Although now seen as an intelligent and gifted songwriter far different from the Sex Pistols, he was originally marketed as part of the Punk Rock movement. This image was fostered by onstage rudeness and evasion of the press.
Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth once said that all the critics loved Costello so much because they all looked like him.
Costello picked up guitar at age 15 while attending Catholic school in London, where he was born. He moved to Liverpool two years later and formed his first band.
He worked as a computer operator for a cosmetics company while trying to make it as a musician in the Seventies.
Born Declan Patrick McManus, he was named Elvis Costello by his manager and one of the owners of Stiff Records, Jake Riviera. Costello is Elvis' mother's maiden name.
For much of his career Elvis was backed by The Attractions. They were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2003 as a band, but there were tensions at the ceremony. Costello and 2 of The Attractions played together on "Pump It Up" and "Peace, Love, and Understanding," but bass player Bruce Thomas walked out after receiving his award, with Elvis making a rude gesture as he was leaving.
In 1979, while working with the Rock Against Racism organization, Costello reportedly referred to Ray Charles as a "blind, ignorant nigger." He was far from sober at the time, and apologized for the remark the next day, explaining that he had gotten in an argument with Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett, and "It became necessary for me to outrage these people with about the most obnoxious and offensive remarks that I could muster." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Costello was married to his high school sweetheart until the mid-1980's, when he married Pogues bassist Caitlin O'Riordan. He has since divorced and married Jazz singer Diana Krall. He and Krall married at Elton John's Surrey mansion in December 2003. (thanks, Kim - Portland, OR, and Simon - Hull, England)
Costello was arrested in 1977 for performing outside a Hilton Hotel where there was a conference of Columbia Records executives. Shortly after the incident he was signed to that label.
A big Country music fan, Costello was in a country-rock group called Flip City before hitting it big. They recorded an album of country & western covers recorded in Nashville called Almost Blue.
He appeared in an episode of Frasier as a musician called Ben who plays in the Cafe Nervosa. Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) complains about the noise and subsequently boycotts the cafe. (thanks, Tom - Trowbridge, England)
The backing band for his 1977 debut album My Aim Is True was the American group Clover, which would later evolved into Huey Lewis & The News. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Elvis Costello's proto-geek image was created by Stiff Record owners, Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera, who convinced Costello to don a tight-fitting suit and a pair of Buddy Holly
glasses for promotional purposes.
Costello is an only child, and says he was very shy as a kid. His somewhat petulant persona came out of his insecurity, but he came to embrace it.