978-0-88064-255-2 / 9780880642552

Elvis Costello: A Biography


Publisher:Fromm Intl



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About the book:

There were two men named Elvis in 1977; one a bloated besequinned cabaret parody about to achieve a release from his bingeful hell, the other a skinny bespectacled computer operator about to achieve the release of his first single. The latter, Elvis Costello, has gone on to release more than 20 albums, and the raging poet of New Wave is now an internationally respected songwriter and musical elder statesman, not beyond liking the Spice Girls. So has he mellowed? As if ...

Tony Clayton-Lea is a Costellophile of the highest order, but even this was not enough to persuade the great man to talk to him or consent to the use of any lyrics, which makes it tricky when your subject is one of the most deft lyricists of the modern age. He manages extremely well despite this, though, by patching together old interviews and anecdotes with a cheerful enthusiasm singularly lacking in Costello himself. He breezes through each year, from the early high of Armed Forces, to the underrated Almost Blue, the complex beauty of Imperial Bedroom, the rootsy Beard Years, The Juliet Letterswith the Brodsky Quartet, and the somewhat unlikely collaborations with Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach. There was even an entire album written for Wendy James of Transvision Vamp (remember them?). However, even a disdain for muckraking cannot hide the fact that Costello is a difficult and idiosyncratic man who seems to delight in putting people's backs up, especially his long-term backing group, the Attractions, whose bassist Bruce Thomas wrote a bitter memoir of being an Attraction in 1990, The Big Wheel. Perhaps Nick Lowe's analysis was correct when he said that his old sparring partner did not suffer fools gladly and yet the music industry was full of them. Certainly the rage and spleen have motivated Costello to write some of the most beautiful, spiky political and personal songs of the last 20 years and Clayton-Lea's book is a fulsome celebration of them, if not quite the private man behind them.--David Vincent

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