‘After seeing Aretha Franklin you’re never the same again’: Elvis Costello’s honest playlist

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He could request Frank Sinatra before he could speak, and recites Noël Coward lyrics, but what does the singer-songwriter enjoy behind closed doors?


The first song I remember hearing
It’s a family legend that even before I was forming sentences, I knew how to request I’ve Got You Under My Skin sung by Frank Sinatra on the record player. Of course I’m biased, but my wife [jazz musician Diana Krall] does the other, definitive version.

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The first record I owned
In 1962, I heard my dad [singer Ross MacManus] rehearsing a song from Georgie Fame’s Fame at Last EP and he gave me the record. Georgie is an unsung great advocate for other artists. I once got to sing with Count Basie and totally humiliated myself because I’d learned his classic Lil’ Darlin’ off a Georgie Fame record.

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The song that is my karaoke go-to
Maybe it is because I gave up drinking 25 years ago, but my exposure to karaoke is limited to watching Bill Murray doing (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding in Lost in Translation. I would pick King of the Road by Roger Miller; it is a song where you could make up anything and nobody would notice.

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The song I inexplicably know all the lyrics to
I have on many occasions recited Noël Coward’s The Stately Homes of England. It’s a beautiful lyric and very, very funny.

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The best song to play at a party
I’m thinking of the parties I went to as a teenager, so the Isley Brothers’ Behind a Painted Smile is my pick. I was the person who would haunt the edge of the dancefloor, open the Party Seven pale ale and hope to fascinate some girl with my wit and charm, usually unsuccessfully.

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The performance that I’ll never forget
For me, Aretha Franklin doing Don’t Play That Song (You Lied) live on The Cliff Richard Show. After a moment like that you’re never the same again. This song is rich in the gospel she absorbed as a young girl. I’d happily listen to her piano intro alone over 20 times.

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The best song to have sex to
Behind Closed Doors by Charlie Rich. It’s not the song, it’s the statement in the title. Then we fade to black …

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The song I want played at my funeral
Louis Armstrong singing Fats Waller’s Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now. I walked down the aisle to this – that’s another kind of pledge, isn’t it? So if I must die, I’m keeping out of mischief after that.

Elvis Costello’s new album, The Boy Named If, is out now.

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