My Aim Is True

My Aim Is True
Studio album by Elvis Costello
Released 22 July 1977 (UK)
December 1977 (US)
Recorded Pathway Studios, London, 1976–1977
Genre Pub rock, new wave, rock and roll, power pop
Length 32:56
Label Stiff (UK)
Columbia (US)
Demon/Rykodisc (19 October 1993 Reissue)
Rhino (11 August 2001 Reissue)
Hip-O (2007 Reissue)
Producer Nick Lowe
Elvis Costello chronology
My Aim Is True
This Year's Model
Singles from My Aim Is True
  1. "Less Than Zero"
    Released: 22 March 1977
  2. "Alison"
    Released: 21 May 1977
  3. "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes"
    Released: 1977
  4. "Watching the Detectives"
    Released: 14 October 1977
Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[3]
Christgau's Record GuideB+[4]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[5]
Pitchfork Media9.8/10[6]
Rolling Stone[8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[9]

My Aim Is True is the debut album by English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello.

The album was recorded at Pathway Studios in Holloway, London Borough of Islington, over the course of 1976 during late-night studio sessions, in a total of approximately twenty-four hours. It was the first of five consecutive Costello albums produced by Nick Lowe and cost £2,000 to record.[11] The backing band was made up of members of Clover. They were uncredited on the original release due to contractual difficulties; some early publicity for the album identified the backing band as "The Shamrocks".

In 1977 Rolling Stone magazine named the album one of the best of the year.[12] In 2003, the TV network VH1 named My Aim Is True the 80th greatest album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 168 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[13] In 2004, it was ranked 37 of the top 100 albums of the 1970s by Pitchfork which reported the album to be "held by many as the most impressive debut in pop music history."[14] In 2007, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[15]


Costello had been performing in clubs and pubs in Liverpool and London since 1970 and had created some demo tapes, but he had had little success in obtaining a recording contract. When Stiff Records was founded in 1976, Costello submitted his demos there and found some interest, but initially they wanted him as a songwriter for Dave Edmunds. Edmunds, however, was reluctant, so the company had Costello and Clover re-record some of his songs, with Lowe producing, to try to persuade him. The new recordings were good enough on their own for Stiff Records to abandon that idea.[16]

The label then suggested that he share a début album with Wreckless Eric, but Costello had written enough songs, most of them at home late at night (so as not to wake his wife and young son) or on the London Underground while commuting to work, to have an entire album of his own.[16] Costello called in sick to his day job (as a data entry clerk) to rehearse and record the album with Clover, which was cut in a series of six four-hour sessions for about £1,000.

Costello stayed at his day job as the first two singles, "Less Than Zero" and "Alison", were released without much success. Finally, the label decided to release the album in the summer of 1977, and he was asked to quit his job and become a professional musician. Stiff Records would match his office wages and gave him a record advance of £150, an amp, and a tape recorder.[16] Three weeks after its release, Costello was on the cover of a music paper. He described this situation as being "an overnight success after seven years".[16]

Packaging and artwork

The album cover was designed by Barney Bubbles, who was uncredited on the sleeve. The cover art features rows of tiny black and white checks (surrounding the photo of Costello) on which the phrase "Elvis Is King" is written. Costello's pose on the cover would become an iconic look for him, with the Buddy Holly glasses and the knees bent inwards together. He struck a similar pose in the photo on the back of the original sleeve.

Initially, the LP cover had a black & white photo on the front, and a yellow back. The first 1000 UK copies also came with a form asking the buyer to send in the address of a friend, who would then receive a free copy. The form was titled: HELP US HYPE ELVIS. The free copies that were sent out in response to returned forms were customised with a large special sticker. The form and the sticker were also designed by Barney Bubbles. First pressings came with writings on the dead wax with on the A side "Elvis is King" and "Porky Prime Cut" and on the B side "on this side too" and "porky prime cut too". Early issues were also printed with many different coloured backs. Later issues then had a green tint on the front picture and a green back. The Demon re-issue originally had a yellow tint on the photo and a yellow back, and the reissue has a green tint photo.

Subsequent performances

According to Costello's own website, a second version of the album (with an identical track listing) was recorded over a 2-day period in July 1977. This second version was recorded by Elvis Costello and his new permanent backing band, The Attractions, with the intention of replacing the original tracks contained in My Aim Is True once the initial pressings had sold out. This never came to pass, however, and all released versions of the album continue to use the original recordings with members of Clover as the backing band. As well, although several reissues of My Aim Is True have featured various demos and 1977-era recordings as bonus tracks, the July 1977 album re-recordings have never been issued in any format.

On 8 November 2007, Costello reunited with the members of Clover from the original recording sessions to perform the songs from My Aim Is True. This marked the first ever (and to date only) live public performances of these songs by the original ensemble that recorded them. The event took place at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, and was a benefit for the Richard de Lone Special Housing Fund, which assists those with Prader-Willi Syndrome.

Track listing

All songs written by Elvis Costello.

