Thirty-five years ago, New Wave rocker Elvis Costello surprised fans with his new sound on the album ‘Imperial Ballroom’ (1982), which departed from his previous work by using instruments and arrangements that he’d never tried before. And he recently credited a “bag of weed” for inspiring him to experiment more in the studio.
Last November, Costello told fans at a Beacon Theater concert that he spent much of the recording sessions “locked in the studio with a big bag of weed, overdubbing millions of backing vocals that didn’t make any sense.”
So Rolling Stone’s Brian Hiatt had to ask if that was true when they got some one-on-one time with the rock legend.
“I was making a joke,” Costello said. “Drinking was really, in those days, more my way of taking myself out of the picture. And I decided to have a clear head for that record, so naturally I did go and get myself a bag of weed to offset that. I definitely had some crazy idea that I didn’t want to be one man emoting in the spotlight. So I sang in a more dispassionate way, and I tracked my voice up in harmonies – and it just sounded like 12 of me.”
But marijuana did have a little influence on the recording.
“I have a very odd voice,” Costello added. “But I made up these theories – and this is where the weed may have come in a little bit – that if I handed over, halfway through a line, to a vocal group of me, that somehow it would make it less self-absorbed.”
Check out Costello crooning with clones of himself in ‘Tears Before Bedtime.’ Or if you’d rather hear the album live, check out the dates for the anniversary tour that’s underway right now.