Elvis Costello looked back at his early self while promoting his latest album, A Boy Named If, which drops on Friday (January 14th). When asked about his legendary ban from Saturday Night Live after the Attractions‘ 1977 appearance when he stopped performing the previously-rehearsed song “Less Than Zero” to launch into the then-unreleased “Radio Radio.”
Costello recalled to Rolling Stone, “Before anybody noticed that we’d even done it, we were back in England, recording the rest of This Year’s Model. We’d forgotten about America temporarily, because we had to be on Top Of The Pops in England. We never thought about NBC again. . . . It’s clear we weren’t going to have a career in television; they told us that. And guess what? I never wanted one really.” Costello returned to SNL in 1991 to serve as musical guest.
Regarding this famous quote around that time that his primary motivations were “revenge and guilt,” the now-67-year-old Costello admitted, “I had drunk about half a bottle of Pernod when I said that. I thought it sounded good and so did the journalist, and then I have people quoting it back to me as if it was a page from the catechism. It’s just some moment of bravado. It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But think it through for a minute and it doesn’t make sense. But awfully picturesque.”
Elvis Costello told us that without a doubt his best songs — both in the past and present — still seem to come out of thin air: “I think you have to accept the spontaneous element in it that you can’t really provide for — you can’t really predict. If you knew when it was going to come up on you, you’d do it all day long. You can church out the hits. But that isn’t the way it works. You don’t know when you’ll be moved to write a song. I mean you can force yourself to write music, but I don’t know that it would be the most thrilling stuff.”