The Elvis Costello Home Page

Frequently Asked Questions


Notes on Individual Songs
After the Fall - this is also the title of a play by Arthur Miller.

Alison - EC in an interview says this song was not intended to be about
         a stalker.
         (From VH1 Storytellers segment) EC stated that he had been
         envisioning a lovely young woman in a grocery store that he would
         see during the time he wrote the song.
         Also, it represented a kind of psychic prediction of what his life
         would be like in the future after he became famous.

         He insisted that music reviewers who tried to play on the "my aim is
          true" line by saying that "Elvis' aim is still true" presently
         didn't understand that he meant that line in a very negative way,
         that it indicated that he was indicting himself as a malevolent
         bringer of evil.  (tqc8542@IS.NYU.EDU)

All The Rage -  Apparently this song was inspired by a alcohol-fueled
    discussion with Nick Kent of the NME.  It represents an attempt on
    the part of Elvis to put to rest the persona of "Mr. Guilt and Revenge."
    (VH1 Storytellers Segment - (tqc8542@IS.NYU.EDU)

All This Useless Beauty - Inspired by a visit to an art gallery in Florence,
          where EC sat and observed people's reactions to paintings on display.
         (VH1 Storytellers segment)

Almost Blue - inspired by Chet Baker's 'Thrill is Gone'

Almost Ideal Eyes - EC from Mojo interview June 96:
    "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?"

American W/o Tears - title is a play on a popular series of language-learning
               programs in Britain, eg "Italian Without Tears."
               poppet = affectionate term for a girl, especially a young one
               crimpeline =  a kind of stretchy synthetic fabric (not Lycra)

American W/o Tears (Twilight Version) - there's an excellent old country
      tear-jerker ballad called "(Now and then there's) A Fool Such as I" by
      Hank Snow. (mannarel@HAAS.BERKELEY.EDU)

Any King's Shilling - relates to EC's grandfather's experiences; taking the
           Kings shilling was a euphenism for signing up to the army.
          "My grandfather was a first-generation immigrant from Ireland and
           when his father was murdered-that's another story-he ended up in
           an orphanage and then the army, He was a trumpet player, a
           bandsman.  He got badly wounded in the First World War and then got
           stationed in Dublin, ironically.  His story was, just before the
           Irish uprising of 1916, his friends warned him to keep out of the
           way." - "The Annotated Spike" by Declan MacManus (Musician Magazine,
                     March 1989)

B Movie - "There's a rule book in Britannia that no one ever waives" is a
                twist on the phrase "Britannia rules the waves" from
                Britain's colonial era. (

Battered Old Bird - "big deals and smalls" - smalls is a Britishism for small
         items of clothes, particularly underwear.
        Elvis mentioned in the liner notes of B&C (Rykodisk version) that the
        song was based on vague memories of a flat where he lived when he was
        five years old.

The Beat - Vauxhall Viva = a brand of English car

Beyond Belief -"So called gentlemen and ladies dogfight like rose and thistle"
        probably refers to the history of feuds between England (rose) and
        Scotland (thistle). (
        Crocodile tears = ones that aren't genuine
        Gin palace - English Victorian slang for a pub or bar
        Insults and flattery - play on criminal charge of assault and battery
        Cruel to be callous - play cruel to be kind (also a song by
                              Nick Lowe)
        EC has mentioned in an interview:'I wanted there to be more
        than one attitude going on in this song...In the lyrics
        everything you don't understand is exactly what it appears to be"

The Big Light - "Haggard face" (capital H on the lyric sheet) may be
    a sly reference to C&W legend Merle Haggard, who is almost as well known
    for his hard drinking and hard living as he is for his music.  EC covered
    Haggard's "The Bottle Let Me Down" on _AB_. (
    David Gouldstone (author of "God's Comic") believes this is a reference
    to author Rider Haggard.

Big Sister's Clothes - slap and tickle = fondling (

The Birds Will Still Be Singing - According to EC, he wrote this song after
        he had been involved in a VERY frightening car crash.

Black Sails in the Sunset - may refer to legend of Theseus (who slew the
   Minotaur) he told his dad he'd keep the black sails up if he died, so when
   the ship returned to its original port his father would know immediately if
   his son was dead. Theseus did indeed defeat the Minotaur, but apparently
   forgot to change the sails from black to white. His father, Aegeus, upon
   seeing the black sails of the approaching vessel, threw himself into the
   sea (
   The Clash have a song "Death or Glory" (EOConnell@DLALAW.COM)
   One of the songs recorded by the Beatles for their Decca auditions (and a
   staple of their Hamburg act) was a song called "Red Sails in the Sunset."

Brilliant Mistake - (from EC in a Musician interview from March 1986)
    "Brilliant Mistake is 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."

