Song of the Day #5,189: ‘Big Boys (Alternate Version)’ – Elvis Costello

Today’s Random Weekend track is a cut from the bonus disc of Elvis Costello’s 2002 reissue of his 1979 album Armed Forces.

‘Big Boys’ is the fourth song on Side One of the original album, and it’s a tight, angry song about sexual immaturity and corrosive infatuation. It’s pretty much perfect as is.

This “alternate version” is similar to the album track structurally, but nowhere near as successful.

I don’t know if this was a take considered for the album’s final cut, or just the result of screwing around in the studio, but it plays like a sampler of different ways the song could have been produced. The shift in tones and off-putting backing tracks make for a labored listen, especially when compared to the original.

I am starting to function
In the usual way
Everything is so provocative
Very, very temporary
I shall walk
Out of this place
I shall walk out on you
‘Cause you go silly if she’s willing
Trying so hard to be like the big boys

So you take her to the pictures
Trying to become a fixture
Inch by inch, trying to reach her
All the way through the second feature
Worrying about your physical fitness
Tell me how you got this sickness
Oh oh-oh-oh

I was caught in the suction
By a face like a truncheon
I was down upon one knee
Stroking her vanity
I was stuck on a hammer head
I-I-I-I came alive and left for dead
As my facе returned to red
Choking on my pridе and pity

We can talk until your face is blue
We can talk, but she’ll get to you
After you’ve been loved and hated
By the ones you watched and waited
Found that they were overrated

(She’ll be the one) when the party’s over
(She’ll be the one) when the girls have gone home
(She’ll be the one) that you wished you’d held on to
(She’ll be the one) but it’s too late for you to
(She’ll be the one) who knows all your history
(She’ll be the one) so you can cross her off your list

So you try so hard
You try so hard
You try so hard to be like the big boys

One thought on “Song of the Day #5,189: ‘Big Boys (Alternate Version)’ – Elvis Costello

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I think this alternate cut is just a stripped down version of the original. The inclusion of background vocals in particular brings a cohesiveness and fullness to the album track.

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