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Allusion and Influence in Elvis Costello

Issue: Vol 2 No. 2 (2007)

Journal: Popular Music History

Subject Areas: Popular Music

DOI: 10.1558/pomh.v2i2.201


At a certain point in musical history, perhaps the post-modern moment, past styles were made available, especially by recording technology, with the result that allusion to past works became a common feature. This paper unpicks the consequences of allusiveness in an artist’s work, leading to the idea that what is gained in playful or scholarly allusion might be lost in the potential to influence others. Three ways in which Elvis Costello alludes to the past are reviewed, systematically: in words, in music, but also in deed, actions that look back to a prior model. In order to draw consequences for the writing of musical history, finally, a distinction is made between ‘talking about influence’ and ‘talking about inter-textuality’, representing different premises on the part of the historian.

Author: Dai Griffiths

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