Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink
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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 before he was twenty-four took the popular music world by storm.
Costello continues to add to one of the most intriguing and extensive songbooks of our day. His performances have taken him from strumming a cardboard guitar in his parents’ front room to fronting a rock and roll band on our television screens and performing in the world’s greatest concert halls in a wild variety of company. Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink describes how Costello’s career has endured for almost four decades through a combination of dumb luck and animal cunning, even managing the occasional absurd episode of pop stardom.
This memoir, written entirely by Costello, 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. It features many stories and observations about his renowned cowriters and co-conspirators, though Costello also pauses along the way for considerations of the less appealing side of fame.
Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink provides readers with a master’s catalogue of a lifetime of great music. Costello reveals the process behind writing and recording legendary albums like My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model, Armed Forces, Almost Blue, Imperial Bedroom, and King of America. He tells the detailed stories, experiences, and emotions behind such beloved songs as “Alison,” “Accidents Will Happen,” “Watching the Detectives,” “Oliver’s Army,” “Welcome to the Working Week,” “Radio Radio,” “Shipbuilding,” and “Veronica,” the last of which is one of a number of songs revealed to connect to the lives of the previous generations of his family.
Costello recounts his collaborations with George Jones, Chet Baker, and T Bone Burnett, and writes about Allen Toussaint's inspiring return to work after the disasters following Hurricane Katrina. He describes writing songs with Paul McCartney, the Brodsky Quartet, Burt Bacharach, and The Roots during moments of intense personal crisis and profound sorrow. He shares curious experiences in the company of The Clash, Tony Bennett, The Specials, Van Morrison, and Aretha Franklin; writing songs for Solomon Burke and Johnny Cash; and touring with Bob Dylan; along with his appreciation of the records of Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, David Ackles, and almost everything on the Tamla Motown label.
Costello chronicles his musical apprenticeship, a child's view of his father Ross MacManus' career on radio and in the dancehall; his own initial almost comical steps in folk clubs and cellar dive before his first sessions for Stiff Record, the formation of the Attractions, and his frenetic and ultimately notorious third U.S. tour. He takes readers behind the scenes of Top of the Pops and Saturday Night Live, and his own show, Spectacle, on which he hosted artists such as Lou Reed, Elton John, Levon Helm, Jesse Winchester, Bruce Springsteen, and President Bill Clinton.
The idiosyncratic memoir of a singular man, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink is destined to be a classic.
From the Hardcover edition.
later, I found that first playlist written on KSAN notepaper and tucked in an old address book. It was like a blueprint. Iggy’s “Search and Destroy” followed by The Searchers’ “When You Walk in the Room”; Aretha’s “Never Loved a Man” into Gram’s “How Much I’ve Lied”; Richard Hell next to Randy Newman. I played NRBQ, Andy Williams, and The Mothers of Invention’s “Who Needs the Peace Corps.” By my second visit, Bonnie would let me ransack the record library for half an hour and then play
of Brinsley Schwarz. The song had originally seemed almost tongue-in-cheek, a take on that brief period after flower power when Tin Pan Alley staff songwriters seemed to say, “Hey, let’s get in on some of this crazy ‘peace’ and ‘love’ stuff that the kids are digging today,” and wrote a lot of phony-sounding anthems about brotherly love. The Attractions’ version of the song was not quite so genial. If the message of these songs was not obvious enough, I then went down to the riverbank of the
finish the songs alone. One song on which we did work together was the sorry tale of a married double act called “The Show Must Go On.” I’d got the idea for the lyric after going with my Dad to a couple of his club dates. To my somewhat unsympathetic teenage eye, each publicity eight-by-ten framed on the club walls contained a little tragedy. We named the couple in the story Maureen and Dan, two people who were ill-equipped for the beauty contest of fame. I revised and reworked the song and the
recorded works of Demis Roussos. However, they didn’t suffer a fool’s abuse of their labors gladly. The IBM computer didn’t even have a monitor screen, so reams of paper were wasted on the mundane dialogue between man and circuitry. If you entered an incorrect command, the IBM golf-ball printer simply typed out Error in response. If you made the same mistake more than twice, the printer had been programmed to reply, YOU’VE FUCKED IT UP AGAIN, YOU STUPID BASTARD. I’m not sure even Microsoft has
on Dukart’s Canal. That town would be the start of the first march by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, to Dungannon, in 1968, but such inequities and injustices as John suffered were simply part of everyday life a hundred years or more earlier. By seventeen, John was looking for work in Liverpool. In 1865, he got himself married to an older widow named Mary Nolan. That was the year in which Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the CSS Shenandoah sailed up