Less Than Zero

“I saw a program with Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Fascist movement of the Thirties. And there he was on TV, saying, “No, I’m not anti-Semitic, of course I’m not – doesn’t matter even if I Was!” His attitude was that time could make it all right! It was a very English way of accepting things that used to really irritate me, really annoy me. The complacency, the moral complacency there – that they would just accept this vicious old man: not string him up on the spot!”Elvis Costello (524)

The Loved Ones

“It’s saying “Fuck posterity; it’s better to live.” It’s the opposite of Rust Never Sleeps. It’s about, Fuck being a junkie and dying in some phony romantic way like Brendan Behan or Dylan Thomas. Somebody in your family’s got to bury you, you know? That’s a complicated idea to put in a pop song.”Elvis Costello (524)

And In Every Home

“”Man Out Of Time” is a pretty grim song, and the bridge of “And In Every Home,” cos it’s a song about being unemployed and the person who’s unemployed is ME. The bridge at least, I felt “I don’t have any purpose, I don’t have a job, I’m disconnected”…I still do feel that way a little bit, the fact that we make the records and people buy them and appreciate them, and the work that’s gone into them, but at the same time, the loss of greater interest in them…”Elvis Costello (525)

Oliver’s Army

“This is not said with any disrespect to individuals or families, but the Our Brave Boys culture I’d previously touched upon in “Oliver’s Army” and “Shipbuilding” has contained within it a certain pact that we’re obliged to endorse the policies that put our brave boys in harm’s way in the first place. I’d much rather they weren’t the fuck there, of course, and a lot of the things the songs end up talking about don’t necessarily come with any solutions. They’re commentaries, set to musical collages, but don’t go looking for any quick fixes because you won’t find any.”Elvis Costello (526)

Tramp The Dirt Down

“It’s not about burying somebody in the ground, it’s about burying an idea in the ground [Thatcherism – Ed].”Elvis Costello (527)
“Some of the things came from observations during the last election and one line that I would recite is the bridge of the song which is, “When England was the whore of the world, Margaret was her madam/And the future looked as bright and as clear as the black tarmacadam”. That’s the way I think it is and it contemplates her demise in a quite brutal way.”Elvis Costello (528)
“[On ‘Tramp The Dirt Down’ you want Thatcher dead so you can dance on her grave. Literally. It’s revenge fantasy as a valid response – Ed]. That’s the liberal interpretation. Looking for ‘valid’ responses. Valid doesn’t come into it. It’s an unreasonable response. ‘Tramp The Dirt Down’ is totally unpleasant. It doesn’t fill me with happiness that I’m wishing someone dead, not even someone as repugnant as her. Some people have enough and reach for a hand grenade, I put it into my songs.”Elvis Costello (981)

Jimmie Standing In The Rain

“All the people in my family were traveling musicians and this is about a traveling musician, a guy who goes all around the world. I was thinking about my grandfather, he used to play the trumpet on the White Star liners. He went over to America when all of the tycoons and magnates were trying to swindle the working man out of every penny they had – not anything we would know about now [he said sarcastically – Ed]. When he came back there was no work for the people just like for a lot of people now. This is about an imaginary character who was just like him, who has just chosen the wrong moment to go into cowboy music – that’s if there was ever a right moment.”Elvis Costello (527)

Brilliant Mistake

“It’s a sad song, but it’s also sort of funny. It’s about America and it’s about lost ambition, not lack of inspiration. It’s about a disappointed or frustrated belief. It’s a song that people are going to read wrong. One line in it is, “There’s a trick they do with mirrors and with chemicals.” It means celluloid and mirrors, movie cameras. It occurred to me the other day that people will think it’s a reference to cocaine. I could have written a big song about America, like Paul Simon’s “American Tune.” But I think “Brilliant Mistake” is more like “Peace Like A River,” a personal thing in the face of a big disappointing artifice.”Elvis Costello (534)


“I wrote this for my Grandmother. I wrote it for her when her mind was in a different place than I wanted it to be.”Elvis Costello (529)
“It’s more about a state of mind. I like to think that the mind is kind of like the soul, and it retreats somewhere that science doesn’t know about as the body dilapidates. It was sparked by going to see my grandmother the last few years of her life when she was rambling. And the times she was happy or least distressed was when she was bouncing back and forward from the ’30s to the ’20s to the ’50s. Her conversation made no sense and I thought, “Well, maybe that’s all there is.” I wanted it to be joyful-sounding, but with some sort of defiance. Because there’s a strange sort of defiance in old people when they’re physically pathetic. A strange way about them. They’ll suddenly look at you and they’ll be looking right into you. And then you look back and they won’t be there at all. I think that’s quite comforting.”Elvis Costello (531)
“I wrote this song with Paul McCartney during the last few years of my Grandmother’s life. I used to spend a lot of time with her and it became clear she had Alzheimer’s disease. Maybe it was a little bit of wish fulfillment – I wanted to believe there was something going on in some of the more lively stories, anybody who’s ever encountered anybody with this will know there are moments of terrifying lucidity that involve entire conversations, completely remembered – I wrote this song hoping there was more than just a negative end to it all.”Elvis Costello (532)

High Fidelity

“It’s an incredibly sad delusion of a song in which a couple finds themselves in different rooms with different lovers, one of them still irrationally believing that their pledge will endure the faithlessness.”Elvis Costello (580)

Waiting For The End Of The World

“It was just the result of a particular feeling I had. At the time I wrote it I was working a day job. It was written on a train where several incidents had occurred to spark off this frame of mind. It’s rather the way I feel, more resigned than angry. The whole album is pretty much that way because I feel that, particularly in England, people don’t go shooting each other in the streets – if they get fed up with their neighbor they don’t go and kill him. It’s probably just that we can’t buy guns so easily as you can in America. We read a lot about people getting shot over trivial things there just because there’s a gun handy when somebody gets angry, but it’s different here. It’s not that we’re any better because we don’t actually kill people – the feelings are still there – it’s just under the surface, very close to the surface, and it breaks out quite easily. It’s just that we don’t have these tools at hand.”Elvis Costello (984)