Elvis Costello reveals plans for a big reissue campaign

Six-LP package of Armed Forces to come first

Elvis Costello is working with Universal Music on a major reissue campaign which will start with a six-record set based on his 1979 album Armed Forces.

Speaking to Billboard to promote the forthcoming album Hey Clockface, Costello said that his “catalog has been in some disarray for a number of years” and that he recently “went to a meeting at a record company for the first time since the ’90s” to discuss reissue plans”.

He added: “who better than the person who wrote the songs to tell you what else is there [in the archive] – things that I never released, live recordings”.

He tells the interviewer that Armed Forces will be “the first” thing to come out and that “the package will include three live recordings ranging from the summer of ’78 to the summer of ’79, so it traces the development of the Attractions as a live act, from a club combo to a successful pop group – it’s quite interesting to hear. I had expert help in photographing my handwritten notebooks. So you’re getting something”

Curiously, Elvis also says: “We’ve done a new version of one of my albums from my catalog, and that’s going to come out next April. And we’re making a compilation based on [1998 album with Burt Bachararch] Painted From Memory in the hope that we’ll complete the picture with some other songs we’ve written that people still haven’t heard”.

When asked if he was going to do this with all his albums, the response was “If we can”.

Interesting stuff. Elvis Costello and Demon Records were early pioneers of the expanded CD reissue with a series of excellent releases in early-to-mid 1990s. The same albums were reissued about 10 years later with even more material – an extra CD’s worth. Despite these seemingly exhaustive reissues, Universal Music still managed to release new 2CD deluxe editions of My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model in 2008.

Elvis Costello’s new album, Hey Clockface, is released on 30 October 2020.

Read the full interview over at Billboard.

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Elvis Costello

Hey Clockface - 2LP black vinyl


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Elvis Costello

Hey Clockface - CD


1.Revolution #49
2. No Flag
3. They’re Not Laughing At Me Now
4. Newspaper Pane
5. I Do (Zula’s Song)
6. We Are All Cowards Now
7. Hey Clockface How Can You Face Me
8. The Whirlwind
9. Hetty O’Hara Confidential
10. The Last Confession of Vivian Whip
11. What Is It That I Need That I Don’t Already Have
12. Radio Is Everything
13. I Can’t Say Her Name
14. Byline






73 responses to Elvis Costello reveals plans for a big reissue campaign

  1. Mark Sawyer says:

    In a (generally good-natured!) interview with ABC Radio Australia today ( EC explains why the Armed Forces box does not incorporate CDs. I was sad to hear him speak so dismissively of the format,
    considering he was a pioneer of the quality CD reissue. (PS Anyone want to sell me the Rhino deluxe versions of Almost Blue and Mighty Like a Rose?).
    PPS – Mr Sinclair, I won’t be offended if you delete that request …

    • Kyle says:

      Thanks for the link. Good listening for a Sunday morning. Shame there isn’t more purchasing options, even if he does want to stick with vinyl, but I will take his point about streaming and run with that for now. I’ll look out for the vinyl box to drop in price in future though.

  2. David Thompson says:

    Good grief look at all the gubbins in these sets!

  3. Afall says:

    Bring it on: I hope he does this, ON CD, for his whole catalogue. But having been born in 1952, I just hope I live long enough to see the whole lot issued!

  4. Jeffro says:

    I’m surprised you never followed up on this post to let people know the Armed Forces box went on sale. Not content with an already-prohibitive $260 price tag for the color vinyl set, now that there are, according to the website, “only 92 left” (or whenever it kicked in, Universal have jacked the price up to $323. Now they are their own resellers or something?

  5. Wayne K says:

    I’m interested in this set on CD as the vinyl will probably be outrageous expensive. I would also be concerned about who is pressing the vinyl IF I did buy it.

  6. Dave Bain says:

    Hope the quality of the discs is better than Universal’s recent release of the Richard and Linda Thompson box set. High quality packaging, great hard back book and 8 unplayable/unrippable CDs. Released 11th September and already unavailable before the end of the same month following an outcry from disgruntled buyers. I will wait for the reviews before shelling out for this one.

