Song of the Day #1,911: ‘Pony St.’ – Elvis Costello

brutalyouthLast week I featured Elvis Costello’s ‘20% Amnesia‘ during a theme on bad songs by great songwriters.

Frequent commenter Dana correctly pointed out that it was a weak song on an otherwise excellent album. So I figured I’d give that album, Brutal Youth, a shout-out today.

Brutal Youth is one of the highlights of the back half of Costello’s career. He released it in 1994, 17 years after his debut, and it’s insane to think that it’s been almost 20 years since it came out.

Maybe “back half” isn’t the right description… let’s call it the best album of the middle third of Costello’s career. At the rate he’s going, we’ll soon have to split it into fourths.

‘Pony St.’ is the opening track of Brutal Youth, and it’s a musically complex, baroque bit of power pop that really sets the tone for the album.

I particularly like this song because, unlike so many Costello compositions, I pretty much know what it’s about. It sketches a generational war between a mother and daughter whose issues are more modern than traditional.

The mother puzzles over the politeness of her daughter’s suitors while the daughter rolls her eyes at her parents’ suburban hypocrisy.

She lives on Pony St.
And they should scatter flowers at her feet
But when they come calling I think it’s appalling
They’re sober and they’re polite
They’re deeply respectful when I would expect them
To keep her out all night

That little martinet
Will get her own way yet
If you need instruction in mindless destruction
I’ll show you a thing or two
You used to adore me but now my life flashes before me
For you to view

Oh mother, oh mother, sometimes you are so mortifying
From the hole in your leopard skin tights I can tell you’ve been spying
But your generation confesses before it transgresses
Those Super-8 movies of Daddy in your disco dresses

If you’re going out tonight
I won’t wait up
Reading “Das Kapital”
Watching “Home Shopping Club”

While you’re flogging a dead horse
All the way down Pony St.
Where you live after a fashion
All the way down Pony St.
The life and the soul of every indiscretion
That lives on, that lives on, that lives on Pony St.

Daughter, oh daughter, you know I will love you forever
But spare me the white ankle socks with the lace and the leather
For you and your cartoon threat do no good to resist me
For I am the genuine thing but for you it’s just history

If you’re going out tonight
How can you be sure
Where you lay your pretty head
Mother may have been before

So you’re flogging a dead horse
All the way down Pony St.
Where you live after a fashion
All the way down Pony St.
The life and the soul of every indiscretion
That lives on
That lives on
That lives on
That lives on
That lives on
She lives on Pony St.
She lives on Pony St.
She lives on, she lives on
She lives on, she lives on

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One thought on “Song of the Day #1,911: ‘Pony St.’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana says:

    I must admit that elvis’ lyrics so often elude me that, at some point, I stopped trying to understand what he was singing about. such is the case with this song.

    So thanks for filling me in on this one. While I clearly enjoy Elvis’ songs 99% of the time without knowing what the hell he is talking about, I will probably enjoy this song even more now.

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