Song of the Day #1,744: ‘The Other End (of the Telescope)’ – Elvis Costello

uselessIt’s funny how some songs drift in and out of our good graces.

When Elvis Costello released 1996’s All This Useless Beauty, I loved every minute of it, including (perhaps especially) its opening track, ‘The Other End (of the Telescope).’

Years later the song started to get on my nerves, particularly due to one lyric toward the end in which Costello sings of putting “a bamboo needle on a shellac of Chopin,” as pretentious a phrase as he’s ever uttered.

But listening to the song again today when it popped up as the weekend’s first random selection, I’m loving it all over again. Perhaps this song and I just needed a break.

That happens a lot… I play a song or album to death until I’m just about sick of it, then avoid it for a nice long while until I am able to rediscover it with fresh ears. Maybe it would be better to just play it in moderation from the beginning, but I’d hate to miss out on the early infatuation phase.

Shall we agree that just this once
I’m gonna change my life
Until it’s just as tiny or important as you like?

And in time we won’t even recall that we spoke
Words that turned out to be as big as smoke
As smoke that disappears in the air
There’s always something that’s smoldering somewhere

I know it don’t make a difference to you
But oh! It sure made a difference to me
You’ll see me off in the distance, I hope
At the other end
At the other end of the telescope.

The promise of indulgence in my confidential voice
Approached immortal danger but you’ll never know how close
Then down the hall I overheard such a heavenly choir
They interrupted my evil designs
One day you are up in the clouds
The next thing you’re down with the Sweet Adelines


Lie down baby now don’t say a word
There there baby your vision is blurred
Your head is so sore from all of that thinking
I don’t want to hurt you now
But I think you’re shrinking

You’re half-naked ambition and you’re half out of your wits
Or several tiny fractions that this portrait still omits
And it’s so hard to pick the receiver up when I call
I never noticed you could be so small
The answer was under your nose but the question never arose

I know it don’t make a difference to you
But oh! It sure made a difference to me
‘Cause late in the evening as I sit here moping
With a bamboo needle on a shellac of Chopin
And the cast-iron heart that you failed to tear open
At the other end
At the other end of the telescope


3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,744: ‘The Other End (of the Telescope)’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana says:

    I rarely reach the point of overplaying an album, at least it hasn’t happened for many years. It is harder to overplay nowadays with most of the music randomly coming out of icloud on my iPhone, sometimes organized by genres selected by iTunes genius.

    In fact, one album I played repeatedly from beginning to end years ago was King of America (though I don’t recall getting sick of the album or any particular song). So, when “I’ll Wear It Proudly” randomly appeared from my new wave genius picks, it may have been the first time that I heard just that song isolated from the rest of the album. Part of me wanted to stop the random play and hear the rest of KOA, but then joe Jackson’s “Hit Single” came on and I was pleased to jump on to another great song in my collection.

  2. pegclifton says:

    Did you feature this song some time ago? I’m remembering looking up “bamboo needle on a shellac of Chopin” to see what that meant; didn’t realize that shellac was a 78 record, now it makes sense 🙂

  3. Andrea Katz says:

    This song does all the wonderful things I love about his best work. Thanks.

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