Elvis Costello at Flinders St Station

Elvis Costello is one of the most acclaimed musicians of the modern era. In 1984, he came to Melbourne to film a music video clip, in a photo booth, at Flinders Street Station.

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In 1983 Elvis Costello and his band, 'The Attractions', had reached the peak of their early fame.

Their album of that year, 'Punch the Clock', was a critical and commercial success, and the lead single, 'Every Day I Write the Book', was the band's first Top 40 hit.

Costello had grown up in England in the 1970's, the age of punk, and his early recordings reflected that era, with an aggressive, raucous sound.

But 'Punch the Clock' was a more refined effort. The guitars and reverb had been toned down, and Costello's lyrics, soon to be his trademark, were more to the forefront. 

But, behind the scenes, all was not well.

Bass player Bruce Thomas

Costello's marriage to Mary Burgoyne, who he had known since his teens, was faltering.

And tension between Costello and his band had been building for some time. In particular, the relationship between the singer and his bass player, Bruce Thomas, was on the slide, an issue exacerbated by the band's frustrations with the previous album.

While 'Punch the Clock' had been a hit, Thomas felt the group had drifted too far from their roots. The clean production and more accessible tunes were far removed from his taste in music, and he was unhappy with the band's direction.

With these different tensions in the background, in early 1984 the group gathered at Sarm West Studios in London to record a new record. The album would be called, ominously, 'Goodbye Cruel World'.

The sessions were tense and unproductive; differences between the band members were quick to surface, and resolved acrimoniously, in public. This was exacerbated by the views of producer Clive Langer, who urged the group to continue cleaning up and refining their sound.

Guest musicians were brought in, and Langer was replaced by a substitute producer for individual tracks. The result was an album that no one was happy with; a hodge podge of different musical styles and sounds. Costello subsequently called the record, 'our worst album.' 

One of the tracks recorded was a cover of an obscure 1950's song called, 'I Wanna be Loved'.

Originally recorded by the band Teacher's Edition, this slow tempo, moody love song was produced by Langer, and given a lush, commercial sound.  It was chosen by the band's label to be one of the singles off the record, and they had enough faith in it to arrange for a music video to be shot.

Enter Evan English.

Evan English

Evan English was an iconoclastic young visual artist from Melbourne, Australia.

Studying film at Swinburne University in the late 1970's, English - in conjunction with his classmates Paul Goldman, John Hillcoat and Chris Kennedy - established a reputation for heavy drinking and wild behaviour. Together, they were dubbed 'The Gang of Four'.

Their group's antics were at least as well known as their unusual, experimental films. In one instance they dumped frozen chickens into a lecturer's swimming pool, in another they set a school office on fire.

'They were intelligent but dumb, optimistic but nihilistic, stressed out and driven by a creative urge.'

- Classmate of English's

They were, effectively, film making punks.

And they set about documenting Melbourne's punk music scene, recording a series of raw, energetic local bands. English became friendly with the scene's rising star, Nick Cave, and when Cave and his band 'The Birthday Party' decamped to England, he followed them.

The Birthday Party. Photo: Tom Sheehan

The Birthday Party's sojourn in England established them as one of the most significant band's of the era.

Their powerful, driving music, uninhibited live shows, and Cave's vivid lyrics, made an enormous impression wherever they played. English captured the band in full cry, in a series of black and white short films, that established his reputation.

Some of these films were seen by Elvis Costello, and he decided he wanted this raw talent to produce his latest music video. English accepted the offer, and formed a production company, 'The Rich Kids', to manage the shoot.

But he had one demand; the video would have to be shot in Melbourne.

Flinders Street Station, early 1980s.

 

By this time, Costello's relationship with Thomas was beyond repair. The two had decided that they could no longer work together, and that 'Goodbye Cruel World' would be the band's last record.

Costello's relationship with his wife had also continued to deteriorate, and the two were headed for a divorce. It was, to put it mildly, a bad time to travel half way round the world. Costello would later recall arriving in Melbourne, going to his hotel room, and staying there, gripped by anxiety.

Still image from 'I Wanna Be Loved'

English, meanwhile, had come up with an unusual conceit for the 'I Wanna Be Loved' clip.

Costello would sit in a photo booth at Flinders Street train station, with the camera positioned directly in front of him. As he sang, different people would join Costello in the booth, interact with him, have their photo taken and depart.

To give it some edge, the director did not disclose to the singer who would join him in the booth, or what they would do.

'He also insisted that I stay up, the night before the video. What you see isn't actually acting, it's genuine emotion. Maybe that sounds ridiculous, but it's true.'

-Elvis Costello

The emotion of the shoot is apparent, as Costello looks slightly dazed at times in the clip, and mutters half of his lines.

But the video is a clever, original piece of work, and provides terrific accompaniment to the song.

Costello was certainly pleased with the outcome, describing it as 'probably my favourite' from among the band's music videos. The clip rounds off with a nice shot of the station's well known entry hall, as Costello collects his photos and walks away:

The song proved a hit as well, making the top ten in the UK, the last Attractions song to achieve this feat, from their original iteration.

Costello would move on to an even more successful solo career. The following year, Costello and Burgoyne divorced, and Costello started a relationship with Cait O'Riordin, bass player in the Irish folk-punk band 'The Pogues'. The two were married in 1986.

While The Rich Kids didn't last, Evan English continued to work in the local film and music industries.

Among his most notable credits, he co-wrote and co-produced the acclaimed Australian prison drama 'Ghosts of the Civil Dead'. The director of the film was his old uni mate, John Hillcoat, and it co-starred Nick Cave, in his first acting role.

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