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Elvis Costello: A Biography
ISBN 0880642556 / 9780880642552 / 0-88064-255-6
Publisher Fromm Intl
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Tony Clayton-Lea's Elvis Costello is a perfect example of the cobbled-together rock biography. With no cooperation from Costello, and apparently no means by which to contact his past or present associates for comment, Clayton-Lea scoured the press files again and again to fill his thin narrative. The result will fail to intrigue the uninitiated and will tell the committed fan little he or she doesn't already know. Given Costello's status as one of the most impressive and enduring music talents to emerge in the past quarter century, not to mention his many adventures on and off the job, this book must be counted as yet another failed attempt at telling his story. It doesn't help that Clayton-Lea's writing is sloppy and that some of the simplest facts--for instance, how much of "Less Than Zero" Costello and his band the Attractions played on the Christmas 1977 episode of Saturday Night Live before abandoning it for "Radio Radio"--escape his pages. (The author also sets a new record for misspellings of King of America coproducer T-Bone Burnett's name.) Clayton-Lea provides the reader plenty to argue with, but not in the manner of, say, Marcus Gray's entertaining, infuriating Last Gang in Town: The Story and Myth of the Clash. In fact, many lay fans' critical takes on Costello's work are bound to be more interesting than those of this supposed professional critic's. Hardly a must. --Rickey Wright [via]