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Elvis Costello came to fame in the 1970s as a stunningly talented songwriter and performer but, as with many of the Meltdown directors who have followed him, he has proven himself willing to venture out of his comfort zone and continually push boundaries throughout his career.
Born Declan MacManus, Costello started his first band in 1971. He released his debut album, My Aim Is True, in 1977, just as punk rock was going mainstream. Hit single ‘Pump It Up’ followed in 1978, heralding a decade of chart success for the musician, including 1989’s ‘Veronica’, co-written with Paul McCartney. He always challenged his audience, however, with recordings of country and western covers and an acoustic album.
His collaborations vary from the finest classical musicians, including Swedish mezzo soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and the Brodsky Quartet, to Burt Bacharach, the godfather of pop song writing and everything in between: The Pogues, members of Elvis Presley’s band and country singer George Jones, to name but a few.
Elvis Costello’s varied tastes were reflected in his Meltdown line-up, which saw the likes of Blondie’s Deborah Harry on the same festival bill as jazz guitarist Brill Frisell, keyboardist Steve Nieve, the Brodsky Quartet, the London Sinfonietta, six classes of pupils from South London schools and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Composers whose work was celebrated at Meltdown 1995 ranged from the contemporary classical, in Mark-Anthony Turnage and Bernard Hermann; neo-classicist Erich Wolfgang Korngold; to some of the best songwriters ever in Randy Newman and Cole Porter.
Elvis Costello also lured Jeff Buckley over to London to perform at Meltdown 1995, fresh from the success of his 1994 release Grace. It would be his last performance on these shores -- Buckley died tragically only two years later.