As one of the most fascinating figures in contemporary music over the past 20 years (God, has it been that long?), Elvis Costello has long been due a definitive biography, charting his journey from country rock as a member of Flip City, through his inspired leap into the media glare alongside the punk legions and on to the glory years of new wave with The Attractions, before arriving where he finds himself now: one of the most respected songwriters in the world, a man who's collaborated with both Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach.
Unfortunately, Tony Clayton-Lea's Elvis Costello: A Biography (Andre Deutsch) is not that book. Useful as it is in providing a linear description of Costello's career, where the book falls down is in the absence of access to the man himself, or any of his former bandmates or associates.
All the quotes come from previously published interviews (the words "cut" and "paste" can't help but rear their head) and the author's problems are further compounded by the refusal of permission to quote any of Costello's lyrics. This is a particular problem as Elvis is, as Clayton-Lee only too rightly points out on several occasions, one of the finest lyricists in contemporary music.
With such obstacles, one wonders how this project ever got off the ground in the first place. My own feeling is we'll have to wait for Costello to deliver his autobiography.