So there I was making my way through the really enjoyable Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink when I got to a few paras on Pages 347-348 that made me put down the book and fire up the laptop:-

Yet in the midst of all these follies we stumbled into a television studio in Cologne and delivered the only videotaped performance of us in which I can begin to see what all the fuss was about.

It’s clear from the off tha we went on spoiling for a fight, clearly uncomfortable about playing in front of a sedate, long-haired crowd that looked as if it might have come to see Tangerine Dream.

Pete Thomas opened the first number with more of a drum solo than his usual drum into of ‘Mystery Dance’. We played three songs straight off at top speed before I yelped an unconvincing ‘Good evening’.

My manner was sullen, almost as if I was in a hurry to get this over with, in stark contrast to the rather open-faced portrait from the back of ‘My Aim Is true’ that was blown up as a backdrop to the tiny stage. Bruce Thomas was prowling round on his side of the stage, and Steve Nieve was wearing a mean pair of shades and playing the toy-town keyboard setup that was all that was at his disposal then.

The studio was airless and asphyxiating under the hot television lights and as the fuel of our initial liftoff was burned away, we had to create some space in the songs from ‘This Year’s Model’ just to catch our breath. The songs from ‘My Aim Is True’ were barely recognisable and we even previewed a new song called ‘Two Little Hitlers’, the title of which was a provocation in itself.

Singing directly into the camera had always looked ridiculous when I was lip-synching, but this was real flesh and blood, spit and sweat and strain. My gestures and peculiar movements would be flattered by any description as dancing, but they were directed straight at the viewer, ignoring the studio audience completely.

This was television, not a picture of somebody playing in a box.

We ran one song into the next, not risking the absence of applause, and tried to blow ‘Night Rally’ to pieces before careering through a finale of four fast songs from ‘This Year’s Model’, leaving the ‘Rockpalast’ studio without a backward glance.

Strangely enough, that tape contains the last trace of my innocence and utter conviction before the songs began playing me.

I put the book down as I simply had to see if the performance matched the hype of Elvis’s build-up.

It does. It really does. Especially those four songs that come back-to-back from 24:40 onwards.

Set list:-

01 Mystery Dance
02 End Of The World
03 Lip Service
04 Two Little Hitlers
05 The Beat
06 Night Rally
07 This Year’s Girl
08 No Action
09 (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea
10 Lipstick Vogue
11 Watching The Detectives
12 Pump It Up
13 You Belong To Me

It’s watching such a performance that makes me realise how much of an impossible task it would be to come up with an ICA given how many songs from this era really need to be included and yet how many great songs were still to be written and recorded in the years still to come. So I’m happy to duck out and say that Elvis Costello will be the subject of the Sunday singles series as and when that of Buzzcocks comes to an end.

The other thing this performance captures is the talents of all four musicians. A few pages previously in the book, Elvis had acknowledged this saying that:-

The difference was that The Attractions could play rings around everyone else. I just had to stand in the middle and sing. I can’t think of anyone else in the class of ’77 who could have played the piano intro of ‘Little Triggers’, let alone the bass and drums of ‘Lipstick Vogue’, a song which was taken at a tempo that was just this side of impossible in the studio and even faster and more ferocious in a live performance.

mp3 : Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Lipstick Vogue

Fancy a cover version?

mp3 : Andrew Poppy & Claudia Brucken – Lipstick Vogue



  1. Stunning performance…
    I too am reading that book (but very early days) & amusingly this morning on the bus read about him referring to the Get Happy tour where they played “off the beaten track” venues, including Southport Floral Hall – I was there & it was magnificent.

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