Song of the Day #1,010: ‘Running Out of Angels’ – Elvis Costello

Here’s another of those acoustic demo tracks that stocked Elvis Costello’s CD reissues. ‘Running Out of Angles’ showed up among the bonus tracks of This Year’s Model.

I have a very clear memory of listening to this song on a late night drive from my apartment to my wife’s office (which was just a mile or two from the house). She was working as a night cops reporter, meaning her hours were something like 3 p.m. to midnight, and I’d often stop by to meet her on her dinner break.

I was thinking it would make a neat movie scene in a thriller if you followed a guy on a short car drive like that and shot the whole thing in one take, starting with him in the car and then navigating the creepily desolate stairwell of the office building. And despite all that suspense, nothing would happen, all was normal. But when he drove back to the apartment, something terrible had happened there.

I liked the thought that the first time you watched this scene, you’d be freaking out about what might happen to the guy in car during this drive. But the second time you saw the movie you’d be pulling your hair out because you knew he was missing his chance to avert some other catastrophe.

In the movie in my mind, ‘Running Out of Angels’ would be the soundtrack to that scene, simply because it was the soundtrack to the idea. I recently saw the wonderful Let Me In, which featured a fabulous scene reminiscent of that one, and it was scored to the car radio playing Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Burning For You.’ I wonder if that scene came to the writer while he was driving and listening to that song.

They say they’re running out of angels
They say I’m running out of time
Oh you don’t have to be lucky
It is easier than trying, now they’re bringing down a
Hammer on anything that sells
I suppose you’re a winner
Because they’re running out of angels

And all the lies upon the tongues of all the girls upon the rails
Will ruin any man who moved too soon
All except the one who seems to know more than she tells
You know she looks just like an angel
but she sings so out of tune

They say they’re running out of angels
They say I’m running out of time
Oh you don’t have to be lucky
It is easier than trying, now they’re bringing down a
Hammer on anything that sells
I suppose you’re a winner
Because they’re running out of angels
Oh

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,010: ‘Running Out of Angels’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana says:

    Great story. That could also work as a music video or short film perhaps.

    Do you think the song itself sparked your idea, or was it just playing in the background such that you now identify the song with the moment? The song seems a bit too upbeat for the plot line, although that type of disconnect between the music and scene can often add to the intrigue. (“Burning for You” on the other hand has a bit more intensity to it)

    I’ve never heard this song–though I assume I have it if I ever bothered to make it through all the extra cuts on his albums:) Good one though, and, as always, I love any demo like this where you hear the mistakes and the re-cues.

    I say Costello weekends need to continue until you have exhausted every demo and B side! Who’s with me? Kerrie? Peg? Alex? 🙂

  2. Clay says:

    I think the song just happened to be playing. I agree that the song itself doesn’t lend itself to that sort of situation, but yeah, that might be why it could work even better.

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