Less Than Zero

25 Feb

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[Excerpt from Be Stiff: The Stiff Records Story]

‘Less Than Zero’ was released on 18 March 1977 as Stiff BUY 11, with ‘Radio Sweetheart’ on side two. Its monochrome sleeve was as sparse asthe record’s three-chord intro. The name of Stiff’s new prodigy was written in large block capitals, above a photo of a rake-thin bloke, with his hands self-consciously stuffed into the pockets of his corduroys and one foot pointing towards the other. Staring out awkwardly through his specs, Costello looked more like a supply teacher than a pop-star-in-waiting. An image makeover was in order. On the other side of the sleeve, the forceful marketing of the label was maintained, with Stiff’s logo and full address featured, along with the slogan ‘Reversing Into Tomorrow’. Riviera and Robinson’s management company also got a mention, with those who bought the record being informed that Elvis Costello was ‘an Advancedale Artist’. And the initiated, who knew to scour the run-off grooves carefully, found the words ‘Elvis Is King’ etched by Porky Peckham. And on the reverse? ‘Elvis Is King On This Side Too.’ The cover may not have been wildly exciting, but it was 100 per cent Stiff.

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