From time to time, I wonder whether Elvis Costello’s career would have survived his “drunken racist incident” in this modern era of social media, TMZ, Hollywood Access et al. The intervening years have clearly shown that Costello is not a racist (nor for that matter, did the years before), but on the other hand he did say some genuinely horrific things in his drunken state on that night in 1979. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, just Google “Elvis Costello Repents” and read his 1982 Rolling Stone interview with Greil Marcus. Marcus doesn’t let him off easy, and notwithstanding the interview’s title, I’ll leave it to each individual reader to decide whether Costello really does explain himself to any degree of satisfaction.
By the time “Trust” was released in 1981, the story was off the front pages, and the days of “Angry Young Elvis” – when he might show up for a concert, play 20 minutes and then storm off the stage – were over. And while “Trust” wasn’t quite as angry an album as “This Year’s Model” (what could be?), it had its share of venom. In retrospect this feels like a transitional album, taking the first steps from that earlier, angrier era to the second stage of his career, where at times it seemed as if he wanted to become the Cole Porter of his time. For my part, I’ve always loved the album – and so did just about all of my friends in Deutsch Hall (UC Berkeley) that Spring. There were days when you could stop on four different floors in our dorm, and “Trust” is what you’d hear playing. My only regret is that, still a little spooked by the stories of 20 minute shows and doing my best to protect my pocketbook, I passed up on the opportunity to see what I’m told was a great show that April in San Francisco.
Christgau: A. “…here he makes the music make the words as he hasn't since This Year's Model. This is rock and roll as eloquent, hard-hitting pop, and Elvis has turned into such a soul man that I no longer wish he'd change his name to George and go country.”