Elvis Costello discusses his aborted cover of "Pop Life"
COSTELLO'S CAREER GETS SHAGADELIC
By Mark Caro, [Chicago] Tribune Staff Writer.
Published: Friday, June 11, 1999
If Elvis Costello needs career direction, perhaps he could take a cue
from The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, who has announced that he will
re-record all of his old albums. Wouldn't Costello also like to remake
"I tried that, but he wouldn't let me," Costello said.
He was referring to his abortive attempt to cover Prince's "Pop Life"
for his 1997 best-of-Warner Bros. compilation, "Extreme Honey." He and
the Attractions previously had played the song live "in the style of
`Instant Karma,' " he said, "but when I went in to do it on my own, I
wanted to do it with a slightly lighter feel.
"And then I wrote this other song with the same sort of rhythmic feel,
which I liked better than `Pop Life' because you know what? I actually
think I'm a better songwriter than he is. I know it's immodest of me to
say, but I think it's the truth. And then I thought I would do him the
favor of quoting his song in mine, and he didn't seem to take the
compliment," he said with a laugh.
The song "The Bridge I Burned" -- which features slurred chants of "pop
life" and a Prince-like "Dig it!" -- marked Costello's farewell to
Warner Bros., the same company that Prince fled with such acrimony. "I
thought he might actually find my song funny, and particularly the fact
that I wanted to quote lines from `Pop Life,' " he said. "Whether he
ever even heard the track, I don't know, but suddenly I got some highly
threatening letters from the lawyers. So I did what you always do in
that situation: I shouted some renaissance philosophy through a megaphone in place of those verses and put the record out anyway."