“During our Australian tour we were getting the Australian version of the Falklands thing. The Australian coverage was really gruesome, going on about napalm and everything; they were really dramatising it. We weren’t getting quite so much of the patriotic bollocks you were getting here, it wasn’t quite so sickening as the Daily Star, “Sponsor Your Own Exocet Missile,” and those really sickly things. They say that you see your own country more clearly when you’re away from it.Reading these two-day old reports the strangest things flashed in my mind… It was a pretty funny feeling singing that song in Glasgow and Newcastle on the tour; I wondered how many people had heard it or knew what it was about, whether it’s clear enough to hear the lyrics? And this guy came round, and he actually worked in the shipyards and liked the song. He said. It’s right, y’know? Why have we got our jobs back? I was trying to think from the point of view of a father, because the kid’s quite young, or so he thinks until the kid’s joined up, then the kid’s gone away on a ship that he’s built. He got his job back, he got his way of life back, only to send his own child to go and get killed. It’s like that song “Two Brothers” about the American Civil War; just a simple war ballad in that tradition.”Elvis Costello (525)

Cinco Minutos Con Vos 

“The lyric came to mind because people were asking me a lot over the last eighteen months about the song “Shipbuilding”, which was written against the background of the Falklands War. I never really thought about writing a similar human story as if you were on the other side of that conflict. It’s taken thirty years to think of something I felt right about. Rather than write about something I don’t know, I simply wanted to write story about a girl who’s waiting for her father to arrive home [while] he’s being pushed out of an aeroplane. The only reason I raise this song now is because people are [still] being taken away in our name, taken away in aeroplanes, flown off to various places and we don’t know what’s being done to them. Those used to be things the bad guys did, we could point at them as say, They’re the bad guys. We can’t do that now. Now we’re the bad guys. That was one of the reasons for writing that song and I thought it would be very beautiful to have that girl’s distress, in the middle of the song, sung in Spanish, Argentinian Spanish, by La Marisoul.”Elvis Costello (530)


“I wrote it when I was living in West London in 1976. I had a picture of a girl in my mind who worked in a local supermarket. She was really lovely looking but not in a traditional way at all and she had absolutely no idea about it as well. There was something very sad, she was just sitting there every day when I went in to get my groceries and I had her in mind, the picture of her face and all the unhappy things that were probably going to happen to her given that that seemed to be the lot that she had settled for in life. But there’s an uncomfortable thing that I share with members of my family, we’re not psychic or anything, but I have this tendency to write songs and then they come true. I did predict the way that I would start to live the minute that the fame and the money and the drink and the drugs went to my mind. The truth is I knew that I was going to be leaving the home that I was in and I predicted it in this song.”Elvis Costello (532)
“The song is about a person growing up and realizing that life isn’t going to be ideal: “I know this world is killing you.” You’re not going to be this innocent girl I first knew – and it’s me that’s doing it.”Elvis Costello (535)

Almost Blue

“When I was listening to a lot of music that was written in and around the town of New York, I really loved this song, “The Thrill Is Gone,” which I heard Chet Baker sing and I wrote this song with him in my head.”Elvis Costello (532)

All This Useless Beauty

“I was sitting in this picture gallery in Florence, Italy spending a bit of time with works they must have been when they first painted them. When they painted these pictures they didn’t have moving pictures, they didn’t have amplified sound, and I was watching people come into the room, look at these famous paintings and walk out again because they had “seen” them. I felt lucky that I had had the time to sit and observe some of the ways people looked at each other and I started thinking and this song came out. It follows a train of thought from that one little observation of a woman looking at a beautiful statue of classical antiquity and then looking at her late twentieth century husband and thinking, “where the hell did we go wrong?””Elvis Costello (532)

Almost Ideal Eyes

“It’s about a guy my age seeing some young hippy girl who’s gone to the supermarket to buy her hippy clothes and hippy philosophy. He thinks, Hang on, my life’s flashing before my eyes — and I didn’t even die! It’s just what happens when you live as long as I have — it’s not such a terribly long time, I’m 42 this year. But it amuses me that flared trousers have come back. Who’d have ever thought?”Elvis Costello (533)

Distorted Angel

“”Distorted Angel” is a fleeting memory of a childhood experience. [“Strange things seem to occur, somewhere behind the nursery door.”] You know, when children are at birthday parties and take their clothes off. I can’t really remember it, I was only about eight, but I just mixed it together with thoughts I had about being brought up Catholic.”Elvis Costello (533)

Complicated Shadows

“It describes that dilemma of taking justice into your own hands. We see it in the people in the West Country who kidnapped some local hooligan and beat him up, or in the LA riots.”Elvis Costello (533)

Red Shoes

“The song is about the compromise of age.”Elvis Costello (534)
“This was more like a visitation. I wrote it in 10 minutes on a train out of Liverpool — the whole song in one gulp. I had the essential image, then I worked backward — a dancehall scene with the put-down lines. That kind of framed this other, weirder idea of “I won’t get any older” — I went, “Why am I saying this when I’m 22?””Elvis Costello (580)

Worthless Thing

“That song’s about why I couldn’t write rock ‘n’ roll songs anymore. The opening line (“How many times can you jump out of the cupboard before someone gets suspicious or someone gets discovered”) is about the disproportionate importance placed on rock ‘n’ roll, particularly in America. It’s about the Elvis Presley industry, all that bloody nonsense, how it’s all blown up, including the stuff I’ve been party to.”Elvis Costello (534)