    "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" : words by Al Dubin, music by Harry
    Warren (1933). Introduced by Constance Bennett in the motion picture
    "Moulin Rouge" (United Artists 1934). It was revived by Tony Bennett
    in a successful Columbia recording. (from American Popular Songs by
    David Ewen; contributed by

    And the axe of love in screams - play on axe and acts  

(I don't wanna go to) Chelsea - Chelsea was/is a pretty trendy upscale area
   in London for rich artsy types and nouveau riche rock stars like Mick
   Jagger,  Chelsea is full of coffee shops, clothing shops, and little
   townhouse mansions where the beautiful people live and play.  It's a
   sybarite's and urban renewalist's paradise. (DWeil2@AOL.COM)

Chewing Gum - "I was at an airport and there were these two young oriental
    girls with short skirts and these two enormous Middle Eastern
    guys, and I thought, this is an unlikely pairing.  One of the girls
    literally had something in her ear that was probably cotton but looked
    like chewing gum, and I had this vile fantasy: She's putting it in her
    ears so she doesn't have to listen to all the shit this guy's telling
    her.  So the story turned into a guy and his mail-order bride and he
    never gives her anything.  Then I saw this TV program about literacy
    programs in certain parts of the world where one faction argued that
    they were only being taught words that made sense in terms of the
    other's propaganda, to manipulate them, I thought, "God, what a warped
    thought." I reduced it to this personal thing where the guy only tells
    her the words he wants to hear back. By the way, do you recognize the
    second horn riff the Dirty Dozen plays in that song?  It's a little
    fragment of "Koko, really slowed down.  Kind of turning jazz snobbery
    back on itself. " - "The Annotated Spike" by Declan MacManus

Clowntime is Over -  This was supposed to be like an Impressions' song,
   specifically "Keep on Pushin'" -- according to a 1983 interview with EC
   re-printed in the book _Rock Lives_. (The Impressions featured Curtis
   Mayfield before he went solo.) (

Couldn't Call It Unexpected #4 - From an Interview with EC and Tom Waits:
   "TOM: Wow. Steve Allen used to take the telephone line, and then when
    different birds would set at different places on the wire, he would write
    it out and look at the lines of the telephone wires as a staff, and he
    would put the birds where the notes would be and he would play it. "
   (Option magazine, July/Aug 1989)

Crimes of Paris (also in Jack of All Parades) -
   (From: I also asked EC about the Crimes of Paris.
   We can all keep guessing because he doesn't know either- he just liked
   the phrase. He has searched many guides on the origins of slang and
   common phrases and has come up empty himself. He doesn't believe The C
   of P have anything to do with The Illiad or to do with Shakespeare's
   character Paris. His best assumption is that it derives from a time
   when the British looked at Paris as a city full of temptations, sin
   and general debauchery and thus The Crimes of Paris.

   In Francois Truffault's film 'Confidentially Yours', the heroine hits a man
   (who she mistakenly believes to be a murderer) with a paperweight Eiffel

Deep Dark Truthful Mirror - bizarre lines regarding butterflys and monkeys
            mean apparently nothing. In a BBC interview EC says he lifted them
            from a nature program he was watching as they sounded cool.
            He has also said that the idea was to give the impression the
            main character in the song is hallucinating.

	    The nature program was the BBC special 'The Condor
            Flight' about the flora and fauna of the Andes mountains in Chile.
            It does actually contain images of a butterfly above a
            turtle in order to drink the liquid of the turtle´s eye
            and another butterfly feeding on a dead monkey´s hand

    	    Roustabouts - dock workers and labourers

Deportee's Club - "In America the law is a piece of ass" : There is a line
        from Dickens' "Oliver Twist" where one character says to another
        something to the effect that the law presumes the wife is controlled
        by the husband. The other character says "If the law says that, then
        the law is a [sic] ass, a [sic] idiot."  (

Do you know what I'm saying?
       "He's blowing his lines with his cheeks sucked in" - possibly
        a veiled cocaine reference. 80's pop groups were notorious for sucking
       their cheeks in to give themselves a fashionably gaunt look. A caption
       under a photo of Sting in New Musical Express during this period read
      'Sting sucks his cheeeks in every photo you take'. (

Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood -faint chainsaw at end echoes line in
  'Our Little Angel?' (does anyone hear this?)

Every Day I Write the Book - written in 10 minutes as a parody of pop genre.
       This was written in imitation of the style of the famed Brill Building
       song-writing team Gerry Goffin and Carole King, whom Elvis admires.
       Of the arrangement, Elvis says, "We originally did it as a Merseybeat
       type song, but it sounded a bit like a parody when we tried to record
       it." _PtC_ producer Clive Langer convinced them it was too good a song
       to throw away on a jokey arrangement, so they finally settled on an
       arrangement that was modeled on Marvin Gaye's then-current hit "Sexual
       Healing". (From an on-air interview EC did with NYC radio station
       WLIR, summer 1983.)

