Best known as the drummer in the Attractions, Elvis Costello’s band, Pete Thomas recorded a total of nine albums with the band and has worked with artists as diverse as Suzanne Vega, Los Lobos, Wendy James and Sheryl Crow, and most recently cropped up on fellow Sheffield lads Arctic Monkeys’ AM album (2013). When Matt Helders broke his hand during sessions for the album, Pete stepped in to help out, and his sweet percussion remains on the track ‘Mad Sounds’.
This Year's Model (1978)
As one of the Attractions, Pete’s finest moments were surely on this New Wave classic. His inventive beats combining rock, funk, punk and reggae are all over ‘(I Don‘t Want To Go To) Chelsea’, ‘Pump It Up’ and ‘Watching The Detectives’ (this last single included in later album re-releases). A masterclass in musical invention, versatility and originality through style-hopping.
Key Track: ‘(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea’
This Sporting Life (1994)
Pete hooked up with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and acrobatically-voiced avant garde singer Diamanda Galas for this 1994 album. ‘At The Dark End Of The Street’ is a beautifully soulful Hammond-led affair, and Pete locks in perfectly with JPJ as versatile (nay, scary) vocalist Diamanda tackles funky agit-rock with the title track, and he’s all over the groove for the brooding pre-Winehouse, ‘Winehousey’ blues of ‘Devil’s Rodeo’.
Key track: ‘At The Dark End Of The Street’
Figure 8 (2000)
Tragic, late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith has achieved cult status since his death in 2003, and his 2000 album benefited from Pete’s extraordinary touch on three songs. ‘Junk Bond Trader’ has a funky, shuffling beat and militaristic buzz rolls; the beautiful ‘Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud’ and Beatles-y ‘Can’t Make A Sound’ both have Pete’s stamp all over them.
Key track: ‘Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud’
Nine Objects Of Desire (1996)
Pete, along with Bruce Thomas, also erstwhile of The Attractions, was called in for rhythm section duties on the hugely influential US folk/pop star’s fifth album. The record itself wasn't a huge hit for Vega, but Pete brought swing and smooth latin grooves to stand out track 'Caramel' (which has been used on a couple of movie soundtracks) and the similarly Latin-grooving 'Birth-day', and adds subtle brushwork to the languid jazz club feel of 'My Favourite Plum'.
Key track: 'Birth-day (Love Made Real)'
Fresh from his collaboration with Paul McCartney on Macca’s Flowers In The Dirt album, Costello’s late-’80s album, once again with the former Attractions drummer on board. T Bone Burnett produced, while two songs co-written with McCartney made the album, 'Pads, Paws and Claws' and 'Veronica'. The latter a quirky pop hit, the former a roiling rockabilly number - both served perfectly by Thomas at the kit. 'Tramp The Dirt Down', expressing how much Elvis couldn't wait to see Margaret Thatcher dead and buried, features Pete's gentle, military snare press rolls supporting the rolling Irish instrumentation.
Key track: 'Veronica'