Elvis Costello's Japanese Publicity Stunt Was a Disaster

Rocker tells Conan O'Brien he couldn't even give away his music when starting out

Elvis Costello recalled a disastrous trip to Japan early in his career on Conan Wednesday night, admitting the Japanese were so uninterested in his music, he couldn't even give it away.

Costello told Conan O'Brien that he and his band had concocted what seemed like a foolproof plan to become stars in the country. They bought Japanese schoolboy outfits, thinking the collarless shirts made them look like the Beatles at Shea Stadium, and hired a flatbed truck to drive them through the popular, Times Square-like Ginza district while they played rock and roll.

"We thought, 'This is it. Either one of two things will happen,'" Costello said. "Either we'll be an overnight sensation and our record will crash into the charts. Or, we'll be arrested and deported, and that will make us famous."

Unfortunately, there was the third option, which no one anticipated: "They just came along and gave a ticket to the guy for overloading the truck," Costello dryly cracked. "And a tiny little picture in the paper." 

O'Brien then showed a photo from the ill-conceived stunt and Costello added that he had been given a box of records to hand out to fans. "I ended up just having to frisbee them," he said. "And they wouldn't even catch the records — they were just ducking!"

Costello was on hand to promote his new autobiography, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, which arrived earlier this month. The book was also accompanied by a two-disc "soundtrack album" curated by Costello, who chose songs from his extensive discography that had the deepest emotional connection to the themes and stories from his book.