     - Lyrics recall Rodgers/Hart song I Could Write a Book, which includes
       the lyrics "If they asked me, I could write a book, about the way you
       walk and whisper and look." (

Fish 'n' Chip Paper - 'News of the screws' : The 'News Of The World' is one
    of the typical UK low level English newspapers. (

>From a Whisper to a Scream - 'one over the eight' is a British term for getting
               drunk (eight pints = 1 gallon)

God's Comic - "I preferred the one about my son" = Andrew Lloyd Webber's
             Jesus Christ Superstar
	Dog collar - black and white collar preists wear
	Mystery brand - like in a taste test advert (ie. the Pepsi
           Challenge) where they cover up the labels of two brands of
           cola and participants  miraculously choose the one being

The Great Unknown -  Quotes the Tom Jones song My My My Delilah then,
   rhymes "torso" with "moreso." Lidia the Tatooed Lady, sung by Groucho Marx
   has the line ("she has eyes that men adore so, and a torso, even moreso").

The Greatest Thing - Written as a response to anti-marriage songs of the era,
              including 'Young Guns' and "Wham Rap'
             -Boxing clever is a phrase used to mean avoiding what is coming
              to you, especially if it harmful.  In boxing it means avoiding
              being punched.  (ggallagher@STAFFMAIL.RTC-WATERFORD.IE)

Green Shirt - 'Quisling' is a term for a traitor.
            - the newsreader is reputedly Angela Rippon who, though not the
              first woman TV newsreader in Britain, did acquire a sort of
              novelty celebrity status.
           -  EC got the line "somewhere in the Quisling Clinic...' while
              riding past a Quisling Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. There are
              several medical clinics in Wisconsin (first one founded 1931) by
              relatives of Vidkun Quisling, who took power when the Nazis
              invaded Norway.

Hoover Factory - written about an old vacuum cleaner factory outside
              London that was constructed in grand Art Deco style. It
              has now been turned into trendy offices with a vast
              supermarket taking up the lower floor. (

Home is Anywhere You Hang Your Head -  the title constitutes a quote
         of Groucho Marx's line "home is where you hang your head."

How to be Dumb - response to Bruce Thomas' book 'The Big Wheel'

Human Hands - Reeperbahn is a street in the red light district of Hamburg, Ger,
        where prostitutes sit behind the picture windows of storefronts
        (girl in a window on the Reeperbahn).

Hurry Down Doomsday - Several lines appear to refer to Bruce Thomas' book 'The
    Big Wheel' eg. 'Wake up zombie write yourself another book ' BT apparently
    experienced drug-induced hallucinations of bugs crawling on the floor
    during the recording of `Get Happy!!'
    "Starting out with all the sensitive ones - look out, there goes Gordon"
     - possibly a reference to Gordon Sumner (Sting)

I Turn Around - The line "Kiss me 'cause it feels like a hit"
   seems to be a play on the title of the Goffin and King song "He Hit Me
   (And It Felt Like a Kiss)".  That song was recorded by Phil Spector
   protegees the Crystals circa 1963, but is now perhaps better known as a
   regular feature of the band Hole's live performances. (

I Want to Be Loved - the photo booth at the end of the video was located in
   Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, Australia. (etxjoev@STA.ERICSSON.SE)

I Want to Vanish - in an interview in the Guardian (May 17), EC says this
  song "is from the point of view of a man sitting up in the woods who
  has been discovered by a documentary film crew. They want to make his
  little craft a global entertainment and he doesn't want it" He goes
  on to say that this really happened to folk singer Doc Watson.

I Want You - The line "Young man I do believe your dying" is from the
   old Scottish poem "Barbara Allen." .  The story goes that a man
   is on his death bed and calls for his lover.  They had a recent disagreement
   as he "slighted" her at the pub on night.  He is dying of a "broken heart"
   because she now refuses him.  She shows little sympathy and leaves quickly
   for home.  On the way the death bell rings and she knows who it is for.  At
   home she asks her mother to prepair her death bed, explaining that he died
   for her, now she must die for him.

I'll Wear It Proudly - the line "nail my feet up where my head should be"
 may be a reference to St. Peter, who was crucified upside down because he
 didn't feel worthy of dying in the same manner as Christ. The reference to
"King of Fools" (as opposed to the King of Jews sign on Christ's head when he
 was crucified) also seems to hint at this. (

 May also refer to the Tarot Deck card of The Hanged Man, who is hung upside
 down on a cross, nailed by his foot.

 A vampire kiss - neck bites from petting that teenagers make only token
 attempts to conceal

 'Cos down in the flesh pot where they pay you in pounds - a pound of
 flesh is what a lot of people say their employers want from them

Inch by Inch - "tear off a strip" is a term used when someone really lays
    into you verbally. "Lady in a chamber" also refers to a bullet in a gun.

