Song of the Day #3,773: ‘He’s Given Me Things’ – Elvis Costello

Closing out Elvis Costello’s Look Now is the third collaboration with Burt Bacharach, ‘He’s Given Me Things.’

Backed by the Imposters and a nine-member string section, Costello once again sings from the perspective of a woman, this time the mistress of a wealthy man giving the kiss-off to her former lover.

This is a lush and spooky song, and a somber way to close an album that alternates between upbeat and downbeat tracks. It feels just about right.

As I wrote earlier this week, I consider Look Now Costello’s best album since 1986, the year he dropped both King of America and Blood & Chocolate. He has certainly released his share of excellent music in the 30 years since, but something feels different about this release.

I have to admit, I had pretty much accepted that Costello’s best days were behind him, or at least his ability to produce work as exciting to me as his classics. But I’ve been playing Look Now on repeat, eating it up in a way I haven’t since college.

It’s great to have him back.

[Verse 1]
He’s given me things you never would have
And if you did you’d want them back
Forgiven me things I didn’t know that
I had done but just faded to black

He’s given me time and consolation
Some verses to read and lines to say

I will stay here for a while now
He calls me child now but it works that way

[Verse 2]
He’s given me things you couldn’t guess at
I don’t mean jewels although they were fine
A way to depart, one way to enter
A right to dismiss upon a whim

When I close the door and you’re supposing
I kick up my heels and then I scream

“Why was I chosen?”
You’ll never know what I give to him

He’s given me things you never thought of
Because they were not yours to give
So take this pill and tranquilize
And roll your eyes at the husbands, not the customers’ wives

[Verse 3]
He’s forgiven me trials and tears and tantrums
And even all my false alarms
You sat there amused while I was crying
And just seemed to sigh but that’s what money can buy

And now I know why I come back to him
And now I know why you’ll never do

Who are you out there with one penny
You are so many and we are so few

[Verse 4]
So cover the canvas if you’re leaving
There’s a bowl in the hallway to wash your hands
If the water runs black please leave some silver
Then step past the glass and never come back
I’m living up here and you can see me
Yes, you can look but you can’t touch
‘Cause you don’t belong, the air is thin here
You may asphyxiate, my dear

For didn’t you tell me “You should hold me
Oh please, you must hold me as if I were hung”

To think you were exciting
When love was frightening but I was so young

He’s given me things you never dreamed of
Where hopes are dashed and trash is praised
He has an awful lot of money
The past can be bought and then erased

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,773: ‘He’s Given Me Things’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Because we have the deluxe edition, I don’t think of this as the last song on the album. That honor goes to “You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way,” which feels like a bookend to “Don’t Look Now” at least musically if not thematically.. I suppose “He’s Given Me Things” has similar qualities and is, of course, not a re-release. I do, however, also like the three other bonus tracks (13, 14 and 15), all of which feel connected to the rest of the album.

    While I agree this is arguably Costello’s best album in decades, I am not surprised that he had this in him and I expect he will have a few more before he hangs up his guitar strap. He is prolific and talented like few others – similar to Dylan, but with a voice that has not diminished with age.

    • Clay says:

      I also have the Deluxe Edition, but I wanted to look at the album as conceived by Costello, with this song as the final track. I also reject any song in which a non-French person sings in French!

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