Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Gettin' Sardonic With Elvis Costello (Vol. 1) seventiesmusic)

To paraphrase Keith Moon, Elvis Costello is the best Elvis Costello-style lyricist of the rock era, by turns sardonic, witty, caustic and king of the put-down of himself, and others.  Add in a large vocabulary, (his first compliation of published music and lyrics was entitled "A Singing Dictionary"), and a love of wordplay and puns (see, for example, Girls Talk, below) and you've got a great package for a lyricist if you like those attributes, as THC does (for more on THC's experience with Elvis read this).  As the years went by, he also added a dose of tenderness into his verse.

In this post, we'll give you some excerpts from the early Elvis, drawing from albums released from 1977 though 1981.  Some pop lyrics don't sound as good, once they are separated from the music.  These do.

I said, "I'm so happy, I could die"
She said, "Drop dead",
Then left with another guy
(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes 

You snatch a tune, you match a cigarette
She pulls the eyes out with a face like a magnet
I don't know how much more of this I can take
She's filing her nails, while they're dragging the lake

You think you're alone until you realize you're in it
Fear is here to stay
Love is here for a visit
Watching The Detectives

All of your family had to kill to survive
And they're still waiting for their big day to arrive
But if they knew how I felt they'd bury me alive
Welcome To The Working Week

I could tell by the nights when I was lonely
And you were the only one who'd come
I could tell you that I like your sensitivity
When you know it's the way that you walk
Why do you have to say that there's always someone
Who can do it better than I can?
But don't you think that I know
That walking on the water, won't make me a miracle man?
Miracle Man

Well, I see you got a husband now
Did he leave your pretty fingers lying in the wedding cake?
You used to hold him right in your hands
I'll bet he took all he could take
Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking
When I hear the silly things that you say

Alison, I know this world is killing you
Alison, my aim is true

I remember when the lights went out
And I was trying to make it look like it was never in doubt
She thought that I knew, and I thought that she knew
The both of us were willing, but we didn't know how to do it

I was down under the covers in the middle of the night
Trying to discover my left foot from my right
You can see those pictures, in any magazine
But what's the use of looking, when you don't know what they mean?

Why don't you tell me 'bout the mystery dance?
Mystery Dance

You're upstairs with the boyfriend
While I'm left here to listen
I hear you calling his name
I hear the stutter of ignition

I got this cam'ra click, click, clickin' in my head

I know what you're doin'
I know where you been
I know where, but I don't care
Cause there's no such thing as an original sin

I'm not angry
I'm not angry, anymore
I'm Not Angy

We were waiting for the end of the world
Dear Lord, I sincerely hope you're coming
Cause you really started something
Waiting For The End Of The World

Sometimes I call you, when I know you're not lonely
But I always disconnect it in time
No Action 

I keep thinking about your mother
Oh, I don't want to lick them
I don't wanna be a lover
I just wanna be your victim
I don't go out much late at night
I don't go out much at all
Did you think you were the only one
That was waiting for a call?
The Beat 

No, don't ask me to apologize
I won't ask you to forgive me
If I'm gonna go down
You're gonna come with me

Hand In Hand

Lip service is all you'll ever get from me
Lip Service

Don't say you love me, when it's just a rumour
Don't say a word if there is any doubt
Sometimes I think that love is just a tumour
You've got to cut it out

You say you're sorry for the things that you've done
You say your sorry but you know you don't mean it
I wouldn't worry, I had so much fun
Sometimes I almost feel just like a human being

Maybe they've told you
You were only a girl in a million
You say I got no feelings
This is a good way to kill them

You got a lot to say
Well, I'm not joking
There are some words they don't allow to be spoken
Lipstick Vogue

There are so many people to see
So many people you can check up on and add to your collection
But they keep you hanging on
Until you're well hung
Your mouth is made up but your mind is undone

Accidents will happen
We only hit and run
He used to be your victim
Now he's not the only one

Accidents will happen
We only hit and run
I don't want to hear it
Cause I know what I've done
Accidents Will Happen

But you tease and you flirt
And you shine all the buttons on your green shirt
You can please yourself
But somebody's gonna get it
Green Shirt

I could be a corporal, into corporal punishment
Or the general manager of a large establishment
They pat some good boys on the back and put some to the rod
But I never thought they'd put me on the goon squad
Goon Squad

Photographs of fancy tricks
To get your kicks at sixty six
He thinks of all the lips that he licks
And all the girls that's gonna fix

She gave a little flirt, gave herself a little cuddle
But there's no place here for the mini-skirt waddle
Capital punishment, she's last year's model
They call her Natasha, but she looks like Elsie
I don't want to go to Chelsea

Oh no, it does not move me
Even though I've seen the movie
I don't want to check your pulse
I don't want nobody else
I don't want to go to Chelsea
(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea

The word upon everyone's lip stick
That you're dedicated
You may not be an old-fashioned girl
You're still going to get dated
Girls Talk

She said, "I catch you taking liberties,
And they do not impress me
Attach me to your credit card
And then you can undress me"
Crawling To The U.S.A.

I wish I had your confidence
It's love and not coincidence
Do you say these words to everyone?
You're fantastic, you're terrific
Your excellence is almost scientific
You took the words out of my mouth
You put your tongue into my cheek
But I'd better lose my memory by Wednesday week
Wednesday Week

Big tears mean nothing
You can count them as they fall
Big tears mean nothing
When you're lying in your coffin
Tell me, who's been taken in?
Big Tears

Layin' about, lying in bed
Maybe it was something that I thought I'd said
With the tempo of today
And the temptation of tomorrow
I could give you anything but sorrow
Just A Memory

Maureen and Stan at the skating rink
Looking for the drummer who threw up in the sink
Laughing and singing, dressed up like dice
Maybe they could freeze to death out there on the ice
Ghost Train

You've never been this far
You've always been too smart
And you know all our boys
Are really girls at heart

This is your big decision
Hope you're not disappointed
He's got double vision
When you want him double jointed
The Imposter

If there's anything that you want
If there's anything that you need
There's no need, to be evasive
Money talks, and it's persuasive

Now you're sending me your best wishes
Signed with love and vicious kisses
You lack lack, you're so lackluster
Is that all the strength you can muster?

Down on the mainspring, listen to the tick-tock
Clock all the faces who move in on your block
Twice shy and dog tired because you've been bitten
Everything you say now sounds like it was ghost-written
New Amsterdam

I was looking at the black and white world
Trying to name some pin-up
Those days, she was just a beautiful girl
Now she's framed and hung up

I though she was young until
I saw her last night in close detail
Though they all fade away, when you're so pale

It's more than just a physical attraction
It starts with a face and ends up a fixation
But you're never gonna feel a fraction
Of the way it used to work on your imagination
Black And White World (undoubtedly inspired by Pictures of Lily from The Who)

The subtle touch of authority
Will take you anytime down to the station
You say that is all right by me
Now you're living with the curse of sophistication

You're just itching to break her secret laws
As you go from claws to clause
Give me temptation


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