Indoor Fireworks - "Smoke gets in your eyes" is an old standard:
         Lyric by Otto Harbach Music by Jerome Kern from Roberta (1933)
         " They asked me how I knew /   My true love was true? /
          Now laughing friends deride, /   Tears I cannot hide, /
           So I smile and say, / When a lovely flame dies, /
            Smoke gets in your eyes."

Invasion Hit Parade - Disco Tex and his Sex-o-lettes were a 70's disco band
            lead by Monti Rock III, and had the hit 'Get Dancing'
               - alludes to "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Gil
                 Scott-Heron. (
        -  In the credits following Invasion Hit Parade, EC makes mention of a
        "Radio Hail Hail Freedonia." The song Hail Hail Freedonia is from the
         Marx Brothers movie "Duck Soup" (

It's Time - "This Magic Moment" is a song originally by the Drifters, and
        covered by Jay and the Americans (

Jacksons, Monk, & Rowe -  the line "and you cut our hair to bits"
        is derived from the barbershop quartet standard "shave and a haircut..
        .two bits" (two bits is slang for 25 cents). ( )

Just a Memory - EC has performed this song with an extra verse (written for
            Dusty Springfield) which can be found on the Marti Jones cover

            I count the pages of the letter I write
            1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
            Tearing up the sheets of love
            This scent could not disguise
            I start to count again
            And close my eyes

Just About Glad - Nurse + lamp = Florence Nightingale.
        - 'Calling time' is what the landlord does in an English pub when he
           wants to close.

Kid About it - 'little death' is a translation of French slang for orgasm.
           The term is also found throughout European poetry.
       -  "The Leaving of Liverpool" is a well-known Irish folk song.

Kinder Murder - a ram raider is a particular form of interactive shopper
               who tends to shop at night using a stolen car or van to drive
               through the window of desired shopping establishment.
               A Routemaster is a kind of bus...a red one is the standard
               transport in London.
             - "one false eyelash" recalls the character of Alex in A
               Clockwork Orange. The eyelash was the trademark of Alex
               (Malcolm McDowell).  (

Last Boat Leaving -  relates to EC's grandfather's experiences.
     "This was written for The Courier, but they changed the ending of the
      film and the song contradicted the new ending.  They dropped the song
      and kept the tune as an instrumental.  But when you do commissioned
      stuff like that, you often end up writing the song for yourself.  The
      line about "They took his pride, they took his voice"-even through I
      have this enormous luxury compared to people who can't express their
      feelings to those close to them, I can broadcast to the world sometimes
      you want more.  When you measure what you do against the gravity of what
      you're writing about, a little song isn't really the ticket."
            - "The Annotated Spike" - Declan MacManus

Less Than Zero - 'Mr. Oswald = Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of
                 Fascists in the 1930's. Was alive when song came out.
                Dallas Version recorded since US fans thought it was about
                Lee Harvey Oswald.
         - venal = corrupted or corruptible

Let Him Dangle - Refers to a true life crime in England in the '50s. Chris
       Craig shot a policeman in a robbery but because he was underage
       they found his accomplice Derek Bentley guilty instead. There was also
       a film made about this case called "Let Him Have It" which was the
       phrase uttered by Bentley before the shooting. (
       Derek Bentley was recently found innocent by a British Appeals Court, 45
       years after he was sent to the gallows (BB #17).

Let Them All Talk - 'Fa fa fa' is reference to song of the same name.
        -  'To Have and Have Not' is the title of a 1944 film starring
           Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, based on Hemingway's novel.

Little Atoms - contains several biblical references from 1 Corinthians 13:
    "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought
    as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

    "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of
     these is charity."  (contributed by

Little Palaces - EC's father was born in a model town (Bournville) which the
                 Cadbury chocolate company built for their factory workers.

      There is a quotation from The Adventure of the Dancing Men, a Sherlock
      Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: "A dapper little man, with a
      quick, alert manner and a waxed moustache, had just desended from a high
      dog-cart." (

        "soft soap" = oily flattery

London's Brilliant Parade -
        -  The Speakeasy was an 'in' club during the swinging 60s.
        -  A MGB is a British make of car that is not being made anymore.
        -  A red Routemaster is a London double-decker bus.
        - Hungerford bridge is a narrow footbridge attached to the side of a
          railbridge in London where many people have committed
	  suicide.  (

	EC: 'I don't actually insult anybody's intelligence by talking about the
	homeless bashes around the bridge but that's what you see when you look
	below.  I didn't want it to be a pious "oh the poor people on the
	street' song because heaven knows there are so many more talented
	commentators when it comes to that subject, like Phil Collins (Another
	Day in Paradise) doing it for me and voting Tory at the same time, which
	is pretty ironic.'

