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. Asked by Q Magazine in 2016 when was the last time someone called him Declan, Costello replied:
"All my family call me that and some friends. Not my band, they've always called me EC. I don't respond when strangers walk up and use it, trying to be familiar. It's for people who knew me before I had the other identity."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Costello's father, Ross MacManus, was a jazz trumpeter and sang with the Joe Loss Orchestra. A teenage Elvis sung backing vocals for his dad in the "I'm a Secret Lemonade Drinker" television commercial
for R. White's Lemonade. The ad won a silver award at the 1974 International Advertising Festival.
Costello recalled: "My dad used to sing a lot of ads, for him it was another day in the office, but for me it was a bit of luck. I was 17 and they needed that kind of voice. To be honest, it wasn't much but the cheque was handy a few times between '73 and '78."
Elvis Costello didn't learn how to write music down until he was 38 years old. He recalled to Billboard
"I wrote 11 hours of television music in 1990, 1991 with Richard Harvey, who wrote a bunch of very good scores. At that time I couldn't write music down, so that's what motivated me. I felt like I was a poor partner to him. [Composer] Harry Gregson-Wlliams was Richard's assistant at that time, and he'll tell you the torture of having to decode my squeaky little things. Richard would then orchestrate them and I would argue, 'Well, actually, I was hearing that a lot more romantic or a lot more aggressive.' I thought the only way I can learn how to do this is learn how to write it down accurately myself, so I did. Then I had the experience of working with the Brodsky Quartet, and that was big motivation."