Song of the Day #3,229: ‘The Beat’ – Elvis Costello

Here’s a nifty little New Wave cut from Elvis Costello’s second album, 1978’s This Year’s Model.

Costello has spent the last two decades or so in elder statesman mode, releasing chamber orchestra and country folk albums, so it’s easy to forget what a scrappy, literate punk rocker he was back in the day.

If I were introducing somebody to Costello for the first time, I don’t think I’d jump to his most accomplished albums (Imperial Bedroom and King of America, IMO). Instead I’d start right up front with My Aim is True and This Year’s Model, albums that are far more raw but brimming with wit and attitude.

We’re all going on a summer holiday
Vigilantes coming out to follow me
Heard somebody say they’re out to collar me
Anybody wanna swallow me?

It takes two to tumble, it takes two to tango
Speak up; don’t mumble if you’re in the combo
On the beat, on the beat

Till a man comes along and he says
“Have you been a good boy, never played with your toy?
Though you never enjoy, such a pleasure to employ”

See your friends in the state they’re in
See your friends getting under their skin
See your friends getting taken in

Well, if you only knew the things you do to me
I’d do anything to confuse the enemy
There’s only one thing wrong with you befriending me
Take it easy, I think you’re bending me

I’ve been a bad boy with the standard leader
My neighbor’s revving up his Vauxhall Viva
On the beat, on the upbeat

Till the man comes along and he says
“Have you been a good boy, never played with your toy?
Though you never enjoy, such a pleasure to employ”

See your friends walking down the street
See your friends never quite complete
See your friends getting under their feet

Oh, I don’t want to disease you
But I’m no good with machinery
Oh, I don’t wanna freeze you
Stop looking at the scenery
I keep thinking about your mother
Oh, I don’t wanna lick them
I don’t wanna be a lover
I just wanna be your victim

I don’t go out much late at night
I don’t go out much at all
Did you think you were the only one
Who was waiting for a call?
On the beat, on the beat, on the upbeat

Till a man comes along and he says,
“Have you been a good boy, never played with your toy?
Though you never enjoy, such a pleasure to employ”

See your friends treat me like a stranger
See your friends despite all the arrangements
See your friends — nothing here has changed

Just the beat
Just the beat
Just the beat
Just the beat

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One thought on “Song of the Day #3,229: ‘The Beat’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana says:

    What is so cool about seeing Costello in concert of late is to watch how seamlessly he transitions from older material like this to his more diverse (and nonpunk) songs of the past few decades.

    As to your point about introducing Someone to Elvis for the first time, my introduction was to Imperial Bedroom, King of America, a greatest hits album covering earlier songs (Watching the Detectives, Accidents Will Happen, Radio Radio, Pump it Up, Alison, etc) and a collection of B sides with gems like Hoover Factory. The diversity of sound and styles i heard drew me in and I was hooked.

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