    • Michael Collins says:

      Hi Dave, I replaced 5 albums early this year that had gone missing from a friends lock up whilst I was between homes. Trust, Punch The Clock & Goodbye Cruel World were in hard inner sleeves and were terrible copies. All were damaged Pre packing and had to be replaced. Brutal Youth was on Music on Vinyl and was much better quality. Universal have a cavalier attitude to reissues and seem to use sandpaper lined inner sleeves.surely a decent poly inner sleeve and clean vinyl are not too much of an ask!!!

      • Dave Bain says:

        Hi Michael. I am totally unconvinced by Universal’s ‘excuse’ for faulty discs being down to problems with packing, i.e. the problem occurring after the manufacturing process of the discs. I am convinced that the problem is a manufacturing fault. I distinctly remember when CDs first appeared on the market, the record companies claimed them to be ‘almost indestructible when used properly (not used as coasters or frisbees for example). So why would packaging of the discs cause such a catastrophic number of rip/playback failures in so many discs. Furthermore I have bought literally thousands of CDs in the past 4 decades, and have only had to replace one of them (Stevie Wonder’s ‘Talking Book’) which just suddenly failed to play on any machine, despite being absolutely blemish-free. I have even seen children’s CDs scattered around the living room floor, walked on, used as a rusk by a teething toddler and soaked in the kitchen sink together with a set of greasy pots and pans, none of which affected the discs when they were subsequently placed in the CD player. On the other hand, I grew up with vinyl and during the 1960s and 70s had to replace several albums which simply got worn out through being played so often. Take note Mr Costello (born 3 weeks before me and also grew up listening to vinyl.

  7. Neil Jones says:

    EC said his catalogue has been in disarray. Jesus, it would be an almost impossible herculean task to get it into some kind of order, especially the latter stuff. He needs the Bowie treatment. But as brilliant as he is, would there be enough of an audience to validate that kind of expense? Probably not. My guess Armed Forces Box; Record 1. Original album 2 B Sides/Outtakes (including a couple that are unreleased) 3 & 4 Hollywood High show 5. Palomino Show 6. Pink Pop Festival. Poster & Book. Artwork using the Barney Bubbles classic design as a jumping off point. Origami style fold out box set ?? What would be great to hear is some EC and Attractions rehearsal recordings, knocking Armed Forces material into shape. Painted From Memory double vinyl rearranged with new tracks telling the story behind the musical that never was. The Imposters version of Imperial Bedroom.

  8. ruben says:

    I think there was a 50 (!) track version of 1980’s Get Happy on Ryko (not Rhino) that became very rare very quickly. Would love to see that reissued.

    • Dave Bain says:

      I bought all the Costello albums on vinyl up to ‘Goodbye Cruel World. I bought them all again on CD. And yet again on re-release wtith extra tracks. And yet again when re-released as the 2 disc Rhino/edsel versions, which Costello himself claimed at the time to be the DEFINITIVE editions, before quickly deleting them only to be replaced on the market by the ‘Original’ albums with NO EXTRAS. If I bought the new ‘Armed Forces’ set, it would be my fifth purchase of this album. Actually make that sixth as I also bought the ‘Two and a half years’ box set which also included that album. However this new box does not contain the extras included on the so called definitive 2 disc set, what it does contain is a bunch of live recordings, only some of which are previously unreleased, spread across twelve, ten and seven inch vinyl (does anyone still play seven inch vinyls?) All for a mere £250. no thanks.

  9. wayne k says:

    I would be interested in well mastered CDs for this. Hopefully it goes beyond LP.

  10. gary oliver says:

    it’s something like …

    2 x discs of armed forces
    2 x discs of pinkpop festival entire concert
    2 x 10″ discs of other live recordings

    postcards and lyric notebook reproductions, etc

  11. BSR says:

    How about a clean release of the “Our Aim is True” tracks? Sorry if this has already been brought up, there’s a ton of comments here and I may have missed it.

