Black And White World

“It stemmed from watching old films. I suppose it came from watching a lot of TV on tour. I think I wrote it after seeing Ball Of Fire with Barbara Stanwyck. I probably wrote more obliquely about what happened in America. I didn’t write any specific song about that.”Elvis Costello (986)

The Greatest Thing

“The second verse of ‘The Greatest Thing’ is about Wham! In fact, that song is sort of an answer record to ‘Young Guns’, because I love answer records, I think that’s a tradition that should never have died out. Some of the things Wham! say really irritate me, because I think they’re making people feel small for things they believe in. There are plenty of people who are 19 and married who must resent being told that they are jerks. I resent it, because I was married when I was 20 and my wife was 19.”Elvis Costello (987)

Charm School

“It’s sort of sad but in a different way. It’s a pornographic sketch, if you like, not sad like ‘Shabby Doll’ is sad. ‘The Flirting Kind’ is much more related to that sort of song, ‘Boy With A Problem’ or ‘Long Honeymoon’.”Elvis Costello (987)

Stalin Malone

“Well, it is about a raving madman. Y’know, the guy who sits glowering in the corner of the pub and then says ‘see that clock? I make it work.’ Then, when the hands have moved, he goes, ‘There, a told you so’. He thinks he controls everything but he’s completely deluded.”Elvis Costello (981)
“You know Henry Street in Dublin? It came to me there. That is the most cacophonous street in the world when it’s crowded. If you’re in a fragile state of mind you can hear 800 fragmented conversations jabbering in your face. I tried for that in ‘Stalin Malone’ – cuckoo clocks, saxophones, old nightmare movies. it’s kinda like a daymare…”Elvis Costello (981)


“Remember ‘Possession’ off Get Happy? Man, people read so much into that but what happened was I saw this beautiful waitress in a cafe in Hilversham and I said to Pete (Thomas) ‘I want to possess her!’ I banged out ‘Possession’ on the way back to the studio. We recorded it that night. Demented, really.”Elvis Costello (981)

How To Be Dumb

“Look, whatever triggered that song, you have to have a bit more wit than just to let yourself descend into a rant. If you stop at the first thought you have on the matter then you’re selling yourself short as a writer and you’re definitely selling your audience short. So for me this song is much more universal. There are always people who want to know whether this or that song is about x, y, or z. I couldn’t care if Bob Dylan is singing about his wife or his dog, what’s important is whether or not it’s a good song. It’s sometimes good to let your frustration out and then turn it into something else, but … to be honest, if there are references to Bruce’s book in this song then I wish Bruce could have turned his frustration into something a bit more creative than The Big Wheel, which is a whingeing memoir masquerading very badly as a novel. [Attraction Bruce Thomas’s on-the-road novel The Big Wheel – Ed].”Elvis Costello (988)

The Other Side Of Summer

“You might say the record begins apocalyptically and then life goes on. It says that even in the first song [“There’s malice and there’s magic in every season”]. It talks about burning people at the stake because of the blasphemy of their existence, like Madonna or somebody. The world does carry on. It doesn’t hinge on anybody’s records or anything anybody says, even politicians. It has an enormous capacity for absorbing everything we do.”Elvis Costello (989)

The Mischievous Ghost

“I was interested in subverting a couple of rather tired old myths in ‘The Mischievous Ghost,’ one of which is that everybody in Ireland is a flute-playing leprechaun with these terrible epigrammatic sayings. The other is that the romantic, self-destructive poet is necessarily a good thing. I thought that was a good subject for a song about a poet who’s taken with the romantic myth and inconveniently dies peacefully in his sleep one day, leaving the whole industry that celebrates his so-called wild inspiration high and dry. So they dig up the corpse, paint him up a little bit and put a hinge in his backbone so they can use him like a puppet. It’s a sick song, actually.”Elvis Costello (989)
Elvis Costello The Mischievous Ghost Song Meaning

Invasion Hit Parade

“There’s a berserk kind of humor in a couple of songs based on the premise that the world’s gone mad. The image conjuring that up is a man talking into a microphone wearing a gas mask [‘Invasion Hit Parade’], which I wrote before the Gulf War happened. The other premise, however, runs from time when you start to think: ‘I no longer believe in the innate goodness of humanity, I actually believe the opposite, and it would be better for the earth if we just got the f— off it.’ And then you think: ‘How can I say that to my son?”Elvis Costello (989)

20% Amnesia

“The song ‘20% Amnesia’ is about those little things we forget. Like before the last election when an opportunity for change presented itself – not a very attractive alternative, admittedly – and the 20 per cent tax bribe entered the equation and overnight people lost their fucking nerve.”Elvis Costello (983)