        - EC was born in St. Mary's hospital, Paddington, London.
        - '...The Lions and the Tigers in Regents Park
          couldn't pay their way...' is a reference to the London Zoo losing
          its funding in the late 80's due to cost cutting zeal on the part
          of the Conservative gov't. (

        - the dobro used during the first verse is, according to EC, a
          tribute to Ray Davies, who wrote what he called the greatest
          song ever written about London, Waterloo Sunset. (

        - from 'Extreme Honey' ; "LBP is a sidelong look at the town in which
          I was born. the last verse is my own personal streetmap"

       'They sounded the all clear in the occidental bazaar they used to call
	Oxford Street' - play on oriental bazaar, the opposite of Oxford Street,
	London's apparently premier shopping street, with it's tourist tat and
	clearence shops. EC:'Oxford Street is just full of road works and
	jangling loudspeaker voices selling crap; and there were bomb warnings
	and bombs going off when I wrote it.' His mother worked in the sheet
	music department of Selfridges, the oldest Oxford Street store 'when it
	was a place of glittering childhood wonder and not the tacky tourist
	trap it is today'.

        'Now the bankrupt souls in the city are finally facing defeat - the black
        wednesday stock market crash in 1992.  After the excesses of the '80's
        EC called this a comeuppance for 'the city crooks and drugged yuppies
        and canting scum like Lilley and Portillo' - two nauseating but smart
        right wing politicians here. 

        Trolley Bus in Fulham Braodway - an old type of bus, with tires rather
        than tram tracks but powered from overhead cables all the way along its
        route.  Fulham Braodway is not far from Elvis's childhood home in West

	Hammersmith Palais - As a child Elvis would hang around the Hammersmith
	Palais ballroom on Saturday afternoons while his father rehearsed for
	the evening's gig with The Joe Loss Orchestra.  Elvis went on to play
	the Palais himself a number of times in the late '70's. Kensington
	probably refers to the Nashville club in West Kensington, now deceased,
	and Camden to Dingwalls, both places the early Attractions played.

	The lovely Diorama -  in Great Portland Street close to the
	lions and tigers of Regent's Park Zoo, is a beautiful glass domed
        Victorian building and was a pre-cinema moving image theatre, host to
        magic lantern shows, phantasmagoia and the like.  Now an arts and music
        venue and where Elvis met his current wife Cait.

	EC:'The song is ambivalent too. When I sing "I'm having the
        time of life" some of the time I mean it, other times  it's
        very tongue in cheek.  It isn't an absolute judgement about London.'

        (thanks to for the London info)

Love For Tender - 'grassing on a classmate' = squealing

Love Went Mad -  Brand's Hatch = English speedway

The Loved Ones - Stitched up = framed for a crime
   The nursery rhyme 'Oranges & Lemons' has the line "The butcher, the baker
    , the candlestick maker". (

Luxembourg - If someone is 'sent to Coventry' then it means that no one is
             speaking to them.  (
           - "Done up like a dog's dinner" is a phrase used in England to
              denote someone dressed in smart, and/or formal clothes. It's
              sometimes used in a non-complimentary way with sarcastic
              overtones ("Who does he think HE is, done up like ...").

Malicious Observer - inspired by a man beheaded in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Man Out of Time - 'French letters' is UK slang for condoms; "German
                sense of humor" refers to someone who has no sense of humor.

             'Dutch Courage' = military slang for using alcohol (gin in
             particular) to muster up courage. Origins in the 1600s
             when the British Royal Navy were surprised by losses to the
             Dutch, and had to ascribe the military disasters to something.

             The line "a tuppenny ha'penny millionaire looking for a fourpenny
             one" is probably a reference to the Victorian bourgeois/nouveau
             riche. A "fourpenny knee trembler" is Victorian slang for a
             quickie with a prostitute.

             "Are you looking for a fourpenny one?" is a UK expression
             meaning "Your behaviour is likely to induce me to punch you",
             so a fourpenny one is a punch (

             Knightsbridge = fashionable district of London.
             Traitor's Gate = in former times in England those
               convicted of treason were beheaded and  had their heads
               displayed here at the Tower of London.
             Contains allusions to Kurt Vonnegut's 'Slaughterhouse Five'

             scarpering = running away (

Miss MacBeth - "It was inspired by somebody that used to terrorize me
        where I lived, a horrible old woman that everyone thought was a witch
        because she looked like one.  I thought, "What if she was?  Wouldn't
        that be great?" It's always in Hollywood films that people who suffer
        have great perseverance.  What they don't say is that some of them are
        real bastards. [laughs] So this is like, a dark story.  But it is
        supposed to be funny," - "The Annotated Spike" - Declan MacManus

Motel Matches - "Who Shot Sam?" is a song made famous by George Jones.

My Dark Life - from "Extreme Honey": "visit St. Petersburg to view art
    collection looted by Red Army in last days of Second World War and
    kept in a secret vault until current exhibition. Every incident in "MY
    DARK LIFE" occurs during that short trip. "

My Science Fiction Twin - the lyric "you wonder where this fellow went" is a
     rephrasing of the Pepsodent commercial (from the 1960s) which states that
    "You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with
     Pepsodent."  (

New Amsterdam -  An actual double duchess exists. She married one Duke
        (of Britain) and then carried on an affair with (and eventually
        married) another Duke.  The Edwardians actually called her the Double
       -  New Amsterdam was the original name for New York.
       -  Rotherhithe was the port, near London, from which the Mayflower
          sailed to America.
       - double dutch is a children's jump rope game, and a language.
       - The "other side," is likely a reference to the U.S.