    • David D says:

      It’s My Aim is True

      • Eb says:

        He’s probably referring to the bootleg of pre-Elvis tracks that is indeed called “Our Aim Is True”. Perhaps not, but it is a notorious and awesome collection. A few of the tracks turned up on some of the “My Aim is True” deluxe editions.

  12. Karl X says:

    The vital question is… will there be a bundle with socks? lol

  13. Brip says:

    Hey, I didn’t know EC had re-recorded My Aim Is True with the Attractions! It was a great album with great songs, but maybe just a little bit too drab & mainstream in the “sound” and “performance” department (IMHO). I only became a Costello fan(atic) with This Year’s Model. So, I really really would love to hear this remodeled version! (If it exists.) I still miss Bruce Thomas’s bass playing (no offence to Davey Faragher). For my money, he’s up there with John Enwhistle and McCartney circa Sgt.Pepper.
    As for this new reissue campaign, I’m all for it. The Rykos and Rhinos were excellent, but they’re all out of print! What I really wonder is : how long will it take? I seem to remember that in the previous iterations, the records were released in batches of three or four, chronologically (Ryko) or thematically (Rhino) and that even then, it took more than one year, maybe two or three years, for everything to be available. (Ryko: 11 albums, from My Aim is true to Blood & Chocolate + the 2 1/2 Years box set including the Live at the Mocambo promo) (Rhino: 17 albums, from My Aim Is True to All This Useless Beauty (I think)) Since then, Elvis C., though less prolific than he once was, has released no less than ten albums, not counting Look Now and Hey Clockface. So, if the new reissue campaign is intended to be anything near comprehensive, it will encompass about 27 albums. If each one of these is released individually (like that seems to be the case for Army Forces), let’s say at a rate of one every six months, I fear most of the initial fan base of Elvis C. will be dead and gone when the last one hits the stores (not to mention Elvis himself).
    But concerning these 17 first albums, I can hardly believe there is any worthy studio track, demo, outtake, false start or would-be b side left in the can or on the floor. I’m not against live tracks, but the My Aim is True/This Year’s Model/Armed Forces period is already very well documented, thanks to the Mocambo disc, the Live at the Nashville Rooms disc (available on the Deluxe edition of MAIT) and the Live at Hollywood High set. I don’t have the This Year’s Model Deluxe Edition, but I’m pretty sure there is another live show on it. So, do we need three more concerts from that period? The answer, of course, is Yes, we need it all! There is no such thing as too many Elvis C. & the Attractions live recordings. But sometimes, I long for something less familiar… Something from the Imperial Bedroom tour, for instance, or from the concerts E.C. & the Attractions gave before the making of Get Happy!!! and where the songs from that album were still performed in the “new wave” style of Armed Forces. Also, the complete January 1982 Royal Albert Hall show, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, would be an interesting curiosity. And the Costello & Nieve box set really really needs to be reissued and revisited, preferably in extended form. Apart from that, it would be nice to have a listen to the complete demos of the songs E.C. wrote, with the help of his former wife and ex-Pogues Cait O’Riordan (in one week-end!) for the Wendy James’ 1993 album Now Ain’t the Time for Your Tears. Some of these recordings (Puppet Girl, Basement Kiss, We Despise You, etc.) had been released as b-sides of the singles pulled from Brutal Youth, and this is one of the rare cases where the Rhino reissue was utterly lacking and incomplete.
    Well, anyway and as usual, crossing our fingers and waiting is all we can do. Thank you for the info and for your excellent site.

  14. Bob D says:

    The one thing I would hope comes from this reissue campaign is the re-recorded ( studoi – not live ) My Aim Is True he did with The Attractions while they rehearsed for their first ever gig .

  15. Dave H says:

    I know EC has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the history of music with his father playing with the likes of Joe Loss and swing bands. If anyone knows how to sell another reissue it’s EC.

