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Penguin presents the unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, written and read by Elvis Costello.
In a career spanning four decades, Elvis Costello (born Declan MacManus) has made himself a huge reputation through his tunes, lyrics and occasional bad behaviour. Now, for the first time, he is telling his story.
From miming on Top of the Pops to becoming one of the industry's elder statesmen, Costello's memoir - which he has written himself and will promote assiduously - is a one-man history of British music.
A warm, deep and surprisingly funny insight into an amazing life, it is rich with anecdotes about family, musicians and the creation of his famous songs.
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
Fantastic book written and read perfectly by Mr. Costello.
I particularly enjoyed his vocal delivery and impressions.
When telling the story of his father's passing, hearing the emotion and hearing Elvis' voice slightly crack, brought a tear to my eye.
I do home Mr. Costello continues writing, as I'd love to hear him read another audio book.
A superb memoir.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Everything you ever wanted to know about Elvis Costello as dictated by the great man.
Completely changed my opinion, a most impressive story well and honestly told . I am listening back to those old albums with a new appreciation
A lovely biography passionately read by Elvis Costello himself. Wonderful stories and heartfelt memories.
Good. Too many quotations. Too little information. I. E. No mention of failed marriage to 2nd wife or affair with Bebe buell
If like me you know little more about the author that his late 70s early 80's career with The Attractions then you're in for a real eye opener.
The narration by Elvis,.He's a great storyteller and has a relaxed, understated style that's easy to listen to. Needs to be as the tome is over 18 hours!
What I learned about the myriad of musicians that Elvis worked with and their music.
Discovering the broad talents and considerable reputation of the man himself.
The book isn't linear, it jumps about all over the timeline making it like a long chat with the author. 18 hours of 'next...' would have been tough.
Many rambling sorties off track that just didn't hold my interest. Towards the end there's several minutes of something approaching a short story that seemed to have no context. It's pure self indulgence and happens too often, hence 18 hours of book! I wanted to ffwd too many times but resisted the urge to do so.
Overall it's a great insight in to what made the man. it's all about family and music, swerving any muck raking surrounding relationships and substance abuse. Stick with it's one for the music lovers.
I've got both the hardback and audible versions of Elvis Costello's autobiography. The man himself is the reader on the audiobook. This is a very fine account of Declan's life and his relationship with his father is touching. If you are looking for scandal and salacious stories then you won't find any here, except the well known Ray Charles incident. He talks about his collaborations with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney but keeps his personal relationships under wraps. I have had the privilege of seeing the great man six times and will be seeing him again next year at the London Palladium. He is fantastic live and he has written so many great songs. One could say Elvis is too self-critical and underplays his great talent for writing songs and performing live. In my opinion, he is the best songwriter and indoor live performer over the last 40 years.
No ends to this man's talents so many wonderful stories so beautifully told, a must.
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.