How the New Wave Icon Came to Love The Grateful Dead

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Strange as it may seem today, when Elvis Costello burst onto the scene in the summer of 1977 with my aim is true, he was classified as a punk artist. Being lumped in with the likes of The Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash might have made sense at the time. After all, Costello’s charmingly gritty approach to songwriting—as evidenced by spiky rockers like “Pump it Up,” “Radio Radio,” and “Oliver’s Army”—was certainly at odds with the polished polish found on other albums released that year: the all-killer, no-filler Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors or the high-concept rock art of Pink Floyd Animals.

But with only a few years of hindsight, it became clear that the man born Declan MacManus would be best regarded as a member of the new breed of thoughtful British songwriters of that era, a group that would also include Graham Parker, Nick Lowe and maybe even Bob Geldof.

Today, some 45 years after Costello’s debut, the two-time Grammy Award winner (and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee) can be considered part of an even more revered class of songwriters. , alongside Lennon/McCartney, Difford/Tilbrook, Bruce Springsteen and Bacharach/David. And the stylistic classification does a disservice to Costello, who since his debut has collaborated with artists across the musical landscape, from Paul McCartney to The Roots to T Bone Burnett.

Costello even struck up a friendly relationship with The Grateful Dead, a band known for their decidedly unpunk practice of making room for long improvised guitar solos. In 1991, readers of Musician The magazine might have been surprised to see Costello sharing the cover with his friend Jerry Garcia.

But Costello always found inspiration and fulfillment in good music, regardless of genre, and as he revealed in this issue’s cover story, the music of the dead was a passion of his. long time for him: bands… And I almost made this deliberate decision,” he reflected. “No one will follow me to this one: the Grateful Dead. You know, that music that hardly anyone can dig.

What’s more punk than that?

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Costello would go on to contribute a heartfelt medley of “Ship of Fools/It Must Have Been the Roses” to an all-star tribute, 2000’s Stolen Roses: Songs of the Grateful Dead. In addition, his passion for Garcia & Co. continues to this day: Costello has put together a musical evening that will be presented under the title “Elvis Costello Sings Hunter-Garcia”. The Sept. 30 show at the Great American Music Hall is a songwriting tribute to Garcia and longtime Dead contributor Robert Hunter, and serves as an additional local appearance for its Hardly Strictly headliner. Bluegrass, which is scheduled for Saturday. , October 1st.


Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St.
September 30 | Exhausted

Barely Strictly Bluegrass, Towers of Gold Stage, Golden Gate Park
October 1, 4:45 p.m. | Free

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