punch the Clock, 1983



“Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal,
I’d still own the film rights and be working on the sequel.”



(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes

My Aim is True, 1977



“How can you say that I’m too old,
when the angels have stolen my red shoes?”



Deep, Dark Truthful Mirror

Spike, 1989



“The same eyes, the same lips, the same lie from
your tongue trips…”



I Want You

Blood & Chocolate, 1986



“I Want You” comes from the 1986 album “Blood & Chocolate,” which interstingly enough features the first notable apperance of Costello’s pseudonym Napoleon Dynamite. Costello used the game-show-host alter ego during his 1986 Amazing Spoining Songbook Set. Of course, the name later was used as the title of the 2004 movie with which I’m sure you’re all familiar.



(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea

This Year’s Model, 1978



“She gave a little flirt, gave herself a little cuddle¬†
But there’s no place here for the mini-skirt waddle¬†
Capital punishment, she’s last year’s model.”



Watch Your Step

Trust, 1981



Sound advice, host Tom Snyder notes when introducing Costello on this episode of Tomorrow Coast to Coast. The song didn’t do much on the charts, but some of his best songs didn’t.




My Aim is True, 1977



“My aim is true.”



Oliver’s Army

Armed Forces, 1979



The song went to No. 2 in the UK, and became his biggest selling single. A reference to 17th Century British military leader Oliver Cromwell, the song laments the fact that the working class are all-too-often called upon to do the dirty work of their leaders.



Almost Blue

Imperial Bedroom, 1982



“Not all good things come to an end, now it is only a chosen few.”



Radio, Radio

This Year’s Model, 1978 (U.S.)



Any song that gets you banned from Saturday Night Live has to be good, right? Famously, in 1977, Costello (filling in for the Sex Pistols) was supposed to play “Less Than Zero” on SNL, but after starting the song decided to play this instead. SNL wasn’t happy (because he messed up the timing of the show), and told him he couldn’t come back. He didn’t for more than a decade. Here’s some hard-to-find video of that performance:



Radio, Radio (Reprise)

Saturday Night Live, 1999



When he did return to SNL in 1999, Costello was able to recreate his famous moment with the Beastie Boys, delivering a rocked out version of Costello’s hit after stopping just a few seconds into “Sabotage.” Always props to Steve Nieve, but Ad-Rock is loving the keyboard in this one.


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