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Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis…

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink

by Elvis Costello

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So Elvis Costello finally gets around to writing his autobiography. Was it worth the wait? Well, sort of. Mostly. Don't get me wrong, the man can write and is at times very entertaining. But his approach here can also be very frustrating.
The structure is nominally linear, but Costello does go off on tangents which tend to derail the flow of the story. It's almost stream of consciousness at times, one story bringing to mind another and then another. So for 400 pages, give or take, we get a fairly riveting account of Costello's early years (with diversions), first musical steps and rise to a sort of pop stardom, with all the transgressions and temptations that such a lifestyle brings with it. He also delves deep into family history, especially his relationship with his father, Ross McManus, former singer with the Joe Loss Orchestra. Costello's love and respect for his father is very evident.
But by the time we get to Armed Forces and it's aftermath you realise you're almost two-thirds of the way through the book, with no sign of a "volume two" in the offing.
Consequently, and frustratingly, Costello leaves his story hanging. We get very little on the making of Get Happy!!, Trust, even Imperial Bedroom. The book starts to become more scattergun, dipping into the making of River In Reverse here, meeting his wife Diana Krall there.
The sound of names being dropped is deafening as we speed through the last 30 years of Costello's career.
In fact some of the final chapters descend into a list of "and then I wrote...." with chunks of lyrics reprinted. Costello is never less than honest, I'll give him that, and he owns up to his failings as both a husband and bandmate. But with the album "North" he seems to have shut up shop in terms of confessional songwriting and become a modern day Tin Pan Alley songwriter. This makes for a less interesting final third, apart from a very moving account of the death of his father, Ross McManus.
I don't want to sound too negative about this book, it is a very good read. But as Costello fan I would have liked some of the gaps in his story to be filled in a bit more. So it just about gets 4 stars from me. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
I expect musicians would love this, but I'm not really interested in how specific sounds are made or riffs created.
  Kaethe | Oct 17, 2016 |
Elvis Costello's memoir has done the unthinkable: It has made me less of a fan. Clearly lyrics are his strength, not a full length book. Rambling passages that jump through various subjects (and, maddeningly, time--it is a challenge situating his musings within his career history) are punctuated by single sentence paragraphs that, I suppose, are meant to be pithy. There are some gems, like the tale of how Imperial Bedroom was recorded or how an early career Geraldo Rivera followed the Attractions on tour for a story, but I wish there had been more of them. His casual womanizing, often of the mock innocent "woe is me" variety, infuriated me. At least no one can claim that the title of "unfaithful music" is unfounded. ( )
  librarianarpita | Sep 9, 2016 |
Those of us who grew up with the music of the late 20th century have had a lot of exposure to singer/songwriters, and we’re aware that many of them mine their own lives and emotions for song material. Because we hear their own words in their own voices, we may feel like we know these musicians as people…but we’re wrong. We know the work. We can forget that songwriters are storytellers as much as novelists or screenwriters are, and those stories aren’t necessarily revealing to us who they are as people. There may be truth in them, but it’s usually more likely to be emotional rather than factual truth, and that’s where the sense of intimacy resides. I think one reason I’m intrigued by the memoirs of musicians is that they offer more of the literal truth–that’s where the real stories are.

Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink is Elvis Costello’s autobiography–it’s not a tell-all, but it tells an awful lot. Costello’s place in the third generation of a musical family made his early years pretty interesting, while a desire to distance himself from that heritage was a factor in his choosing to start his own career under an assumed name (Costello was his mother’s maiden name, while Elvis comes from exactly the source you’d expect). He’s candid about the challenges and temptations that can confront successful young musicians, and about the fact that he didn’t always handle them well.

Costello doesn’t get into the gory details of some of the more problematic parts of his past–the breakups of his first marriage and his first band, the Attractions, for example–and that’s certainly his right, but he doesn’t gloss over them, and he owns up to the role his own failings played in them.

Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink is also a memoir of an artist and his work, in which Costello shares the stories behind many of his songs and albums. He talks about inspirations, sources, and what a particular lyric means–or, in some cases, doesn’t–and recounts the creation stories of some of his most significant albums. While he’s still best known as one of the signature artists of the post-punk/New Wave era, Costello’s musical interests are restless and eclectic, and he discusses his explorations of a variety of musical genres–country, jazz, classical, traditional pop and R&B–with some unexpected collaborators; he’s worked with everyone from Johnny Cash to Burt Bacharach to his third wife, jazz musician Diana Krall. If you’re interested in “the process," these portions of the book are particularly fascinating and satisfying.

MORE: https://3rsblog.com/2016/01/audiobook-talk-unfaithful-music-and-disappearing-ink-elvis-costello.html ( )
  Florinda | Jul 25, 2016 |
This book, well at 670 pgs more of a tome, is not a quick read. Definitely a fan and was eager to learn more about the man, and this certainly covers that. It's a combination of great stories, that seem to be placed in order by the effort to catch an idea before it runs away, and a music history class. Decades of writing/performing/touring/befriending the famous and obscure alike, are well chronicled. ( )
  Bricker | Jul 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
“Songs can be many things,” Elvis Costello writes in his new autobiography: “an education, a seduction, some solace in heartache, a valve for anger, a passport, your undoing, or even a lottery ticket.”

Mr. Costello’s book, “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink,” manages to be all these things, and a pint of Guinness and a bag of chips. It’s streaked with some of the best writing – funny, strange, spiteful, anguished – we’ve ever had from an important musician.... Most rock autobiographies seem tossed off and phoned in: tour souvenirs. Not this one. “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink” feels as if it were written during a six-year residency at Yaddo and driven to his publisher on the back of a flatbed truck. It is enormous. At 674 pages, it’s more than 100 pages longer than Keith Richards’s whacking “Life.” (Unlike Keith, he didn’t employ an amanuensis.) It is a commitment.... Mr. Costello bites off more than he can entirely chew in “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.” But passport and lottery ticket, this is.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399167250, Hardcover)

Born Declan Patrick MacManus, Elvis Costello was raised in London and Liverpool, grandson of a trumpet player on the White Star Line and son of a jazz musician who became a successful radio dance band vocalist. Costello went into the family business and had taken the popular music world by storm before he was twenty-four.

Costello continues to add to one of the most intriguing and extensive songbooks of the day. His performances have taken him from a cardboard guitar in his front room to fronting a rock and roll band on your television screen and performing in the world's greatest concert halls in a wild variety of company. “Unfaithful Music” describes how Costello's career has somehow endured for almost four decades through a combination of dumb luck and animal cunning, even managing the occasional absurd episode of pop stardom.

The memoir, written entirely by Costello himself, offers his unique view of his unlikely and sometimes comical rise to international success, with diversions through the previously undocumented emotional foundations of some of his best known songs and the hits of tomorrow. The book contains many stories and observations about his renowned co-writers and co-conspirators, though Costello also pauses along the way for considerations on the less appealing side of infamy.

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink is destined to be a classic, idiosyncratic memoir of a singular man.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 16 Jul 2015 08:16:55 -0400)

A personal introspective by the influential pop songwriter and performer traces his Liverpool upbringing, artistic influences, creative pursuit of original punk sounds, and emergence in the MTV world.

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