    I already own the deluxe editions so for me to make me part with my money it’ll need something new like a 5.1 surround mix of the albums, an extra live CD won’t cut for me unless the price is too good to argue with.

  16. Kevin Wollenweber says:

    I am excited about this, although I hope he isn’t just thinking about vinyl as his format of choice. I realize that it offers a lot of artistic possibilities as far as the package is concerned, but I, for one, do not have a turntable anymore! I’d hate to lose out, and CD’ss can be housed in a package that would have similar artistic possibilities as the vinyl package. I am surprised that a big box of live Costello through the years has never been considered. However, as others have said, if there are other high quality studio takes and rare tracks, you know I’m in!

  17. Andrew Hapeman says:

    Would you please mention to Elvis to release the deluxe “Armed Forces” set on cd as well. No LP’s for me…. Thank You!!

  18. Michael Sinnott says:

    Recently purchased one of the Ltd 1,000 edition Help us help Elvis, My aim is true lp so looks like I need to start saving up again!

  19. Rodolfo Martin says:

    6 LP package but how many CDs? For the food of my family and my economy, I have set up my mind and desires of vinyl are blocked. I still spend a lotion CDs. In fact, I bought the MOFI SACD of Painted from Memory and it is gorgeous, like Japanese Mini-LP quality. I will be happy to buy it once again, for a fourth time (Standard single CD, The edition with bonus CD, the MOFI edition were the previous. Super deluxe edition of Costello albums will be welcome but depending on the contents. I prefer studio discharged material, demos, B-sides over an excess of live recordings.

  20. Marcel says:

    Great news, Paul! My EC collection on cd is about complete with the extensive Rhino-reissues. Since then i have gotten heavily into vinyl, but curiously have held off on buying too much EC material. I would be very interested in getting vinyl reissues of the Rhino content. Not so sure if the original record + 3 live shows with this or following rerelease would be of interest to me. I would at least expect b-sides, and demo’s. But then again: if it’s done well and not exorbitantly priced, i’d probably go for it. Let’s wait and see!

  21. Robert says:

    Ryko and Rhino did really nice campaigns but he’s right about it being in disarray in the modern era. His streaming presence is limited mostly to the core albums. Getting all those bonus tracks from the previous campaigns out on streaming services would be a nice start. Not sure I’m interested in expansions of the 1977-1996 era. Especially if it’s just padded with live recordings which is much of what a second or third expansions seem to add.

    • AndyB says:

      I’ll try to post this again.

      The Ryko/Demon reissues were fantastic. The Rhino 2 cd’s were great, unless you compared them to the Ryko/Demon reissues. “Blood and Chocolate” was sublime on the Ryko, not so much on the Rhino release. Don’t know if the sound quality is the same for both versions on other releases, but I’m glad to have kept both versions.

      Anyone agree?

  22. Rogerio says:

    And all I want is a repress of When I Was Cruel on vinyl…

  23. BOUVY says:


  24. plasket says:

    Let’s see if he actually continues this one beyond a couple entries. Still waiting for the third volume of “The Costello Show…”

  25. Gary says:

    Looking forward to this. A great artist who drifted off my radar largely after Imperial Bedroom. On the subject of deluxe sets etc.. how about some info on the upcoming 8 disc reissue of UFO’s classic Strangers In The Night?

  26. Dean says:

    I’m going to wait for details before I get upset about a reissue campaign. I have the two-disc Rhino releases, and they’re universally superb, so if there’s more then it’s all good.

    I’m only interested in CD’s though, so if they only did Vinyl it’d be a no go.

    I wish they’d started at at the beginning…. but hey ho! Give me an exhaustive CD package, and I’m THERE.

  27. Robert Lett says:

    Three times to the same thing is pushing it. Unless they really unearth some interesting unreleased stuff I will stick with the Rhinos, can’t imagine it could get any better than those but who knows.

  28. Brian Stanley says:

    Longtime E.C. fan who has also bought four different editions of “My Aim is True” here.

    Note he says “six-record” not “six disc” and it “includes three live recordings from the summer of ‘78 to the summer of ‘79.”

