Elvis Costello’s 20 Best Songs

It’s hard to believe, but Elvis Costello turned 60 years old this past week. This fact seems even more difficult to believe when one recalls that Elvis used to be the epitome of the “angry young man,” a reputation etched in stone by his famous appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1977 when he refused to play what producer Lorne Michaels asked him to play. 

Personally, I have been a huge Costello fan since 1982, when I sampled his terrific album “Imperial Bedroom.” Lots of people consider Elvis an acquired taste, but in my opinion, he is almost unparalleled in his inventive melodies, prolific output and clever wordplay.

In honor of the master, I offer to you my 20 favorite Costello songs (10 choices just isn’t enough), with their respective albums, in order of their release. Make a Spotify playlist of these tunes and get a good sampling of his catalog:

1) (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes, My Aim Is True (1977).

2) Alison, My Aim Is True (1977).

3) No Action, This Year’s Model (1978).

4) Radio Radio, This Year’s Model (1978).

5) Oliver’s Army, Armed Forces (1979).

6) Senior Service, Armed Forces (1979).

7) Love for Tender, Get Happy! (1980).

8) Black and White World, Get Happy! (1980).

9) You’ll Never be a Man, Trust (1981).

10) Watch Your Step, Trust (1981).

11) Beyond Belief, Imperial Bedroom (1982).

12) Man Out of Time, Imperial Bedroom (1982).

13) The Invisible Man, Punch the Clock (1983).

14) Mouth Almighty, Punch the Clock (1983).

15) Brilliant Mistake, King of America (1986).

16) American Without Tears, King of America (1986).

17) Couldn’t Call it Unexpected No. 4, Mighty Like a Rose (1991).

18) Poor Fractured Atlas, All This Useless Beauty (1996).

19) The River in Reverse, The River in Reverse (2006).

20) Jimmie Standing in the Rain, National Ransom (2010).