Elvis Costello, A Biography Ė by Tony Clayton-Leapring
A Book Review by Ben Ohmart
I was happy to receive this book because, being a lyricist myself, Iíve always been a fan of EC the wordsmith, EC the cleverest lyricist in pop music EVer (as far as Iím concerned). But I knew little about the man himself until popping this book before my eyes. Indeed, itís an eye opener.
The book is written with the fan in mind, putting specific facts and dates right there for you, plus giving a detailed overview for ECís life. Overview is right Ė the man has lived a lot, done a lot, but this book is only around 200 pages. Plus a discography of 30 pages more. But I wouldíve been happier with something a bit chunkier. While the writing style is certainly that of a good magazine or newspaper article, there is more to say.
However, what Tony says is tough-to-put-down stuff. I find myself reading whole chunks at a time and being late for appointments. It is addictive. Because like a magazine article, everything is concise, edited perfectly, giving you the maximum slug of information with the minimum of eye strain.
Each album is discussed in full: lyrically, artistically and musically, plus intensive quotes on what the man himself Ė EC! Ė thought of his work at the time, and later. Yes, this book fills the entire water tank with quotes from Elvis, his dad, those whoíve worked with him, but esp. EC. And Iím glad, because this is a man who doesnít pull punches and oftentimes crafts his words while speaking with the care that few give while writing things down! He knows what he wants to say, doesnít care if itís perhaps not what people want to hear; he says it. Every chapter starts with a few quotes; every chapter is full of MORE quotes from the top interviews.
Iíd recommend this book without delay. Itís a UK book certainly (at one time the author compares EC with a Tony Hancock character; well, who knows Tony Hancock? I do, but Iím sure Iím in the United States minority). And while Iím not sure if $23 is worth the cover price, there arenít many books on Elvis Costello to begin with (just try looking in at Barnes and Nobel and tell me), but this isnít a book to read via lack of competition. No, it pulls you in and makes you turn pages faster than a punk rock swizzle stick.