Song of the Day #2,712: ‘Tokyo Storm Warning’ – Elvis Costello

bloodandThe Random iTunes Fairy was definitely in an Elvis Costello mood today. The first spin of the dial turned up an alternate version of Imperial Bedroom‘s ‘Kid About It,’ which already had its moment in the Random Weekend spotlight in April of 2013.

My second try landed on ‘Tokyo Storm Warning,’ one of a few epic tracks on 1986’s Blood & Chocolate.

Of the three songs on this album that clock in at or above 6 minutes (‘Battered Old Bird’ and ‘I Want You’ being the other two), this one is my least favorite. The lyrics are typically fascinating but the music is a bit too monotonous for my taste.

Here’s Costello’s take on the song, from one of his many detailed liner notes:

Fatigue can play cruel tricks upon your perceptions, but arriving early one violent morning, among the frenzied commuters, with the storm clouds down beneath the tops of the tallest building, Tokyo DID seem like the setting for a particularly brutal science-fiction story (perhaps something by Philip K. Dick). So thinking ‘Why stop there, let’s trash the world,’ I recalled twenty years of nightmares, actual or altered, to present this thug’s-eye view of the planet.

[Verse 1]
The sky fell over cheap Korean monster-movie scenery
And spilled into the reservoir of the crushed capsule hotel
Between the Disney abattoir and the chemical refinery
And I knew I was in trouble but I thought I was in hell
So you look around the tiny room and you wonder where the hell you are
While the K.K.K. convention are all stranded in the bar
They wear hoods and carry shotguns in the main streets of Montgomery
But they’re helpless here as babies because they’re only here on holiday

What do we care if the world is a joke
(Tokyo Storm Warning)
We’ll give it a big kiss
We’ll give it a poke
(Tokyo Storm Warning)
Death wears a big hat cause he’s a big bloke
(Tokyo Storm Warning)
We’re only living this instant

[Verse 2]
The black sand stuck beneath her feet in a warm Sorrento sunrise
A barefoot girl from Naples or was it a Barcelona hi-rise
Whistles out the tuneless theme song on a hundred cheap suggestions
And a million false seductions and all those eternal questions


[Verse 3]
So they flew the Super-Constellation all the way from Rimini
And feasted them on fish and chips from a newspaper facsimile
Now dead Italian tourists bodies litter up the Broadway
Some people can’t be told you know they have to learn the hard way
Holidays are dirt-cheap in the Costa del Malvinas
In the Hotel Argentina they can hardly tell between us
For Teresa is a waitress though she’s now known as Juanita
In a tango bar in Stanley or in Puerto Margarita
She’s the sweetest and the sauciest
The loveliest and the naughtiest
She’s Miss Buenos Aires in a world of lacy lingerie


[Verse 4]
Japanese God-Jesus robots telling teenage fortunes
For all we know and all we care they might as well be Martians
They say gold paint on the palace gates comes from the teeth of pensioners
They’re so tired of shooting protest singers
That they hardly mention us
While fountains fill with second-hand perfume
And sodden trading stamps
They’ll hang the bullies and the louts that dampen down the day


[Verse 5]
We braved the cold November air and the undertaker’s curses
Saying “Take me to the Folies Bergere and please don’t spare the hearses”
For he always had a dream of that revolver in your purse
How you loved him until you hated him and made him cry for mercy
He said “Don’t ever mention my name there or talk of all the nights you cried
We’ve always been like worlds apart now you’re seeing two nightmares collide”


One thought on “Song of the Day #2,712: ‘Tokyo Storm Warning’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana says:

    I agree with you about this song. I hear stylistic elements of Dylan in the verses and Lennon in the chorus, yet somehow it doesn’t quite work.

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