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 24.
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 cowriters and coconspirators, 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.
©2015 Elvis Costello (P)2015 Penguin Audio
Of course I'll own both, but I'm soooooooo enjoying my private audience with the author as he shares the highs, the lows, the excesses and the achievements of an amazing life and career.
I've had the pleasure of listening to Elvis Costello's music (live and recorded) for nearly 40 years, with insights he's shared here and there into some of the inputs and inspirations behind his massive catalog.
Um, let me think...Elvis Costello? ;-)
I can't imagine enjoying anyone ELSE narrating this particular book. This is the tour Elvis has chosen to give us through HIS life, and his narrative style is comfortable and accessible.
This Elvis is so far removed from the Elvis I encountered in late '70s concerts, where the music did the talking and Elvis said little, if anything, to the audience. He's opened up over the ensuing decades, and now we've got over 18 hours (or 688 pages, or both) of this incredible wordsmith generously (and, I'm sure, selectively) using his words to illuminate other words and their origin.
An extraordinary view into the life of an artist consumed by the experience of music & history. Not the standard birth to present day summation but a kaleidoscope of times & places, not unlike his lyrics.
Mother, Father, I'm here in the zoo
I can't come home 'cause I've grown up too soon ...
Listening to Mr MacManus recount the winding path through his life, is nothing short of bewitched, bemoaned and bedazzled. The road map may not be linear, but for every detour and track back, the journey is certainly worth the effort an final destination. Not unlike his music, we listen and are challenged, listening intently — willingly.
To hear the storyteller's deep rich voice carry us through a lifetime of shared musical heritage and fatherly love, is oddly disconcerting, but also very endearing. We as listener, not only get to hear the written word, we get to hear it with inflections, warmth, wrath, and beguiling charm of the author himself.
Uncle Declan's bedtime tale shines heart warming light on details about his relationship with his father, his father's, and grandfather's love and commitment to music and performing, and by proxy, how they influenced the narrator himself.
The tale is full of surprises, relationships, both musical and personal, that the listener may not ever dreamed Uncle Declan was capable of — if we all viewed his life by the neurotic "character" portrayed in his first recordings.
It's these surprises, twists, mea culpas and contortions that unveils the more "human" side of the narrator, author, subject.
Having been an Audio Book virgin — up until this point — I'm certainly glad it was Uncle Declan who read me his story. It was so worth the time.
If you are an Elvis fan, this is your gospel ... an incredible history of music from the days when his dad sang in clubs around Liverpool (about the time my Great Grandfather was working the ships there) to his most recent goings on. The best thing is this: Elvis is an amazing writer, and this book gives you the glimpse into his soul that you've always wanted, and he startles you with his frankness, makes you laugh with his uncontrollable wit, and brings you to tears more than once with his devastating lines. This book brings life to the lyrics he has spent a lifetime carving, telling of his loves and woes, and it lets you get to know him as more than a musician, but as a dutiful son, a crappy husband (ouch) and an amazing father.
The music. The people. I am walking away with my appreciation for music enhanced by over 1,000%. I listened to the audio book and then went out and bought the accompanying CD and then bought a paper copy of the book too so I could reread it and highlight songs and artists I want to go back and listen to. Elvis is a musical genius, and a bit of that rubs off on you when you read this. It has to, you have no choice, you will succumb, this book is infectious.
Why would you read this book if you can have Elvis Costello read it to you? He's hysterical and forlorn, he's clever and sedate, he's mixed up and clear. He's everything you ever thought he would be and much more, and if you think he writes incredible lyrics, wait until you hear his short fiction and poetry. It took me twice as long to listen to this book because I kept backing up to re-listen to different parts.
My brother bought us tickets to see Elvis at the Mesa Amphitheater in Arizona in 1982, and I was so tired at work the next day I nearly fell asleep in front of the microfiche machine. That concert was both exhaustion and eye-opening bliss. The music! Steve Nieve! OMG! I saw Elvis again a few months ago opening for Steely Dan at the Shoreline -- my reaction to this was: Elvis doesn't OPEN for anyone. WTF?! He was just as amazing. This book seems to bring it all home, as I've seemingly lived my life around a soundtrack of Elvis' songs from the confusion of youth, the heartache of relationships, the joys of being alive. It's like he's got a telescope into my bedroom window and has seen everything for the last 35 years. Everything. I am so ashamed, but at least I have someone to share this with.
