Radio Silence

“The first station I ever appeared on-air in the U.S. was KSAN in San Francisco, a very famous free-form FM station through the late ’70s that is now a talk station. They talk such rubbish on those things. It’s like maniacs and psychopaths ringing in at 3 in the morning to give their bigoted and ignorant opinions about things. And this is what we get instead of music? Thank you. So I made up a story where the guy goes in and hijacks the station to make a big, dramatic statement, only to realize, once he gets in there, it’s futile, because he’s made himself a madman just like everybody else.”Elvis Costello (992)


“[‘45’ is a real boomer anthem, making the connection between the year World War II ended to a 45 single – Ed]. There was this great sense of optimism in my parents’ generation. And yet, just nine years after the war, in 1954, I was born into a country that still had rationing. Not many people in America know that. They thought the country belonged to the people, but that didn’t happen. Now we have “corporate global world,” so it still no longer belongs to the people any more than it ever did. The corporations are so powerful, they don’t have to completely destroy a revolution; they merely have to deflect them a little bit. Co-opt them. When rock & roll happened, things went out of control for a short while, but those in power remained there. Because then you got stuff like Pat Boone. And the same thing happened in ’77. They had to step back. They took the punch, and were winded for a while, and then you had Sting. You had Kurt, and then you had Stone Temple Pilots. Nothing against those individuals. Sting is a wonderful musician. And he had the ability to carry himself in the society of business and music. In a way that other artists haven’t.”Elvis Costello (992)

The Delivery Man

“I’ve had it rolling around my head for a long time. It’s sort of a 19th century idea, this idea of three women living in a community isolated enough that their options are limited by those that come into their life and to their world rather than them going out into the world. As you can probably take out of the song “The Delivery Man,” they are Vivian, who is the kind of person who wants you to believe she’s having a wilder life than she actually is, and is kind of disappointed with life. And her best friend, who she tortures with all of these confidences, which are mostly invention, is Geraldine. Geraldine is a pious widow, whose husband has gone off to war and has been killed by his own side by accident. She’s trying to bring up her daughter not to be in the image of Vivian. And Ivy is the girl who hasn’t yet decided her path in life. Into their world, which is a self-contained, suspended world, comes Abel, The Delivery Man. He’s something different to each of them. An object of desire for one, an object of fear for another, an object of curiosity perhaps for the third. [see the meaning of ‘Hidden Shame’ below for further information – Ed].”Elvis Costello (990)

Hidden Shame

“That song was based on a true story, so I can’t say I invented him completely [Abel of The Delivery Man – Ed]. I sort of transplanted him out of this older song [Hidden Shame – Ed] into this new narrative [The Delivery Man – Ed]. ‘Hidden Shame’ was about a man who was in prison for one crime, then thirty years after the event, confessed to killing his childhood friend. So in the case of The Delivery Man, Abel is someone who committed murder as a child, was institutionalized and was released as an adult with a new identity. Which is why when he appears to the women, they can’t quite place him.”Elvis Costello (990)

Man Out Of Time

“A lot of songs are about the sort of disgust with your own self. There were a lot of things that I wasn’t very happy with during that time. I wanted songs to blow up the world. I had mad ambitions. Not mad, as in ambition to be famous. I never wanted that. That just came as an accident of it all. But somehow you look at yourself and you’re not happy with what you see. I didn’t want to write a self-regarding song, so I cast it in the clothes of political intrigue and what was going on in the world at that time. There was a famous political scandal in England going on then. It all sort of got wrapped up in the song. Sometimes a song will have a personal meaning and a public meaning. ‘Man Out of Time’ is one of those.”Elvis Costello (990)

Mistress And Maid

“Another song with Paul [McCartney – Ed]. He just came in with a postcard of the Vermeer painting. It’s called ‘Mistress and Maid’, and it’s of a noblewoman and her maid giving her a letter. And Paul said, “What’s that mean?” And we thought it was probably supposed to mean that the maid is bringing a letter from her lover or taking a letter to her lover. That’s usually the story in those pictures. We didn’t end up writing that story, but we wrote another story and got back into that character song thing.”Elvis Costello (990)

I Want To Vanish

“It’s a whole story about a backwoods musician that was being pursued by these documentary filmmakers, and all these images that were being put on satellite television were in the lyric of that song. But in reality, it was a literal song. And if you take it as a literal song, it’s very dark indeed. That’s where I was at in ‘95.”Elvis Costello (990)

The River In Reverse

“The title track [The River in Reverse – Ed] is about a general tide of selfish, wrong-headed thinking that needs to be turned around.”Elvis Costello (991)


“Bruce [Springsteen – Ed] has got all of this mythology, and then I saw him in Nashville [in 1978] when all of that really had traction… I could see a trap that was being laid, and I suppose that’s as close to writing songs about the predicament of the performer as I did earlier on.”Elvis Costello (1218)

Suit Of Lights

“I remember I wrote a few songs about what I’d observed around my dad. ‘Suit of Lights’ was inspired by watching my dad play around the clubs and this sort of loneliness and the presumption of the audience and the lack of respect, ’cause it’s still a working job! You’re still doing a job! You don’t come up to somebody and go ‘You see that pencil there? I’m going to knock it out of your hand. Now how good are you at writing?’ Nobody does that to you, and that’s not self-pity. I’m just saying that it’s acknowledging that it’s still a job. There’s part of it that’s a job, and there’s the other part of it that’s massively over-rewarded.”Elvis Costello (1218)

Broken Promise Land

“‘Broken Promise Land’ was triggered by the blasphemy of supposed Christians who said that what happened in New Orleans [the hurricane and flooding – Ed] was a judgement on its sinfulness. I think that was extraordinarily arrogant. The charity part of Christianity seems to have been edited out While we’re very hot on all the Old Testament, “eye for an eye” stuff right now were not so hot on the forgiveness and understanding part. I’m not cynical, I’m just very deeply sceptical about dark forces in the political world.”Elvis Costello (991)