Elvis Costello Imperial Bedroom Album Review - Rolling Stone

2020 Album Draft- Round 5- Pick 2- Hanspostcard selects- Elvis Costello & The Attractions- Imperial Bedroom

This for me is a sentimental pick. I realized last week that my pick- on August 16, 2020- was the day before the 38th anniversary of the first time I saw The King- Elvis Costello- it remains the favorite concert I’ve ever attended. Three years ago I wrote about that big event in my life- attached below.


Elvis is one of my big four- The Beatles/ Bob Dylan/ EC/ Steve Earle. To select a favorite Elvis album is difficult because he has been very consistent over his career in putting out stellar albums. For example his classic period- the first six studio albums -of which this is #6- I give all of them an A+. So how do you choose a favorite? Actually if I had to- I’d go with Music City Mike’s earlier pick- Armed Forces as my favorite but its close. I will go with my pick of Imperial Bedroom for those reasons I mentioned above.

The first four Elvis albums- My Aim Is True/ This Years Model/ Armed Forces and Get Happy featured an angry Elvis- great albums but with Trust he started to get away from that- and began composing his music on the piano.

Imperial Bedroom was released on July 2, 1982- six weeks before the concert. As with every other EC album to that point- I played it to death. By the time the concert came around I was pumped. I was also looking forward to hearing some of these songs in concert. It’s always great when you see an artist- who has a current album out which is fantastic.

Imperial Bedroom’s sound reminds me of The Beatles- and its not a coincidence because the engineer on The Beatles Abbey Road- Geoff Emerick was the producer of the album. This was the first album of Costello written songs- not produced by Nick Lowe. That going with Elvis writing Beatlesque songs- a perfect match. The fifteen songs range from 2:34- to 5:26 in length. Imperial Bedroom’s songs show a maturing Elvis. There were two singles which didn’t do well in England- but then again like many of the greats Elvis is an album artist-not a singles artist. The album would peak at #6 in the UK and #30 in the U.S. Rolling Stone ranks it at #166 in their 500 Greatest Albums ever list. There were reviews which compared Elvis to George Gershwin- which prompted 85 year old Ira Gershwin to send an assistant out to buy the album for him. Wonder what he thought? There is not a song out of the 15 here that I would give less than 4 stars out of 5. Tomorrow I will be thinking about that concert 38 years ago- and be giving this album a few more spins. I have listened to it so often the past ten days that the songs are constantly playing in my head- when I am not listening.


  1. Great album and write-up! I don’t know if you’ve heard it or not but there is an alternative version of “Man Out of Time” that is all in the musical style of the wild intro and outro of the album version. It ended up on a promo sampler CD that I found at a yard sale for a dollar.

  2. Really nice description of the album and why it’s important to you. Glad I finally got to see him live a few years back. If I may add what you’ve said, he’s a true professional. It was an outdoor show in the dead of a Dallas summer and he went on when the sun was still out and directly in his face, jacket and all, and played a fantastic set.

    • I saw him do the same thing maybe 8 years ago- a hot summer day- he’s out there in the sun. It was hot just standing there watching him let along what it had to be like up on the stage.

  3. Glad you got in an album from one of your favorite artists of all time. The fact you feel it’s impossible to rank something is a shocker to me! 🙂

    I’ve been asking myself more than once how you keep pulling off your rankings. I’m the type of guy who gets easily confused when there’s too much choice. I still vividly remember visiting an American supermarket for the first time and staring at an isle of cereal boxes. How the heck are you supposed to decide what to grab. Instead of 50 different options, just give me five, and I’m a happy camper! 🙂

    In any case, my knowledge of Elvis Costello is very spotty. I guess I’m mostly familiar with his debut album and a number of additional songs. As I’m writing this, I have “Imperial Bedroom” running in the background and I definitely like what I’m hearing!

    • That is funny about the cereal. I can understand that. Music City Mike did a countdown of Elvis Costello’s albums- and said he had the same problem also- so many good ones. Sometimes it just depends on my mood.

  4. Enjoyed your piece Hans. And yes this is a good one (does he have a bad one?). Again the thing about the “Hans Project” that is so cool is the personal connection to the music. This is a good example of that. Common ground on this one.
    (When I came over to your takes this morning I seen BB King and thought you were going in that direction)

  5. Great personal connection Hans…that makes the album even more special to you. I’m not as familiar with this one but I’ll be listening today on my walk. I know the first 4 albums or so pretty well but I need to expand.

    The songs you highlighted do have that Beatles sound to them. Elvis was so prolific…I just looked at his discography..in the late seventies and eighties it was pretty much every year for a while…quality and quantity.

    • It was weird in 1985 I believe it was- he didn’t release an album- of course he released two outstanding ones in 1986 to make up for it.

  6. Great writeup & explanation of its significance to you. I heard a fair bit of his ’70s-mid ’80s work but this album slid by without me noticing it very much. Am going to give a couple of tracks a go, if they’re even on par with the others from that era, should be good!

  7. You’re gonna think I’m sacrilegious, but though I’ve always liked the Elvis Costello songs I heard, I just never had a strong enough inclination to want to check out more of his music. That said, given your love for his music and the passion you express for this album, I will give it a full listen.

    • I hope you like it. There are artists I am like that with also- like what I hear but leave it at that. I don’t know why that happens? I wish I had the time I had when I was in my late teens-early 20’s…

  8. This probably comes as close as anything to nailing that mid-1960s Beatles sound. Great record – easily my favourite Costello for me (and Armed Forces comes second). First side of Trust is amazing too.

  9. Hans, you’ve made an Elvis fan out of me. This album is one that the library does not have, which is disappointing. Wonderful write-up and sharing of how you prepped for your favorite concert of all time.

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