There should be some secret way of giving a book an extra star to two. I try to be careful about giving 5 stars, but in this case, 5 stars is simply not enough. It's a bloody 10 star book in my opinion, and I am humbled.
EC's way with words is evident in his songs and no less so in this book. He weaves the story of his life, his musical accomplishments, and his personal life in his unique style. The audiobook is much richer than the printed book because he reads it himself, and he conveys meaning beyond words in his speaking voice the way his does in his singing.
Even longtime fans will come away impressed with the breadth and depth of his work, some of it virtually unknown in the mainstream of popular music. He tells with his many collaborations and tremendous respect and affection for artists in every corner of the music business. He writes of his roots, his family, his loves and misadventures.
This is a book that is well worth the time and effort of listening to rather than reading on the printed page. It is truly a spectacular memoir.
Can't say enough about how enjoyable this was to hear. I'll listen again. I knew he was talented, but this was ridiculously entertaining
just one more book lover
Great music memoir, only Elvis is like that Vonnegut character: unstuck in time. We go from his childhood to Joe Strummer helping fans over a barricade to his childhood to Paul McCartney at a performance to remember Linda to Elvis's childhood.
Yet the disjointed narrative adds a surreal quality that blends with this memory flood of songs, conversations, near misses, obsessions, deaths, meetings.
Some of the most surreal encounters involve Dylan who pops out of a panel van at a Twin Cities race track and tells Elvis to jump in. They ride around, make plans to meet at a warehouse. They do.
They go to a party where partygoers' faces distort trying to put their big eyes on Dylan and insert their big ears into a chat between music men that gets quieter and quieter until it dissolves into silence.
Elvis is a great storyteller because he is equal parts participant and observer. And he has a wonderfully expressive voice. He reads like a dream. Now I have to wake up.
the narrator is Elvis Costello. such a beautiful reading voice, no surprise there. Very interesting. I love the history behind his family, and the details of the people...and the music that has been around his life.
Middle School Parent
Great for music lovers and lovers of music history. He knew everyone and was influenced by each in a different way. Too say nothing of his influence on others. Honest story
"To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” -- Somerset Maugham
In my reader's journal I create seven word summaries for each book. For Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (UMDI from here on) my seven word summary is "Subtract name-dropping and trivialities to find genius."
This book is about six great hours of entertainment "squeezed" into a nineteen hour package. I love, love, love Elvis Costello. And it was great to hear him read his own autobiography, but holy cow this book needed to go on a diet.
Let me get my griefing out of the way so I can say what I liked.
• The narrative is not delivered chronologically, so it's hard to follow if you don't already have a pretty solid grasp of the' timeline of both his life and career.
• He includes soooo many meaningless details, some of which are just simple name-drops (like he's afraid he'll offend some musician by not naming them), that your mind goes numb while you are waiting for the good part of the story. Sometimes there isn't one.
The good stuff. It's Elvis Costello and he's an amazing lyricist. When he gets around to telling a story behind one of his songs or (more often) a fragment of a lyric, it's pretty neat. Though he really likes wordplay and potential meaning more than true "aboutness" so a lot of times there is no literal connection between a story and a lyric, one just inspired/gave rise to the other.
Also, when he has an interesting story to tell about another musician (and he has worked with some huge names), those parts are great. Often though it is more of just a workman's account of hooking up with someone famous to cut an album in some random studio with musicians you might know from other groups. And you have no idea which kind of story it is until fifteen minutes into the tale.
Costello also has a ridiculously deep and broad knowledge of songs reaching back to the 30's, which I found interesting. I was constantly going to the internet and YouTube to look up/listen to references. That was both annoying and fulfilling.
In the end, this book is for musicians, people who can't get enough stories about musicians (good or bad), and for super die-hard Costello fans.
I can't say I regret listening entirely. After about 12 hours, though, I just let EC's cool voice wash over me, letting my attention wander in and out. I kind of wonder how much I will remember of this book. I expect flashes will come to me while I'm listening to EC songs and that's about it.
"An excellent musical history in need of a serious edit"
Overall I felt it was worth ploughing through all 688 pages because there are numerous valuable insights in this book and it is very well written. I couldn't help thinking though that it would've been a much better 350 page book which dispensed with the enormous amount of an interesting anecdotes about who played bass on which song
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