Side one
  1. "Welcome to the Working Week" – 1:22
  2. "Miracle Man" – 3:31
  3. "No Dancing" – 2:39
  4. "Blame It on Cain" – 2:49
  5. "Alison" – 2:54
  6. "Sneaky Feelings" – 2:09
Side two
  1. "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" – 2:47
  2. "Less Than Zero" – 3:15
  3. "Mystery Dance" – 1:38
  4. "Pay It Back" – 2:33
  5. "I'm Not Angry" – 2:57
  6. "Waiting for the End of the World" – 3:22

Bonus tracks (1993 Rykodisc)

  1. "Watching the Detectives" – 3:45
  2. "Radio Sweetheart" – 2:25
  3. "Stranger in the House" – 3:01
  4. "Imagination (Is a Powerful Deceiver)" – 3:38
  5. "Mystery Dance" (Demo version) – 2:13
  6. "Cheap Reward" (Demo version) – 2:15
  7. "Jump Up" (Demo version) – 2:06
  8. "Wave a White Flag" (Demo version) – 1:53
  9. "Blame It on Cain" (Demo version) – 3:30
  10. "Poison Moon" (Demo version) – 1:53

Bonus Disc (2001 Rhino)

  1. "No Action" (Early version) – 2:15
  2. "Living in Paradise" (Early version) – 3:00
  3. "Radio Sweetheart" – 2:31
  4. "Stranger in the House" – 3:04
  5. "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) (from Live Stiffs Live) – 2:27
  6. "Less Than Zero" (Dallas version) (from Live at the El Mocambo) – 4:19
  7. "Imagination (Is a Powerful Deceiver)" – 3:39
  8. "Mystery Dance" (demo version) – 2:15
  9. "Cheap Reward (demo version) – 2:18
  10. "Jump Up" (demo version) – 2:09
  11. "Wave a White Flag" (demo version) – 1:59
  12. "Blame It on Cain" (demo version) – 3:34
  13. "Poison Moon" (demo version) – 1:53

Track Listing (2007 Deluxe Edition Hip-O)

Disc 1:

  1. "Welcome to the Working Week"
  2. "Miracle Man"
  3. "No Dancing"
  4. "Blame It on Cain"
  5. "Alison"
  6. "Sneaky Feelings"
  7. "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes"
  8. "Less Than Zero"
  9. "Mystery Dance"
  10. "Pay It Back"
  11. "I'm Not Angry"
  12. "Waiting for the End of the World"
  13. "Watching The Detectives"
  14. "No Action" (early version)
  15. "Living in Paradise" (early version)
  16. "Radio Sweetheart"
  17. "Stranger in the House"
  18. "Welcome to the Working Week" (Pathway Studios demo)
  19. "Blue Minute" (Pathway Studios demo)
  20. "Miracle Man" (Pathway Studios demo)
  21. "Waiting for the End of the World" (Pathway Studios demo)
  22. "Call on Me" (Pathway Studios demo)
  23. "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" (Pathway Studios demo)
  24. "I Don't Want to Go Home" (Pathway Studios demo)
  25. "I Hear a Melody" (Pathway Studios demo)

Disc 2: Elvis Costello & the Attractions: Live at The Nashville Rooms – 7 August 1977

  1. Introduction by Dave Robinson
  2. "Welcome to the Working Week"
  3. "Blame It on Cain"
  4. "No Dancing"
  5. "Waiting for the End of the World"
  6. "Night Rally"
  7. "Hoover Factory"
  8. "No Action"
  9. "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea"
  10. "Miracle Man"
  11. "The Beat"
  12. "Less Than Zero"
  13. "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes"
  14. "Lipstick Vogue"
  15. "Watching the Detectives"
  16. "Lip Service"
  17. "Mystery Dance"
  18. "Alison"
  19. "Pay It Back" (soundcheck)
  20. "Radio Sweetheart" (soundcheck)
  21. "Sneaky Feelings" (soundcheck)
  22. "Crawling to the USA" (soundcheck)
  23. "Alison" (soundcheck)



Weekly charts

Chart Position
Australian Albums Chart[17] 25
Canadian Albums Chart[18] 24
New Zealand Albums Chart[19] 32
Swedish Albums Chart[20] 14
UK Albums Chart[21] 14
United States Billboard 200[22] 32

Year-end charts

Chart (1978) Position
U.S. Billboard 200[23] 64


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Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[24] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[25] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[26] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  2. Wolk, Douglas (March 2005). "Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True". Blender. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  3. Kot, Greg (2 June 1991). "The Sounds Of Elvis, From San Francisco And Beyond". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  4. Christgau, Robert. "Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True". Retrieved 25 April 2006.
  5. White, Armond (10 May 1991). "Elvis Costello's albums". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  6. LeMay, Matt (5 May 2002). "Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 20 June 2005.
  7. "Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True". Q (86): 143. November 1993.
  8. Bresnick, Adam (16 August 2001). "My Aim Is True". Rolling Stone (875): 105. Retrieved 25 April 2006. Posted on 24 July 2001.
  9. Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Elvis Costello". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside Books. pp. 193–95. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  10. Doggett, Peter (November 2001). "Brilliant Mistakes". Uncut (54): 110.
  11. "My Aim Is True (1993) liner notes". Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  12. "Rolling Stone 1977 Critics". Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  13. Levy, Joe; Steven Van Zandt (2006) [2005]. "168 | My Aim is True – Elvis Costello". Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (3rd ed.). London: Turnaround. ISBN 1-932958-61-4. OCLC 70672814. Archived from the original on 20 April 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
  14. Ott, Chris (23 June 2004). "Top 100 Albums of the 1970s: 037: Elvis Costello My Aim Is True". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  15. "Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Retrieved 21 December 2012
  16. 1 2 3 4 My Aim Is True (Inset). Elvis Costello. USA: Rhino Entertainment. 2001. R2 74285.
  17. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  18. "Top Albums/CDs - Volume 29, No. 2" (PHP). RPM. 8 April 1978. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  19. " – Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True" (ASP). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  20. " Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True" (ASP) (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  21. "Elvis Costello > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  22. "Allmusic: Elvis Costello: Charts & Awards: Billboard Albums". Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  23. "Billboard 1978-12-23" (PDF). Billboard (magazine). Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  24. "Canadian album certifications – Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True". Music Canada.
  25. "British album certifications – Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True". British Phonographic Industry. Enter My Aim Is True in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  26. "American album certifications – Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links

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