Next Time Round - "there's a second hand emotion on a battered 45' is a play
        on the Motown song "I second that emotion"

Night Rally - 'corporation logo' probably a reference to a Nazi rally in
             the 1930's where a Swastika was projected on clouds using a
            The Swastika was a corporate logo for many companies prior to WWII
            most notably Carlsberg Lager of Denmark (

No Action - old telephones used to be made out of bakelite, a type of plastic.

Oliver's Army - About the invasion of Ireland in 1649 led by Oliver Cromwell
         and modern British occupation of N. Ireland.
     - The Mersey, Thames and the Tyne are all rivers in England with major
       ports (Liverpool, London and Newcastle repectively)
     - The "Murder Mile" is a section of North Belfast, Northern Ireland
       where Protestant loyalists routinely snatched Catholics off the
       streets in the 1970s to face torture and painful deaths. (Boston Globe)
     - "putting the world to rights" - chatting about how things should be

The Other End of the Telescope - re: 'A bamboo needle on a shellac of
         Chopin -  Shellac records are the heavy, breakable
         ones (most 78s are shellac).  On an old phonograph, made before
         the modern light-weight phono cartridge with its diamond stylus,
         one could use a steel needle for louder sound, or a fibre needle
         for reduced record wear.  Cactus, bamboo, and thorn were some of
         the materials used for fibre needles. (

The Other Side of Summer - references to Lennon (was it a Millionaire), Roger
           Waters (poor little schoolboy), Bowie (Rabid rebel dogs), Madonna
            (the pop princess), The line 'fit for burning' may refer to
           the latter's 'Like a Prayer' video.

Our little Angel - 
	Laughter comes in cans - pre recorded canned laughter used on TV comedy

Party Girl - EC laid to rest the long-standing theory that the song was
  addressed to Bebe Buell at a show in NYC Aug 12/96. He stated that PG was
  written about a young female art student he met in Minnesota while on tour.
  EC says they repaired to the coed's automobile late one evening to discuss
  painting. Some local press spotted the pair and printed something nasty and
  untrue about the young woman.  EC wrote PG in response.

Peace In Our Time - Refers generally to the Cold War. The line "There's already
    one spaceman in the White House/What do you want another for?" refers to
    Senator John Glenn, a former astronaut, running for President. The spaceman
    already in the White House being, of course, Ronald Reagan.
    The 'piece of paper in his hand' refers to Neville Chamberlain's
    non-agression promise obtained from Hitler.

    "They're lighting a bonfire upon every hilltop in the land" = how
     the Falklands victory was celebrated

The People's Limousine - Elvis said he and T-Bone Burnett toured Italy and
     were met by a promoter in a large limousine.  One of them asked how the
     promoter could justify squiring around two entertainers in such a lavish
     car in a supposedly socialist, egalitarian country, and he replied: "Oh,
     this is the people's limousine" (

Pidgin English - "Ten commandments of love" is an old doo-wop song by the Moon-
             "Acting silly beggars" or "playing silly beggars" is a common
                 phrase in the north of England - it means playing the fool
                 or acting the idiot. (tmcdonld@TCD.IE)

Pills and Soap - "Jemmy" is the British term for "jimmy", which is to
                 force open something with a crowbar.

                - The song was released days before the British General
                  Election in June 1983 and seems to be an oblique reference
                  to the ills of the country at that time.
                - "So pack up your troubles in a stolen hand bag" is taken
                   from the World War I song "Pack up your troubles in your
                   old kit bag and smile, smile, smile." (

                - "Rally Round the Flag" is a song from the U.S. Civil War

		'There are ashtrays of emotion for the fag ends of the aristocracy -
		possibly refers to Lord Cecil Parkinson, Tory politician who disowned
		his secretary/mistress and their handicapped child. His affair came to
		light during the the same '83 election campaign in which EC rush
		released this song. (

Poor Napoleon - spoken in a line of dialogue from 'Jules and Jim', dir. by
                Francois Truffaut.
              - "Stolen Kisses" is the name of another Truffaut film
              - "Magic Fingers" is the name of the device attached to
                 cheap motel beds that, when a coin is put in the slot, makes
                 the bed vibrate.

