​Elvis Costello: It's all about the adventures

Elvis Costello 08:18

"Allison" helped to put Elvis Costello on the musical map. Not bad for a Liverpool lad whose real name wasn't quite so marquee-ready. He talks to our Anthony Mason . . . FOR THE RECORD:

Cross the River Mersey on the ferry to Liverpool, and you sail back into Declan McManus' youth.

"Liverpool's really in your blood," said Mason.

"It literally is, in that my mother's from here and my Dad's from the other side," said Costello.

A teenaged Declan played his first paid gigs here.

"We'd play anywhere that have us," he said outside St. George's Hall. "We played schools and poetry evenings."

That was before he moved to London, took our King's name and became Elvis Costello, the spindly singer with the big specs and biting lyrics, who the Village Voice would call "the avenging dork."

"You were pretty angry on stage in the beginning," said Mason.

"Maybe I came off that way. I mean, I'm not trying to deny it now. But I do think some of it's just the face you're born with. And this gap in my teeth! Some people, like Jane Birkin, that made her incredibly sexy. Well, obviously it hasn't worked for me. But it does make things I say sound more emphatic sometimes than they are.

"So even if I'm saying something that's relatively reasonable or tender, it comes out as if it's a threat or a provocation."

A new pair of glasses came with his first record contract, as did his stage name, which he says wasn't his idea: "I go to the office one day and they say, 'We've got a great idea. We're gonna call you Elvis.' And I thought they were kidding, you know. 'Put these on.' And they had obviously thought it out, that I was too kind of non-descript looking, really."

When his debut album, "My Aim Is True," exploded in 1977, he still had a day job as a computer technician at a London beauty salon -- writing songs at Elizabeth Arden. "Yeah, after hours. I'd take my guitar in the evening, and I'd be in there playing."

Another song, "(Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes," came to him on a train trip to Liverpool, "about ten to fifteen minutes out in Runcorn," Costello said. "The whole thing just appeared."

Costello would use Liverpool as a backdrop for his band, The Attractions, shooting on the ferry ramp, and at the Observatory ... but Elvis grew up in London.