Alan Light

Alan Light is the former Editor-in-Chief of Spin and Vibe magazines, and a former Senior Writer for Rolling Stone. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, he is the author of “The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Story of the Beastie Boys” and a two-time winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor award for excellence in music writing.

SPECTACLE REPORT: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH…Unsung Heroes: Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, and Jesse Winchester

Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH…Unsung Heroes: Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, and Jesse Winchester

Elvis Costello shares a moment with Richard Thompson. In addition to using the platform of SPECTACLE as a way to champion some of his favorite young musicians, Elvis Costello has also turned the show’s spotlight to several underappreciated veteran artists. This season, a trio of singer-songwriters whose names might not be familiar to all viewers…

SPECTACLE REPORT:  ELVIS COSTELLO WITH…Elvis Costello and Collaboration

Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH…Elvis Costello and Collaboration

Elvis Costello in the hot seat with Mary Louise Parker on SPECTACLE When I spoke to Elvis Costello just before the launch of this season of SPECTACLE, he said that by the final tapings, he knew that he wasn’t sounding his best. “My voice wasn’t in the greatest shape by then,” he said. “There’s a…

SPECTACLE REPORT:  ELVIS COSTELLO WITH… Southern Knights: Levon Helm and Allen Toussaint

Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH… Southern Knights: Levon Helm and Allen Toussaint

The legendary Levon Helm at the drums on SPECTACLE. On this week’s SPECTACLE, Elvis Costello assembles a band of musical legends. At its heart are two artists who act as living links to the traditions of the American South – drummer Levon Helm and pianist Allen Toussaint. Arkansas-born Helm, best known as one of the…

SPECTACLE REPORT:  ELVIS COSTELLO WITH… Sheryl Crow on Guitar Pull

Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH… Sheryl Crow on Guitar Pull

Sheryl Crow on SPECTACLE: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH… The four artists who join Elvis Costello this week for SPECTACLE’s second annual “guitar pull” are all extraordinary singers and exceptional songwriters. But with all due respect to Neko Case, Ron Sexsmith, and Jesse Winchester, only one of them has been able to strike the balance that Elvis…

SPECTACLE REPORT:  ELVIS COSTELLO WITH…  All New Season Kicks Off with Bono and The Edge

Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH… All New Season Kicks Off with Bono and The Edge

Elvis Costello performs with U2′s Bono and The Edge on SPECTACLE.

In 2001, a few weeks after the September 11th attacks had stunned the world, high in the sky somewhere between Montreal and Toronto, guitarist The Edge sat back in his seat on U2’s private “ElevationAir” jet and spoke to me about the band’s personal bonds. “We’re not like so many groups you hear about, where the members don’t ever talk offstage or out of the studio,” he said. “It’s not like that with us—quite the opposite. If we end up at a party, at the end of the night you’ll probably find the four of us off in a corner hanging out.”

Let’s side aside the musical contributions, the classic songs and unforgettable performances that U2 have delivered over the years. If you just consider their personal histories, these four Irishmen have boldly gone where no band has gone before. There has never been another group whose line-up has remained intact for over thirty years. Since forming in Dublin in 1976 at the Mount Temple Comprehensive School (a site the Edge revisited in the recent guitar documentary IT MIGHT GET LOUD), these same four guys have shared a stage all the way from drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.’s kitchen to sold-out stadiums around the globe.

Elvis Costello and Soul Music

Article: Elvis Costello and Soul Music

THE RHYTHM AND THE BLUES The guest for the season’s final episode of SPECTACLE is someone whom Elvis Costello has referred to as “daunting.” But Smokey Robinson has actually been called far more serious things than that; Bob Dylan once described him as “America’s greatest living poet.” It was a bit of hyperbole on Dylan’s…

Elvis Costello and Musical Romance

Article: Elvis Costello and Musical Romance

Not-So-Silly Love Songs To avoid a potentially awkward situation, on this week’s edition of SPECTACLE, Elvis Costello turns over the host’s chair to the show’s Executive Producer, Elton John. This is because the guest this time around is none other than Elvis’s wife, the acclaimed jazz pianist and vocalist Diana Krall. But since we have…

