"Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink" by Elvis Costello
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Elvis Costello is one of my few personal heroes, in terms of creativity at least. I'm not sure I'd want to meet him in person; this masterful autobiography is the perfect alternative.
"I've absorbed almost everything I know from listening to records; the rest came from trial and error." This quote comes near the end of a lengthy, detailed account of a life dominated by an obsession with music. Flitting with apparent randomness back and forth through time, the man christened Declan MacManus writes with clarity and directness, although idiosyncratic turns of phrase abound ("I tried to find the corridor between the bedchamber and the war room").
His late father, singer/musician Ross MacManus is a dominant presence; he left the family to go adventuring with music and women, an example which Elvis seems to have followed. The heart of the book is Costello's account of his relatively brief period of pop stardom in the late '70s and early '80s; his many infidelities, and other indiscretions, are discreetly confessed.
We learn much about his upbringing, and his first and third marriages; the nature of his long relationship with Cait O'Riordan is only hinted at. The love for his musical collaborators and those of his heroes (e.g. Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint) with whom he has managed to connect is plain; the musicality of Attractions bass-player Bruce Thomas is extravagantly praised, but there are no titbits about their broken friendship.
For the true fan, the most fascinating element is his description of his songwriting process; the collage-style construction of lyrics, and the "borrowing" of the music which surrounds them. I possess the vast majority of the albums he's made, but there were many references which will elude all but the most obsessive completist.
There is little here for the casual reader; but for devotees, this is pure gold.
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