    There’s Live At Hollywood High (June 4,1978) that’s already been a separate package with Armed Forces (though it’s availability started with a 3-song 45 single that came with the original album. Still an awesome move, McManus).

    The 2002 Rhino reissue added six more songs from that performance and the full recording clocks in at 72 minutes, which is a double record right there. And the other 7 studio outtakes and B-sides from the Rhino edition add up to about 19 minutes, which is another side of vinyl.

    So That’s 3-and-a half records I already have and I’m cynical enough to see a record company including just two discs of “new” material as an incentive to buy the big package again.

    I hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s the original album and five discs of shows we’ve never heard. But some of the rules of collecting music are there’s only so much unreleased material, there are reasons it wasn’t released at the time and it’s cheaper to repackage what was already released.

    Aside: The remaining live track from the Rhino reissue is a solo performance of “Chemistry Class” from Feb. 28, 1978, at the Warner Theatre in Washington D.C. That’s outside the time frame he mentions in the interview, but he might be generalizing and if it’s included with the rest of that show, I won’t complain.

  29. Charles Benjamin says:

    No, thank you. I’ve bought the Ryko CDs, the Rhino CDs, and then the vinyl reissues from the last decade or two. I’ve had my fill and it’s hard to imagine we’re missing anything of quality at this point.

  30. Robert Harrison says:

    I enjoy listening to music & song by Elvis Costello and only hope all time provided to all other musicians ( aspiring & accomplished ) during Covid-19 will reveal more musical genius & new releases.

  31. Rashers says:

    I hope they use the elephant cover. The abstract art one wasn’t great. They used that one in the US – don’t know why (it isn’t exactly Electric Ladyland!).

    • Trash says:

      But it is Barney Bubbles

    • Mark says:

      I hope they reissue it with Barney Bubbles’ original foldout cover too; it was a beautiful thing.

    • Charles says:

      Couldn’t agree more, that Elephant cover was the only one I knew in the US growing up. Didn’t help that the replacement pic was terrible.

      • Paul Sinclair says:

        If you buy used gear you can easily do it for £500. You can get a perfectly adequate theatre amp on ebay for £70-£100. You might already have two speakers near you telly, so therefore start with three further speakers (centre, and two rears) and get a subwoofer later. Cables, blu-ray player and you’re off.

  32. Larry Davis says:

    Oh no, here we go again…I had bought the Ryko reissues, Rhino ones, didn’t go for the Universal ones at first cuz I hate buying stuff over & over…now, the 6LP set of Armed Forces could be interesting, and a way expanded Painted From Memory is probably amazing…I just hope this new program includes CDs cuz do you know how much room will be required to store all these records?? A whole bookshelf at least!! And at least a year to listen to all this stuff, if you have a full schedule…do I sound annoyed?? Perhaps, but I really hope that this is the final stop for EC’s catalogue, he’s not getting any younger, and neither am I (we)…

  33. DogFacedBoy says:

    The reworked classic album is supposed to be a Spanish version of This Years Model. And the extra Burt songs from an attempt to launch a Painted From Memory musical a few years back.

    Yes its another EC reissue project but he’s still looking at it from an interesting angle

  34. SimonP says:

    Here’s hoping he doesn’t feel the new to update the artwork with his newfound love of painting. He’s a very talented songwriter for a painter!

  35. Stephen Hance says:

    Interesting. Needs doing. My guess on re-recorded album- Punch the Clock. Good songs, less good 1980s production, played live on tour last year. I’d be interested to hear how they approached it now.

    • Mark Neely says:

      I know Elvis has disparaged that album in the past, but it is one of my favorites. Many great songs on it. A re-do in any language would be a treat.

