Song of the Day #3,767: ‘I Let the Sun Go Down’ – Elvis Costello

Sitting at the midpoint of Elvis Costello’s Look Now, sixth track ‘I Let the Sun Go Down’ is my front-runner for the best song on the album.

It’s also the moment I realized Look Now may well be Costello’s best album since 1986’s King of America and Blood & Chocolate. Bold statement, I know. And while I can make an argument for Spike, Brutal Youth, Momofuku and National Ransom, this album taps the vein of classic Costello in a way none of those releases did.

I love Costello’s vocals on this track. This might be among my favorite Costello vocal performances ever. I love the mellow vibe and the Beatles-esque production. I love the falsetto outro. I don’t know what it means, apart from its extreme Britishness. It could be about an English leader of old or a key player in Brexit.

I don’t care, though, because I’ve never felt the need to decipher an Elvis Costello song in order to adore it.

Whenever I’m in the tightest corner
Whenever I feel forlorn
I think of the isle where I was born
And the duty to which I’ve sworn
But I woke up in a nightmare
With a Union Jack and half a crown
John Bull got caught with his pants down, again
That’s inviting sundown

It’s time to do or die
It’s time to say “Good-bye”
Cause I’m the man who lost the British Empire
Yes I’m the one, I let the sun go down

Don’t let the shadows lengthen
And cover my good intentions
They say that darkness brings the right time
But it’s also time for tears
I’m so sorry and sincere
Ahead of me a brilliant career
Now I’m going nowhere

It’s time to do or die
It’s time to say “Good-bye”
Cos I’m the man who lost the British Empire
Yes I’m the one I let the sun go down

Stay awhile
Delay the night
I’m too young for twilight
They’d tell the sun to hesitate
That’s when Britain was Great

Now that the lights are flickering
My pulse is quickening
All over the world the lamps will dim
And never be seen again

The balloon’s gone up
The night descends
As they lower the flag on no-man’s land
They’ll take you down a peg or two
This is the bitter end

I walk into darkness
It’s time to do or die
It’s time to say “Good-bye”
Cos I’m the man who lost the British Empire
Yes I’m the one, I let the sun go down
I let the sun go down
Don’t let the sun go down
I let the sun go down

One thought on “Song of the Day #3,767: ‘I Let the Sun Go Down’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana says:

    I assumed this song may have been an allusion to Costello’s cancer scare and having to more keenly come to grips with his mortality. Certainly lines like, “Delay the night, I’m too young for twilight” lend support for this. However, Amy said she read something where Elvis indicated that his medical situation did not play a role in the songs on the album. Maybe, but hard to ignore at least the possibility that the cancer and/or just his getting older didn’t have an influence on at least a subconscious level.

    Anyway–I agree with you that this is a standout on the album and that the album is arguably his best since Spike. I like it better than Momofuku overall.

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