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The cover of this title shows a 20-something Costello relaxing on a hotel bed, guitar in hand, notebook lying close by, waiting his turn to hit the stage with his band The Attractions. And this turns out to be a very apt picture, as the tone of this excellent book is very much in the style of a casual conversation.
Rather than tell his story in chronological order as you might expect, Costello instead looks at the components and aspects of his long career in which the telling of one story triggers a memory of another one and so he digresses for a minute before returning to his original theme.
For instance, he talks of his father, a professional session singer and long-time member of the very popular Joe Loss Orchestra. As he tells the story of how he would spend some childhood Saturdays watching his dad work the afternoon crowds at the local Locarno Ballroom, he is reminded of a time years later when he and his band ran into his dad at 3am at the Blue Boar Services on the M1, a popular stopping place for working bands after a hard nights playing. Whilst recalling his initial recording experiences in the late 70s, he is reminded of how his dad was booked to sing the “R Whites Lemonade” theme tune for a TV ad (“I’m a secret lemonade drinker”) and how Costello himself, only a teen, was roped in to provide the now famous “R Whites” chant on backing vocals.
Train journeys similarly evoke memories for him, be he on the way to an important meeting with his record label, a court appearance following a publicity stunt that went wrong, or simply going home for Xmas. The overall effect is of listening to Costello tell tales whilst he sits on a hotel bed, strumming his guitar. It’s very engaging.
I was also surprised to find that Costello was not the snarling, punk wunderkind portrayed in his videos, but actually preferred listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash and Joni Mitchell, as he held down a series of day-jobs to support his wife and young son whilst all the time dreaming about, and working towards, a far different future.
Costello does a first-class job of the narration, and keeps the listener engaged throughout. At the time of writing this I’ve not yet finished the book, and am very much looking forward to my commute home for an opportunity to pull on my headphones, shut out the world and catch up on the next chapter.
Very highly recommended
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
A huge fan of this talented and passionate musician, this honest and entertaining account of a driven creative had me glued to my i pad for a week. Read by the man himself and peppered with his lyrics and short stories it gave a very personal insight into his inspiration and obsessions and provided a fascinating historical context for his musical outputs.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink in three words, what would they be?
immersible emotional enjoyable
What was one of the most memorable moments of Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink?
The poetic jousting with Bob Dylan was an eye-opener. Elvis is very positive throughout the book. I am always inspired by people who can see both sides of a story or situation. Elvis rarely dumps on anyone and if he does, it is veiled - you need to read between the lines to find it. People who are like that are always compelling to listen to - they bring out the best in others. .
What does Elvis Costello bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
It was interesting to have Sean Penn read Dylan's Chronicles because he sounded like a younger Dylan. But Elvis takes it to a much higher level - the author, the musician, the poet doing his own 'readings' - very impressive and very moving at times. Often the demarcation between readings of his lyrics and the prose of the book were hard to spot, such was the power of his writing.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Who has the time? I listened to it in the car and I regret that because I wanted to bookmark so many bits that I'll now buy the book.
Any additional comments?
With a 'Rock&Roll' autobiography you expect a good yarn and little erudition. Dylan gave us a 'masterpiece' but was it really just a good yarn? Elvis gives us both with style and discusses lyrics openly, including acknowledgment of his lyrical and melodic inspirations. He kept notes, he immersed himself in his profession and worked hard and toured extensively. Is this the secret of success? Well, it also helps to have talent - a great voice - which is understated in the book. His rendition of Gloomy Sunday is a case in point. An entertainer, poet, lyricist, composer, writer.....not just a song and dance man.