Pony Street - martinet = a strict disciplinarian

Possession - written about a waitress in a cafe in Holland

Put Away Forbidden Playthings - written to commemorate Purcell's death

Radio Radio - original song titled 'Radio Soul'

Red Shoes -  EC has said this was written on the journey between "Runcorn
     and Liverpool Lime Street (approx. 10 mins.) Lime Street is the main
     railway station in Liverpool.. Runcorn  is a 'New Town' outside Liverpool
     just across the mersey from Widnes. (kevin@WILMA.DEMON.CO.UK)

Riot Act -   possibly written about Bonnie Bramlett incident
         -  The Riot Act was a 1880's English document stating that anyone
            involved in a riot, whether guilty of violent acts or not, would
            be prosecuted for robbing and rioting.

Rocking Horse Road - inspired by a walk EC took in a suburb of Christchurch, NZ
    -  On the Buddy Holly on Acid version of Rocking Horse Road, at the very
       end, EC sings what sounds like "I'm the little tin soldier who wants to
       jump into your fire." which is a references to the Hans Christian
       Andersen fairytale "The Steadfast Tin Soldier". This is also, more 
       importantly perhaps, a line from Tin Soldier recorded and written by 
       the 1960s group the Small Faces (authors: Steve Marriott/Ronnie Lane) 
       and later done by the likes of Todd Rundgren. They were themselves
       obviously inspired by H.C. Andersen in writing the song in the first 

Satellite -  is based on concepts from "Radio Free Albemuth" by Philip K. Dick

Secondary Modern - name for a special type of school in British school
       system which EC attended.  At age 11 British schoolchildren are split
       into 2 different types of schools depending on their potential. The
       higher graded pupils go to grammar/prep schools and the lower graded
       ones go to Secondary Modern schools.
      - "Packet of three" refers to how condoms are sold in UK and elsewhere
      -  "Down in the Basement" is an old blues song. (

Senior Service  - In the U.K. all of the armed services are ranked
         with the Navy being the top or Senior Service.
       - Senior Service are also a brand of UK cigarettes that got
         their name because of the course cut of the tobacco (navy cut) a
         particular favorite of sailors.

Shamed into Love  - Opening melody quotes melody from Alfie (by Bacharach?) (i.e., the part of Alfie
accompanying the lyrics "as sure as I believe, there's a heaven above
Alfie.") (

Shabby Doll - Derived from 19th century musical hall poster (similar
         in respect to  "Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite")
       - To give someone 'what for' is to give them a
         beating. (
       - A 'nancy boy' is someone who's a bit soft, a mum's boy, a bit
         feminine. (

Shipbuilding  - Elvis wrote this while touring Australia in 1982 after
      reading the sensationalised (gutter) press stories in Aus. papers
      about the Falklands conflict

      - Elvis has said (on Fresh Air interview) that he wrote this song with Miles
        Davis in mind.  (TARNOWN@CARLETON.EDU)

Sleep of the Just - "You're some mother's daughter you know or is it
        immaterial girl," is a possible reference to Madonna's 'Material Girl'
         - Sleep of the just is a euphemism for death. (
	She wears the trousers - she's in charge in the relationship

	Painting tar on somebody - as in tarring and feathering, a humiliating
	18th century public punishment.  The person would be dunked in
	scorchingly hot molten tar and rolled in feathers that stuck to them,
	making them into a chicken.

Stalin Malone - Elvis couldn't get the words to fit the music, so he left the
        song as an instrumental and printed the words on the back of 'Spike'
        (not found on the cassette version).

Suit of Lights - written about EC's father.
       'suit of lights' is sometimes used to refer to a bull-fighter's costume.
       "The Working Man's Blues" is a Merle Haggard song - perhaps a tie-in
        with the capitalized "Haggard face" in the KoA lyric sheet for
        "The Big Light"?

Sunday's Best - The "severed head" in the line "an arm, a leg, a severed head," makes an
         allusion to the late Iris Murdoch's 1961 satirical novel "A Severed Head,"
        which was an enormous success in the UK. (

Sulky Girl -  From the liner notes of "Extreme Honey": "'Sulky Girl' is
    fantasy life of Stuttgart schoolgirl who courts a scandalous reputation
    to test her power.

Temptation - EC revealed during the taping of VH1's 'Storytellers' segment
  (05/29/96) that he wrote this song about Bruce Springsteen after seeing him
  in Nashville in 1978.
  In his show at the Showbox Theatre(Seattle, May 1996) EC introduced this song
  by saying:  "It's really hard to fall in love with someone from row
  97.....This here song is a song I wrote in 1978 in Nashville,  TN, I was
  in row 97 actually,  at a concert by a very famous American rock singer,
  and I was looking at him and thinking,  ' Wow, this is getting tough for
  this guy'. I know he's real, but it's getting like he's not allowed to
  be real anymore.   I said 'That'll never happen to me. Fame will never go
  to my head ." (

13 Steps Lead Down - according to EC, this line struck him when he went to
   visit El Monasterio del Escorial, a fascist monument in El
   Valle de Los Caidos, Spain, built in the memory of the soldiers who
   fought on Franco's side and died in the Spanish civil war.

