The 10 Best Elvis Costello Songs of All-Time

Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello is the professional name of Declan Patrick McManus, who was born in London on August 24, 1954. He is also known as D.P. Costello, Mac Manus, Howard Coward, Napoleon Dynamite, Little Hands of Concrete, and The Imposter. Costello began his music career in the early 1970s when he was part of the pub rock scene in London. He released his debut album in 1977, after which he formed his backing band ‘The Attractions.’ Costello has become associated with new wave, power pop, punk rock, and pub rock music genres. During his career, Elvis Costello has released 31 studio albums, 16 compilation albums, six live albums, six tribute albums, four box sets, one EP, and 62 singles. Here are the 10 best Elvis Costello songs of all time.

10. When I Was Cruel No. 2 (2002)


When I Was Cruel No. 2 featured on the album ‘When I Was Cruel,’ and it featured Costello’s new band, The Imposters. Costello was influenced by hip-hop, so it was a new style for the artist. On the track, there is a ghostly woman’s voice at the end of each bar. It was one of his first songs to feature the Imposters.

9. London’s Brilliant Parade (1994)


‘London’s Brilliant Parade’ was the fourth and last single released from the album ‘Brutal Youth.’ Elvis Costello reunited with The Attractions on this song, and the music took a step back in time to their previous work together. However, it also featured Costello’s new band, the Imposters. The lyrics of the song are written as a nostalgic love letter to London and are also reminiscent of the plot of an old movie.

8. The Other Side of Summer (1991)


‘The Other Side of Summer’ was the second of Costello’s singles to top the Alternative Airplay chart in the United States. It was the first single released from the album ‘Mighty Like a Rose.’ Costello wrote the song and co-produced it with Mitchell Froom and Kevin Killen. The intention for this song was for it to be a Beach Boys pastiche, and there is also some influence from the Beatles.

7. Veronica (1989)


‘Veronica’ was one of Elvis Costello’s most successful songs in the United States, as it topped the Alternative Airplay chart. It was also a top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the New Zealand charts. Costello co-wrote this song with Paul McCartney and featured McCartney playing his iconic Hofner bass. This track featured on the album ‘Spike.’ The song is about an older woman who is suffering from severe memory loss. It was inspired by Costello’s grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s. Costello said that his grandmother had terrifying moments of lucidity, and that is what inspired him.

6. Shipbuilding (1983)


Like several other Costello tracks, ‘Shipbuilding was a protest song. It was about the impact on shipyards during the Falklands War when working-class men from the shipyards were sent to fight. Music critics consider the lyrics of this song some of Costello’s best, as they are humane, gritty, and moving. Clive Ranger and Robert Wyatt wrote the song’s music.

5. I Want You (1986)


‘I Want You’ was the second of three singles released from the album ‘Blood and Chocolate.’ It has dark lyrics that describe a tormented relationship where the narrator’s partner is unfaithful. While Elvis Costello wrote the song, it was produced by Nick Lowe and Colin Fairley. This song has been covered by several other artists, including Lydia Lunch & Cypress Grove, Fiona Apple, Questlove, and Steven Page.

4. Man Out of Time (1982)


The second single that was released from the album ‘Imperial Bedroom.’ Costello wrote it, and he performed the song with The Attractions. Costello thought of the theme of the song while he was traveling on a tour bus in Sweden, then completed the song in a Scottish hotel. It is about political developments and politicians involved in sex scandals.

3. Radio Radio (1977)


‘Radio Radio’ was the third single released from Costello’s third album ‘This Year’s Model.’ Elvis Costello wrote the song, and he performed it with The Attractions. In 1974, Costello wrote a song ‘called ‘Radio Soul’ that was inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s work. He then reworked the song to create ‘Radio Radio,’ which has a more aggressive arrangement than the original song.

2. Less Than Zero (1977)


The Guardian lists ‘Less Than Zero’ as one of Elvis Costello’s best songs. It was the first single released by the English rock singer, and it was released just after the death of Elvis Presley. The timing of Costello changing his stage name to Elvis and releasing his first single may have seemed in bad taste due to Presley’s death. However, Costello’s stage name was unrelated to Presley, and Presley’s death actually worked in Costello’s favor in terms of raising awareness of his music. The song featured on Costello’s debut album, ‘My Aim is True.’

1. Oliver’s Army (1979)


In terms of commercial and chart success, the best Elvis Costello song is Oliver’s Army. It was released in 1979 and was part of Costello’s third album ‘Armed Forces.’ It reached number two on the UK charts, Costello’s highest position, and number four in Ireland. It also charted in Australia and New Zealand. Elvis Costello wrote the song and performed it with The Attractions. The song is about the Troubles in Northern Ireland during the 1970s, and the lyrics say that working-class boys were always recruited to fight in the war.

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