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2023 Albums Thing 083 - Elvis Costello “My Aim Is True”

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It’s July 1977 and we’ve been eating up furious singles by the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, The Adverts yadda yadda…when along comes this bespectacled, puny lookin’ fella with an album packed full o’ great, great songs, ballads even. It’s not Punk Rock, maybe we can call it New Wave but bloody hell, whatever it is, it’s good.

Elvis Costello (or Declan MacManus) had been writing, making demo’s and playing in pubs since the early 70’s. During 1976 radio DJ Charlie Gillett played songs from one of EC’s demos on his show which caught the attention of record companies and he eventually made an agreement with Stiff Records. “My Aim Is True” was recorded during six four hour sessions produced by former Brinsley Schwarz frontman Nick Lowe. The studio was an 8-track facility that Costello likened to being the size of a telephone box. As Costello did not have a band the musicians used were Clover, an American country rock band who went uncredited (trivia time, Clover would later add singer Huey Louis and both singer and band would eventually change their names to become Huey Lewis & The News).

At its heart “My Aim Is True” is a pub rock record, more in line with the Brinsley’s, Eddie & The Hot Rods and Dire Straits than the Punk Rock of the time. But the album and singer had a look about it that appealed to those of us looking for something new to call our own. And it was on Stiff Records where The Damned and The Adverts had started out so it must be ours, right ?

There are 3 keys songs on “My Aim Is True”, firstly “Alison” from where the album gets its title so I guess that expresses something of its importance. It’s a stunning ballad about watching the object of your desire (your ex ?) from afar while quietly professing your undying devotion, it’s gorgeous. EC said of it in 2015

"I've always told people that I wrote the song 'Alison' after seeing a beautiful checkout girl at the local supermarket. She had a face for which a ship might have once been named. Scoundrels might once have fought mist-swathed duels to defend her honour … All that were left would soon be squandered to a ruffian who told her convenient lies and trapped her still further"

Over on side 2 we kick off with the first thing I ever heard of Elvis’s. “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” is a Byrdsian marvel, all tumbling, jingley guitar riffs allegedly written in 10 minutes on a train journey ! And finally his first single for Stiff was “Less Than Zero” a rant at Poundshop fascist Oswald Moseley. 

EC in tandem with the Attractions would go onto make better records than “My Aim Is True” and he become one of the worlds great songwriters, but if you’ve got to look back on your first step you’d be bloody chuffed with this. 

(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes - https://youtu.be/pS8oaMFsBEk

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