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Tuesday, 20 July, 1999, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Elvis alive and well in Notting Hill
Elvis Costello: Appears on the Notting Hill soundtrack
By BBC News Online's Darryl Chamberlain

He was rock's angry young man in the 1970s. Now Elvis Costello's latest incarnation as a lounge singer is set to propel him back towards the top of the charts.

His new single, a cover of Charles Aznavour's 1974 hit She from the Notting Hill soundtrack, is a likely contender for this year's big summer hit.

It may even follow in the footsteps of Wet Wet Wet's Love Is All Around from the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, which was at number one for 15 weeks in 1994.

But Costello is taking his chances of chart success and his first Top 10 single since 1981 in his stride.

"People will make that comparison with Wet Wet Wet, but I haven't really thought about it," he says.

"People are making alarming predictions about how well the song is going to do."

Involvement by accident

elvis costello and burt bacharach
With Burt Bacharach in Austin Powers
Costello won a Grammy earlier this year for his work with legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach. He now appears in three of this summer's films - Notting Hill, the Austin Powers sequel The Spy Who Shagged Me, and low-budget US movie 200 Cigarettes.

But his involvement with Notting Hill came almost by accident, when US test audiences failed to understand the original She by Charles Aznavour.

"The song was a huge hit in England but it wasn't in America. It was just this romantic-sounding song. They didn't have the same response to it."

So director Richard Curtis called for Costello, and he arrived at London's Abbey Road Studios to make the record.

"I was in a studio in a small room upstairs. I'd finished the session for the night, and they said they would put some strings on it, and I imagined it would be the usual pop string section of 20 players.

"Then they opened the doors at studio one, the big studio at Abbey Road, and the whole London Symphony Orchestra was in there. It was like something out of Monty Python!"

Working with Bacharach

grammies
Grammy success earlier this year
More bizarrely, he found himself at number one and number three in the US box office charts with the success of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, in which he appears with Burt Bacharach, singing I'll Never Fall In Love Again.

His collaborations with Bacharach have brought him acclaim and a whole new audience.

"We're still in contact and with Austin Powers, we'll be linked forever more as the people who sing for Austin and Felicity Shagwell.

"If we got the opportunity to work again, I'd jump at it. Maybe if we got to work on a song for a movie, that might be a way to do it as before it was such a big undertaking, it took two years to put those songs together."

Costello, 44, still plays his older tracks when he performs.

"I try to remember what they're about, I never play with a sense of nostalgia" but now he is finding a new audience.

"There's a pronounced appearance of young women in their 20s, and they're calling out for She. I'm under no illusions about competing with Ricky Martin. I'm happy enough to sing.

Not hiding behind paraphernalia

"I'm no Ricky Martin, I'm happy to sing"
A recent show in Philadelphia saw six security guards drafted in to protect him and former Attraction Steve Nieve when they left the stage.

"I try to make the shows as personal as possible, and that has a strong effect on people who are used to musicians hiding behind paraphernalia while we just stand there and play good songs for two and a half hours.

"Younger people are very impressed. It seems to touch something in them."

He also appears in 200 Cigarettes, a film about a group of friends who meet up on New Year's Eve, 1981.

"I make the briefest of appearances on the steps of an apartment building in a scene with Paul Rudd and Courtney Love where they walk past and have to do a double-take.

"I play myself in 1981. Lots of lighting had to be used so I didn't look so old.

"It's quite a funny film. There's a lot of music from the time, me, Blondie, things like that."

Even though Costello is returning to a more traditional form of music, he says he is always listening out for new and varied forms of music and he has a lot of time for a new band coming from his home city.

"There's a group in Dublin called Chicks who are great. They're like a punk group and they're all about 16? I love their record Daria.

"But I'll listen to music from other parts of the world, or listen to music from the 1920 - so that you think about just how humans make a noise. Things that keep you fascinated - I try to keep an open mind."

She is released in the UK by Mercury Records on 19 July.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
"There was some very clever lighting so I didn't look so old"
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"If we got the opportunity to work together again, I'd jump at it"
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Elvis Costello: "It was kind of a fluke that I ended up singing it"
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"There's been a pronounced appearance of young girls at the shows"
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