This Album Changed My Life: Pete Cullen on Elvis Costello’s Kojak Variety

21 October 2021 | 10:51 am | Mallory Arbour

To get to know Brisbane-based singer songwriter, Pete Cullen a little better, we asked him to tell us about an album that changed his life.

5-time QMusic Award finalist, Pete Cullen returned to his band The Hurt to deliver their latest single, Old Man River. Pete drew inspiration for the track from old childhood memories with family or friends on boats, fishing, camping, singing songs and telling stories around a camp fire which all stemmed from growing up so close to the water. The song draws heavy metaphor to the run of the river being very similar to life's journey.

Honing his craft in Blues Rock outfit the Daybridges from 2000 – 2006, Pete developed as a solo artist, with the first of his five albums, Tom Whisky Blues, being recorded with the Rockwiz Orkastra in 2012 the other four with members of the Hurt. Pete Cullen and the Hurt formed in 2013 when they became a resident band at Lefty’s Music Hall in Brisbane, remaining one still to the current day.

Pete Cullen and the Hurt have appeared at Blues On Broadbeach, Gympie Music Muster, Tamworth Country Music Festival, Winton’s Way Out West and Groundwater Country Music Festival. Pete will return to Groundwater this November, where he will perform alongside Salliana Cambell.

To get to know Pete a little better, we asked him to tell us about an album that changed his life.

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Pete Cullen on Elvis Costello’s Kojak Variety

When I left school, (way back when grunge was huge, and Oasis were just about to take over the world) I discovered Elvis Costello. I don’t think I listened to any other music besides his albums for about 4 years. He was like my guru, mentor, coach, and I don’t think you could find a better influence for a young songwriter.

Around 1997, whilst purveying his many albums at the local CD shop, I stumbled across Kojak Variety. The album cover was very different to most – it was a cyan/teal colour with a pink 1950’/60’s Las Vegas sign style font. In those days, most of the time you would buy an album after hearing a single on the radio, there was no single, I just had to trust my gut.

From hearing the false start on the first track Strange, I was hooked. Costello had trawled through record shops around the world to find his favourite tracks and put together his favourite band to record them. Kojak Variety would introduce me to the sounds of rhythm and blues, rockabilly, 50’s rock n roll, jazz, soul and country. Elvis covered songs by Screaming Jay Hawkins, Willie Dixon, Little Richard, Burt Bacharach, Ray Noble, Randy Newman and introduced me to Bob Dylan with the track I Threw It All Away. The musos on the album were out of this world including James Burton, Jim Keltner, Larry Knechtel, Jerry Scheff, Marc Ribot and Pete Thomas. 

Around the same time as I bought this album, I met and fell in love with my wife, Trish. This album became the soundtrack to our courtship. Probably the most beautiful love song I’ve ever heard, The Very Thought of You, was our wedding song, and the track Please Stay still brings a tear to my eye reflecting on this wonderful period.

Kojak Variety is a record that defiantly changed my life, it was the steppingstone to exploring many artists and musical genres, and on a personal level it has songs that have made a deep impact on my soul.

For more of our This Album Changed My Life series, go here.
Keep up to date with Pete Mullen and The Hurt on their Facebook page here.

Image: Supplied