August. 25: Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus is born in London, England; he is raised in Liverpool. His father Ross is a singer with a dance orchestra.
January. Elvis records his debut album, My Aim Is True, with producer (and Stiff labelmate) Nick Lowe and Clover, a California country-rock band. The album is released in July in England, but doesn’t get picked up in the U.S. by Columbia until November. American critics rave about the depth of the writer's songcraft and the immediacy of the band's performances.
June. Elvis forms the Attractions, with keyboardist Steve Nieve, bassist Bruce Thomas, and drummer Pete Thomas. They make their first live appearance on the Stiffs Live tour with Nick Lowe, Ian Dury, and Wreckless Eric.
December. The Attractions debut in America, including an infamous performance on Saturday Night Live where they're a last-minute replacement for the Sex Pistols. After starting "Less Than Zero" Elvis suddenly turns to the band, yelling "Stop! Stop!" He then tells the audience, "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here” (the lyrics attacked British fascism), and counts off the then-unreleased indictment, "Radio Radio." SNL producer Lorne Michaels is so incensed by the switch that he bans Elvis from the show until 1989.
January. Costello releases Armed Forces (working title: Emotional Fascism), which cracks the top 10 in the U.S. The band returns to America in February. The tour is marred on March 15 when a drunken Costello gets into an ugly exchange with Bonnie Bramlett and Stephen Stills at a Holiday Inn in Columbus, Ohio, calling Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant nigger" and disparaging the state of black music in America. Elvis later makes a public apology. "What it was about was that I said the most outrageous thing I could possibly say to them -- that I knew, in my drunken logic, would anger them more than anything else," he explains to Greil Marcus in a 1982 Rolling Stone cover story headlined "Elvis Costello Repents."
June. Costello produces the debut album for ska-rockers the Specials.
August. Elvis has a small role as the Earl of Manchester in the comedy Americathon, which features the original song "Crawling To the U.S.A."
February. The 20-track Get Happy!! peaks at No. 2 in England and No.11 in the States. The disc foreshadows a wider spectrum of musical styles for the ever-maturing songwriter.
September. Taking Liberties, a collection of singles, B-sides, and previously unreleased tracks by the remarkably prolific Costello, is released.
January. The critically lauded Trust goes to No. 28 in the U.S. The liner photo depicts the once iconic punk leading an old-fashioned big band.
May. The quartet goes to Nashville to record Almost Blue, an album of country covers produced by Billy Sherrill, known for his work with George Jones and Charlie Rich. The disc is released in November, and reaches No. 50 in the U.S.
January. Costello and the Attractions perform at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
July. Imperial Bedroom, produced by former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, peaks at No. 30 in the U.S. Production-wise, it's more elaborate than any other disc; creatively, it's an artistic zenith.
June. Goodbye Cruel World hits No. 35 in the U.S. Elvis does a solo tour after the album’s release.
March. Elvis reunites with the Attractions (and Nick Lowe, who plays bass on half of the Mitchell Froom-produced record) on Brutal Youth. The band tours through 1995.
December. Elvis has a cameo appearance in the Spice Girls’ movie, Spice World.
March. For the Stars: Anne Sofie von Otter Meets Elvis Costello, a collection of pop duets with the Swedish mezzo-soprano, is released. Also, Elvis’s catalog, previously reissued by Rykodisc, is re-reissued by Rhino Records, with bonus discs of unreleased material and album notes by Costello.
January. Costello is nominated for Best Rock Album for When I Was Cruel, Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for "45," and Best Alternative Music Album for Cruel Smile, a companion disc of "airshots, Imposter remixes, studio mysteries, [and] world tour highlights."