Song of the Day #5,125: ‘The Bridge I Burned’ – Elvis Costello

‘The Bridge I Burned’ is a cut from one of the extended editions Elvis Costello released in the early 2000s, in this case the 2001 reissue of 1995’s All This Useless Beauty.

At least that’s where my copy of this song lives. It was originally released as part of a 1997 greatest hits collection, a contractual obligation that allowed Costello to finish off his time at Warner Bros.

Here’s how Costello described the song in the voluminous All This Useless Beauty liner notes:

The final song in this sequence is the last track that I recorded for W.B. After the release of this album it seemed time to leave the label. I negotiated my departure, despite being contracted for one more album. The agreement called for a compilation of my W.B. recordings. Extreme Honey escaped Burbank accompanied by a global promotional budget of an entire $1,000 dollars. This is about as close as a major record company can legally get to putting a horse’s head in your bed. The sole virtue of the release was that it called for the making of a new track, “The Bridge I Burned.” This was recorded with a group of musicians and technicians twenty years my junior, including my son Mat, who played bass on the track. The record originally included a four line quote from the Prince song “Pop Life.” Permission has once again been refused for the inclusion of this take. Instead, those bars contain someone shouting through a megaphone. As song says, there is “a mocking bird in the twilight of infamy.”

[Verse 1]
I’m walking down Times Square in the Electric Daylight
The sailors on shore leave stand out in their perfect white
I’m up here with my spying glass at the window up above
For better or for worse it’s a perverse universe, my love

Now I know, I should have never walked over the bridge I burned
Now I know, somehow I don’t feel so alone

[Verse 2]
And remember to free far away from the unbridled, and the impudent
The malicious, and the unlucky
For these being full of bad demons or rays are maleficent
And like lepers and people stricken with plague
They harm not only by touch but even by proximity and by sight, Dig it!
You mutter underneath your breath, it echoes around the world
Everybody comes from nowhere
There is hope, it loops up in the air


[Verse 3]
You said I used to be handsome if you screwed up your eyes
Professors and vampires drank up all the tears I cried
Now there’s a bird at my window, he feeds upon the pane pain
And sometimes he sings to me – a mocking bird in the twilight of infamy


[Verse 4]
Now I know, I should have never walked over the bridge I burned
Now I know, they’ve burned one sinner and the others are sadly following

Now I know

One thought on “Song of the Day #5,125: ‘The Bridge I Burned’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Don’t think I’ve ever heard this song before, but that’s an interesting backstory.

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