Suggested Guests for Spectacle

Article: Suggested Guests for Spectacle

There has been a lively discussion going on about potential musical guests for SPECTACLE. In the spirit of getting more names into the pot, we thought we would tabulate the names thus far. Feel free to leave your comments for more names that might have been missed. John Prine (4) Mavis Staples Glenn Tilbrook K.D.…

21st Century Elvis Costello

Article: 21st Century Elvis Costello

“I’m very glad to be doing the job I’m doing, which is playing music in front of people,” Elvis Costello recently said. “Making records—it used to be the thing that made the motor go round. Now I just sort of make a record and let it go.” In the New World Order of the music…

Elvis Costello and All That Jazz

Article: Elvis Costello and All That Jazz

A few weeks ago—when Norah Jones, Rosanne Cash, John Mellencamp, and Kris Krisofferson visited SPECTACLE—we looked at Elvis Costello’s relationship to American music. We set aside jazz, though, for this week. And there is perhaps no single figure that better represents the range and possibilities of jazz than Herbie Hancock, this week’s guest. Over the…

The Classical Elvis Costello

Article: The Classical Elvis Costello

Of the wide variety of guests appearing on this season of SPECTACLE, Renee Fleming—world-renowned star of the Metropolitan Opera—is probably the most surprising. But as the episode reveals, Fleming and Elvis Costello share more common ground than might initially seem apparent. The Pennsylvania-born soprano trained as a jazz singer, and has recorded with the likes…

Elvis Costello, American Idol

Article: Elvis Costello, American Idol

As luck would have it, this edition of SPECTACLE turns out to be the perfect episode for the week in which the United States installs a new President. Elvis Costello’s guests this time around share powerful ties to the roots and heritage of American music—country, most obviously, but also folk, blues, and jazz. Kris Kristofferson…

Elvis Costello Comes Alive

Article: Elvis Costello Comes Alive

This week’s guest on SPECTACLE, Rufus Wainwright, is one of the most acclaimed songwriters of his generation. He is equally celebrated, however, for his power as a live performer; as he notes in the episode, he’s been on stage from a very young age, singing with his mother and aunt, the renowned folksingers the McGarrigle…

Elvis Costello and Reggae Influences

Article: Elvis Costello and Reggae Influences

One of the most interesting—and often forgotten—musical cross-pollinations in rock history is the connection forged between punk and reggae in 1970s England. The scenes were so connected that when Bob Marley visited London in 1977, he wrote “Punky Reggae Party” to celebrate the common ground these communities were finding. Though the Clash was the band…

Elvis Costello and Standards

Article: Elvis Costello and Standards

What is a “standard?” The dictionary on my desk, as its fifth definition for the word, says that it is “a piece of music that has remained popular for many years.” Which is actually a pretty good, non-partisan description from an old dictionary, since the word is almost always applied to a specific body of…

Elvis Costello in the Nineties

Article: Elvis Costello in the Nineties

This week’s guest on SPECTACLE, President Bill Clinton, is probably the single most defining figure of the 1990s. His election in 1992 marked the triumph of the Baby Boom generation on the global stage, and during his two terms in the White House, the United States enjoyed peace and unprecedented prosperity; the record federal budget…

Elvis Costello And Punk Rock

Article: Elvis Costello And Punk Rock

“Punk—what nonsense that was,” Elvis Costello recently said to Spin magazine. “I never really went along with the philosophical background…I’m just a songwriter. I knew older stuff and I knew newer stuff.” It’s easy to understand why, given his obvious other interests from Day One and the wide range of musical styles he would soon…

Elvis Costello and The Pop Tradition

Article: Elvis Costello and The Pop Tradition

Elton John – Elvis Costello’s guest for the premiere episode of SPECTACLE (as well as one of the show’s executive producers) – is a towering example of contemporary pop songcraft. In a career spanning four decades, he has gone from creating such indelible melodies as “Your Song” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” to composing…