First and foremost, Elvis Costello's autobiography's greatest strength is the way that it is told. Instead of going in chronological order, Costello will start off talking about a subject at a particular point of time then jump to another time connected by the same subject. For example, he describes the first time he heard The Beatles which was when his father, Ross MacManus, a big band singer, brought home the single of All My Loving to learn for his own act then he jumps ahead through his relationship with Paul McCartney to actually performing this song with Sir Paul at a tribute to Linda McCartney in the late 90's.
The most important person in the book (other than Costello) is his father whose life story and also the life stories of his grandparents are rendered in great detail covering world wars and immigration from Ireland. Costello's parents separated when he was a young man and he seems to view his father with a mix of admiration and disappointment, exasperation and pride. His love of all kinds of music was instilled by his father just as Costello's grandfather who worked as a cruise ship singer did the same for Elvis's dad.
Probably what most surprised me most was the lack of vitriol or anger. Elvis is a genuinely happy, well-adjusted person despite his claims of moments of sadness. Even Bruce Thomas, the Attractions bass player, whom Elvis has feuded with on and off is only complimented for his playing. Hardly a nasty word said. The angry young man thing was largely an invention of the media.
Elvis mentions a lot of other famous musicians he met over the years - All the Beatles (except John Lennon) and especially Paul McCartney who he really likes and respects, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, Nick Lowe, Paul Weller, The Clash (especially Joe Strummer), George Jones, Van Morrison, Burt Bacharach, Levon Helm, Elton John, Count Basie, Chet Baker, Richard Hell, Graham Nash.
Some of the best parts of the book are when Elvis writes about music especially country music, music minutia, trivia, connections and when he describes specifically how one song by an artist influenced a song he wrote. I liked the part where he discussed writing his symphony IL SOGO and then performing it with an orchestra in Italy - A humorous comedy of errors. I found where he wrote of recording The River in Reverse in New Orleans with Allen Toussaint immediately after Hurricane Katrina to be very moving.
Not much in the way of gossip here. About the only dirt is that Elvis slept with a LOT of women in the early Attractions days In fact, Little Triggers and Party Girl are both written about one nights stands he had with fans. This is mostly described to offer a comparison of how infidelity broke up his father's marriage to his mother and also his own marriage to his first wife. Also I didn't know Elvis was left-handed for everything besides playing or that John McFee played the guitar intros to Alison and (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes as Elvis says he was not musically competent enough yet to do that ( I did know McFee played on MY AIM IS TRUE just not to that extent).
Only negative thing I would say is that some of the stories about recording certain records I have read before as the various reissues of Elvis records have always come with extensive written background notes from Elvis himself but in the context of the greater story, it's okay to read it again.
What I took from UNFAITHFUL MUSIC AND DISAPPEARING INK is that Elvis Costello is blessed or lucky (however you choose to look at it). He had a musical lineage, was exposed to a lot of good music when growing up, lived in places (Liverpool and London) that were musical hot beds, lived in a time when music was reinventing itself. Of course, it helps that he is one of the most talented songwriters of all time. He is also an intelligent, quick-witted, intuitive person which reveals itself in the reading.