Thursday, December 10, 2009

Book Review: Complicated Shadows "The Life and Music of Elvis Costello"

I stumbled across this gem a few months ago at a store called "Mr. Music Head," in Hollywood. The store sells rock-and-roll photography, no, brilliant rock-and-roll photography. Stage shots, candid shots, concert posters, all from the past and present "big hitters," including Dylan, Cream, the Dead, Foo Fighters, Ben Harper, Deathcab, Aerosmith.....and on it goes. They also represent photographers and therefore can show you countless pics online or in their archives that can be printed and framed for a price. In the front of the store on some tables were books of photography and some just on music. The one that rally caught my eye was a big hard-bound book on Tom Waits (they also had a beautiful photo of the eclectic Waits sitting in front of an old pickup truck in the country- possibly that Ol' 55????- but that mama was like $35 so I decided to pick up the biography on Elvis ($7) since I was listening to both of these brilliant songwriters damn near exclusively at this point. The Costello biography is magnificent. It is a scholarly text that could easily be used in a college setting complete with endnotes and a detailed index. Graeme Thomson has personally interviewed many of the characters surrounding Costello and has not held anything back. I find it also works well as an extremely descriptive discography for the prolific musician. The chapters are labeled by the years of Costello's life and one can easily look up albums in this manner or by the index (which has album and song titles) to find out who played on individual tracks and records and what style Costello was going for- which we know varied greatly-  and etc., down the line. The book is especially good in the beginning and starts to drag a bit in the third act, but only because it continues to be significantly precise and detailed and as a reader I started to "push on,"compared to the slow weeks I spent on the first third, reading, absorbing, and stopping to buy the albums and compare my thoughts to the author's. Still, Thomson tells all and one can't really complain about his thoroughness, especially when the narrative reads much like a novel despite its similarities to a college text. Four and a half stars at least and certainly well-worth the sale price of seven dollars. Thanks Mr. Music Head.

1 comment:

  1. Never heard of that place before. Maybe I'll check it out next time I go down under.