Uncut, March 2005

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Complicated Shadows:
The Life and Music of Elvis Costello

Graeme Thomson

Nick Hasted


Definitive Declan biog

Thomson here returns one of rock's most elusive figures to flesh and blood. The pre-Costello musical life of Declan MacManus in folk clubs and forgotten pub-rock bands, expunged on pain of broken legs by brutal manager Jake Riviera during his charge's snarling '70s rise, is filled in for the first time, as former band-mates break their omerta.

Industrious interviewing also lays open Costello's tempestuous first marriage, obsessive affair with super-groupie Bebe Buell, courting of Cait O'Riordan (the older Elvis being dubbed "Uncle Brian" by her co-Pogues), and the "unfathomable" coke-and drink-fuelled self-destruction of the '79 US Armed Forces tour, which immolated Costello's chance of Springsteen-scale stardom.

Despite the entertaining presence of bitchy and embittered ex-Attraction Bruce Thomas, Thomson's calm writing integrates potentially salacious revelations into an evenly weighted account of Costello's work. His description of the insane pressure and excess of Costello's career-defining punk '70s gives the music new texture. Dislikeable and on occasion despicable, this young Elvis gives way to the equally consumed but gentler musical polymath of his middle years. Thomson's sympathetic account of his derided but genuine late-blooming love of classical music is as revelatory as anything in this prosaic but vital read.

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Uncut, No. 94, March 2005

Nick Hasted reviews Graeme Thomson's biography of Elvis Costello Complicated Shadows: The Life and Music of Elvis Costello.


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