Singer, songwriter and iconoclast Elvis Costello made his name and image early on: the Buddy Holly glasses, the punk suits and then the pork-pie hat. He had hits you hummed, like "Alison," "Pump It Up" and "Everyday I Write the Book." Three decades on, he's built one of the most eclectic careers in music — brainy, then driving, then suddenly danceable.
Now, Costello is out with a new album, National Ransom, which dives into music history and the very current world of Wall Street "harem scarem." It's his second collaboration with big-name producer and musical mind T-Bone Burnett. Each song has place-and-time stamps that range from "Utopia, KS, 1915" to "Somewhere in Central America — 1951."
"I found myself locating them in a certain time and place," he says. "It helped place them somewhere where I could make references to music that I like and make it new again."
As part of his appearance with On Point, Costello took calls from fans and spoke about his influences, the financial crisis, his wife (singer Diana Krall) and his infamous brawl in Columbus, Ohio, with Stephen Stills' band and Bonnie Bramlett. He also treated listeners to a live acoustic performance of "Jimmie Standing in the Rain," a cut from the new album.
On Point is a daily news and culture program produced by NPR and WBUR in Boston. For more information, visit http://www.onpointradio.org.