  36. kid992 says:

    I think I’ve bought 5 incarnations of My Aim Is True, the LP in a coloured sleeve, then found the LP in original monochrome sleeve, then the first time on CD with no bonus material , then the second time with extra tracks and the third time with an extra CD. I didn’t buy the deluxe version which would have been six. But it’s all fantastic stuff . I spent years trawling record fairs looking for the Honky tonk demos on a bootleg before they put it out as bonus material. Demon were pioneers – Get Happy went from 20 tracks to 50. I hope they do something really special with the Armed Forces set, with its original fold out sleeve and very dark themes the LP was always an “interesting” record. Promo posters of Elvis with the sub machine gun in his mouth saying Don’t Join! and Pay Attention! are surely a must for inclusion.

  37. thewildeyedboyfromfreecloud says:

    Great news! A shame he’s starting with “Armed Forces” but I do think it’s his best record.
    I was just thinking about tracking down his original albums between 77-82.
    Not sure about him re-recording one but as long as the original in included I’ll give it a chance.
    Would love a set dedicated to his Stiff recording though.

    • David M says:

      Think Armed Forces is his weakest album out of the first 6 or so, was a very strong seller though because it contained his biggest hit So naturally the best one to test the water with. Can’t imagine there are any studio tracks left unreleased from this period so only the live stuff will hold any interest in a musical sense, I would expect sumptuous, expensive packages though. Personally would prefer live albums to be released in CD or Blu-ray, less flipping of sides

  38. Hans lindskog says:

    Hello,, I must say that i look forward to this, hopefully there Will be a reasonably priced deluxe edition of his material from the 70-80-90. Look at the divine comedy or mansun for inspiration. Best regards hans

  39. Good News, Paul: So his got unreleased stuff with Burt Bacharach in the Vaults? Can’t wait for that!

  40. Alastair says:

    New version of Goodbye Cruel World – “our worst album”?

  41. Rob says:

    Steven Wilson 5.1 mix of “Imperial Bedroom” please! :-)

  42. The FAQs says:

    No more Costello re-issues, please. Can’t see how you can better the early 2000s 2CD versions with the great sleeve notes by EC.

    • georg says:

      i was about to agree with you but as long as EC is as involved in this campaign as he was in the Rhino one (and it seems like he might be, judging by his comments), i think this could easily one-up the Rhino series. (the Hip-O series was a non-starter.)

    • daveid76 says:

      Problem is some of them are now impossible to get

  43. Paul Taylor says:

    I’m not usually a fan of these big single-album boxes but would make an exception for Armed Forces.

  44. Strangely Brown says:

    Awesome, I’m only insterested in his material up to Armed Forces. Let’s hope these are released on CD as well preferrably without the added vinyl in a box. Let’s hope some interesting material comes out of the archive. Would the live material be the already released Live at Hollywood? Can’t wait.

  45. Ian S says:

    Do I never learn? Just when I thought that I had all the Costello reissues I could ever take, this treatment of AF kind of appeals to me! Is this the plight of the fan? Forever, a soft touch? ;-)

    Why I even have the new album on order, which, to judge from the tracks I’ve heard so far, sounds like a pretty tuneless retread of ground he’s covered before I am sad to relate.

  46. andrew r says:

    a genius artist and songwriter ,who seems to have fallen off the radar
    somewhat. The attractions period my favourite and what a storming live band they were .
    Istill miss Bruce Thomas, a very underestimated bass player who was allegedly dismissed
    for over soloing, amongst other things, with the pithy response from E.C. “Its not the fucking Beatles its Elvis Costello then a long space and then the attractions ” He deserves a major overhaul and frankly the same kind of box set treatment as Bowie . Lets hope he isnt involved in any artwork decisions though !

  47. Ben Williams says:

    This is promising news – I wouldn’t be surprised if the new version of one his albums is a remix of his Goodbye Cruel World, stripping away some of the ’80s-ness’ of it.

    First Elton, now Costello – come on Sting, you’re next!

  48. Noel says:

    Wow!! This should be good! ‘Armed Forces’ is FANTASTIC album

  49. Topcheeseman says:

    I really hope this happens – as you say EC has been a pioneer of excellent enhanced reissues for some time but generally live sets have been MIA. They were such an exciting live act at this time – consider me excited!

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