   From the liner notes of "Extreme Honey":
   "written after visit to Escorial, where Kings of Spain are buried at the
    foot of thirteen marble steps so as to instill dread in the visitor."

   The term "13th step" is used when a more veteran member of a 12 step
   (therapy) seduces newcomers of the program.  It's usually used as a verb,
   "He 13th stepped her."  (yarlas@PSYCH.UCLA.EDU) ed.: It is unclear whether
   EC had this connotation also in mind when writing the song.

This Year's Girl - supposedly about Farrah Fawcett.

Tiny Steps - inspired by a Hitchcock tv episode about a little girl who
             insists that her doll is an imaginary friend.

Tokyo Storm Warning -  Montgomery - Capital of Alabama (and also the original
                       capital of the Confederacy)
        - Worlds apart/nightmares collide: "When Worlds
         Collide" is a 50's SF film directed by George Pal
        - 'And feasted them on fish and chips from a newspaper facsimile...'
          Fish and chips had always been served wrapped up in old newspaper,
          until the health department decreed this to be unsanitary.  Wax
          paper, decorated with fake newsprint replaced the genuine thing,
          to the universal dismay of discerning fish & chips eaters.
        "please don't spare the hearses" - pun on 'don't spare the horses'
        = go fast

A Town Called Big Nothing - EC wrote this song for the movie 'Straight to Hell'
    which was filmed in Almeria, Spain. It is some 60 km from Granada. It is
    possible that the title was derived from the latter, as Gran is
    Spanish for Big. Nada is Spanish for Nothing.  (

Town Cryer - The Canadian band The Tragically Hip did not get their name
             from the line in this song. Their name derives from the (former
             Monkee) Michael Nesmith video 'Elephant Parts', which predates
             Imperial Bedroom.

Tramp the Dirt Down - specifically refers to Margaret Thatcher, former Prime
           Minister of Great Britain.
	Tarmacadam - full name for tarmac, or asphalt

	..say 'Thank you', straighten up, look proud and pleased - how you're
	taught to take your physical puishment, usually caning, in traditional
	English schools

	EC: 'I'm not a violent person, but we are all capable of appaling acts
	of violence.  She (Thatcher) is a seemingly benign middle aged women
	with hair like candy floss, but she shows not just two faces but any
	face that suits her at the time and tells you that this is an honest way
	to be.  I simply can't find words to express my contempt strong enough. 
	And I'm not some little kid to who they can say "There, there, you're
	just a teenager having a moment of protest", I'm fucking sick of it,
	what's going on in this country.'

20% Amnesia - a boot boy is a thug, most likely a skinhead, the
         boots being Doc Martens.  Skinheads in Australia used to favour a
         particular cardigan (not jersey or sweater or jumper) which came with
         horizontal bands. It was part of their uniform, so to speak.
       - In a Q interview, EC said something like that, according to surveys,
         20% of the people who voted Conservative in 1992 had considered
         another party, but voted Conservaitive for the sake of their own tax
         bill. 20% Amnesia, then, is the 20% who forgot that the Conservatives
         ' record on basic rights was so dreadful for the sake of a few quid.
       - The 'strip-jack naked' line may have been printed in the CD so as to
         avoid confusion with another 'n' word (see FAQ section on the Bonnie
         Bramlett incident)
         'Strip Jack Naked' is a family card game, and a 'Stanley knife' is a
         sharp carpet knife (Stanley is the name of the company that make them)
       - contains references to Russian leader Gorbachev's visit to England,
         during which he and Prime Minister Major went to see Cinderella.

Two Little Hitlers -'The Great Dictator' is the name of a 1940 Charlie Chaplin
                     movie in which he played a thinly-disguised caricature
                     of Hitler.
                  - Someone who's very generous with money is known as
                        "a soft-touch."
                   -Nick Lowe's album 'Jesus of Cool/Pure Pop for Now People'
                    contains the song 'Little Hitler'

Veronica - "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." - "The Annotated Spike" - Declan

    The Empress of India - a luxury cruise liner commandeered by the British
    navy in the First World War. It was torpedoed and sank with great loss
    of life. (

Waiting For the End of the World - Person in first verse is, according to EC,
    Nick Kent, a British music journalist for New Musical Express.
    Elvis has said he wrote this as his idea of a Velvet Underground song, but
    when he went to record it with Clover, they had never even heard of the
    Velvet Underground, so naturally it came out a bit warped.

Watch Your Step - 'bits of kids' is a UK expression used to convey a sense
                 of age, or in a derogatory fashion.

Wednesday Week - UK way of saying a week from next Wednesday.

White Knuckles - 'laughing gear' = British slang for mouth.

The World and His Wife - 'Taramasalata' is a Greek delicacy of smoked cod roe.
      This lyric may have its origins in a Monty Python sketch, where this
      name was used to convey the tackiest sort of warm-weather "package
      holiday" destination for people in the U.K.