My Aim Is True

My Aim Is True is the debut album by English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello. The album was recorded at Pathway Studios in Highbury, London Borough of Islington in 1976, over the course of six four-hour 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.[5] The backing band was made up of members of Clover, but they were uncredited on the original release due to contractual difficulties; some early publicity for the album identified the backing band as "The Shamrocks".

My Aim Is True
MyAim isTrue.jpg
Studio album by
Released22 July 1977 (1977-07-22)
StudioPathway Studios, London
LabelStiff, Columbia (US)
ProducerNick 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: 7 July 1977
  4. "Watching the Detectives"
    Released: 14 October 1977


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.[6]

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.[6] 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 £2,000.

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.[6] 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".[6]

Packaging and artworkEdit

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.

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [3]
Blender     [7]
Chicago Tribune    [8]
Christgau's Record GuideB+[9]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[10]
Q     [12]
Rolling Stone     [13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [14]
Uncut     [15]

In 1977, Rolling Stone named My Aim Is True one of the best albums of the year.[16] In The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics' poll of the year's best albums, My Aim Is True finished at second place.[17]

In 2000, My Aim Is True was voted number 266 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[18] 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's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[19] maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list,[20] and placing at number 430 on the 2020 list.[21] In 2004, it was ranked the 37th best album of the 1970s by Pitchfork.[22] In 2007, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[23]

Subsequent performancesEdit

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 listingEdit

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
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
  • "Watching the Detectives", released in the UK as a single in October 1977, was not on the original UK release of the album, but was added to the US release as the last track on side one, as well as being added as the final track on the Australian release of the album.
  • The original UK Stiff and US Columbia LPs and US Columbia CD faded the track "Mystery Dance" at the end. When Demon issued the CD in the UK, the track had a cold ending, with reverb added. This same ending was used on the subsequent remastered Demon CD and US Rykodisc CD. The Rhino 2-CD set and both single-disc and 2CD editions of the Hip-O discs (all three sharing identical masterings) restore the original faded ending.
  • There were three outtakes from the album: "Radio Sweetheart" was picked to be Costellos debut single but got pushed to the b-side of the single "Less Than Zero" and then left off the album due to a difference in sound. "Stranger in the House", featuring pedal steel guitar, was not included as it was thought to be commercial suicide to release a country song in 1977. The song was given away as a free single with the first 50 000 copies of This Year's Model. Both these songs appeared on the 1993 CD reissue. The third outtake is a version of "Living in Paradise" that was included on the Rhino reissue. The 1993 CD also includes seven "pre-professional" recordings, including early versions of "Mystery Dance" and "Blame It on Cain".[24]


  • Barry "Bazza" Farmer - engineer
  • Wendy Sherman - art direction, design



  1. ^ Bambarger, Bradley (1 September 2001). "Vital Reissues". Billboard. New York. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  2. ^ Jackson, Josh; Martin, Garrett (8 September 2016). "The 50 Best New Wave Albums". Paste. Archived from the original on 1 October 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 14 December 2020. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  4. ^ Mendelsohn, Jason; Klinger, Eric (15 February 2013). "Counterbalance No. 116: Elvis Costello's 'My Aim Is True'". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  5. ^ "My Aim Is True (1993) liner notes". Archived from the original on 28 December 2014. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d My Aim Is True (Inset). Elvis Costello. USA: Rhino Entertainment. 2001. R2 74285.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  7. ^ Wolk, Douglas (March 2005). "Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True". Blender. No. 34. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  8. ^ Kot, Greg (2 June 1991). "The Sounds Of Elvis, From San Francisco And Beyond". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 28 October 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  9. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 0-89919-026-X. Archived from the original on 28 January 2016. Retrieved 25 April 2006.
  10. ^ White, Armond (10 May 1991). "Elvis Costello's albums". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 21 October 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  11. ^ LeMay, Matt (5 May 2002). "Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 20 June 2005.
  12. ^ "Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True". Q. No. 86. November 1993. p. 143.
  13. ^ Bresnick, Adam (16 August 2001). "My Aim Is True". Rolling Stone. No. 875. p. 106. Archived from the original on 28 March 2019. Retrieved 25 April 2006.
  14. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Elvis Costello". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). London: Fireside Books. pp. 193–95. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  15. ^ Doggett, Peter (November 2001). "Brilliant Mistakes". Uncut. No. 54. p. 110.
  16. ^ "Rolling Stone 1977 Critics". Archived from the original on 5 November 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  17. ^ "The 1977 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. 23 January 1978. Archived from the original on 15 September 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  18. ^ Larkin, Colin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 117. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  19. ^ Levy, Joe, ed. (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 16 December 2020.
  20. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 31 May 2012. Archived from the original on 5 February 2020. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  21. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 22 September 2020. Archived from the original on 14 December 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  22. ^ "The 100 Best Albums of the 1970s". Pitchfork. 23 June 2004. p. 7. Archived from the original on 15 August 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  23. ^ "Grammy Hall Of Fame". The Recording Academy. Archived from the original on 7 July 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  24. ^ My Aim Is True, Demon Records 1993 CD liner notes
  25. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  26. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - April 1, 1978" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  27. ^ " – Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True" (ASP). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 14 December 2020. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  28. ^ " Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True" (ASP) (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Archived from the original on 11 January 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  29. ^ "Elvis Costello > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Archived from the original on 12 April 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  30. ^ "Elvis Costello Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  31. ^ "Billboard 1978-12-23" (PDF). Billboard. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  32. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True". Music Canada.
  33. ^ "British album certifications – Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True". British Phonographic Industry.Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type My Aim Is True in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  34. ^ "American album certifications – Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True". Recording Industry Association of America.

External linksEdit