Book Review — Elvis Is King: Costello’s My Aim Is True

Elvis Is King by Richard Crouse

Elvis Is King: Costello’s My Aim Is True by Richard Crouse is the story of the making of a star and a record. Crouse is the regular film critic for CTV’s Canada AM, CTV’s 24-hour News Channel and CP24. His syndicated Saturday afternoon radio show, “Entertainment Extra,” originates on NewsTalk 1010. He is also the author of six books on pop culture history.

I found several interesting things in this book. Being the same age as the author and raised just on the other side of the border we would seem to have some things in common. Crouse seems to have taken to the British side of rock where I was raised on the American side. We both seem to be trapped in “what is punk rock.” Clearly the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. Elvis Costello gets put in that New Wave, but not really category. He is punk rock in a suit, a Patti Smith with shaved armpits, the attitude without the punk image.

Crouse covers the life of Elvis Costello from when he was Declan Patrick MacManus to when he got banned from Saturday Night Live. The book also gives a good history of Stiff Records and other musicians of the period like Nick Lowe and Ian Dury. Crouse explains the making of My Aim is True and also details the songs. My favorite from the album is “Watching the Detectives.” It received the most airplay from my hometown Station of WMMS in Cleveland.

The book is written in two different styles. For the most part, Crouse relies heavily on stringing source material together which can be a bit dry at times. Other times Crouse reminisces and adds his opinions and thoughts on the music which are quite good. It is good to see what effect the music had on the person writing biography. I remember watching with the same excitement of Crouse had when Elvis Costello appeared on Saturday Night Live. There is a special connection when to the book when it deals with shared experiences rather than third party source material.

Elvis Is King is a fair biography that covers more of the events of the time than of the subject of the book. Parts of the book seem almost cut-and-paste mass market while other parts seem to be written by a passionate fan. It is a good book for the die hard Elvis Costello fans, but average for those with only a passing interest.

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