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Elvis Costello — Beyond Belief
Album: Imperial Bedroom
Avg rating:
7.3

Your rating:
Total ratings: 1147









Released: 1982
Length: 2:26
Plays (last 30 days): 1
History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies, the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues

I'm just an oil slick
In a windup world with a nervous tick
In a very fashionable hovel

I hang around dying to be tortured
You'll never be alone in the bone orchard
This battle with the bottle is nothing so novel

So in this almost empty gin palace
Through a two-way looking glass
You see your Alice

You know she has no sense
For all your jealousy
In a sense she still smiles very sweetly

Charged with insults and flattery
Her body moves with malice
Do you have to be so cruel to be callous?

And now you find you fit this identikit completely
You say you have no secrets
Then leave discreetly

I might make it California's fault
Be locked in Geneva's deepest vault
Just like the canals of Mars and the great barrier reef
I come to you beyond belief

My hands were clammy and cunning
She's been suitably stunning
But I know there's not a hope in Hades

All the laddies cat call and wolf whistle
So-called gentlemen and ladies
Dog fight like rose and thistle

I've got a feeling
I'm going to get a lot of grief
Once this seemed so appealing
Now I am beyond belief

I've got a feeling
I'm going to get a lot of grief
Once this seemed so appealing
Now I am beyond belief

I've got a feeling
I'm going to get a lot of grief
Once this seemed so appealing
Now I am beyond belief

I've got a feeling
Comments (187)add comment
Love this song for its total lack of song structure and yet constant gripping tunefulness.  One of EC's best.
Short and sweet.  Great opening song on a great album. Interesting lyrics.   9.  
For a minute, I thought another TV on the Radio track was playing! I suppose I should probably mistake TVOTR as Elvis instead! {#Ask}
Outstanding piece of music imo
Thanks for playing some deeper E.C. cuts which you don't hear enough!
 Bat wrote:

I really like this song, and the whole album, but before we get carried away with how this proves what a grand songwriter Elvis is I would suggest that this is really just a collection of clever non sequitur phrases strung together.  He's literate, no doubt, but I'm not sure this song is about anything other than clever for the sake of being clever.

 
I'm with you Bat, but then, I'm not married to Diana Krall.
 Steely_D wrote:

History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues

I'm just a oily slick
In a windup world with a nervous tick
In a very fashionable hovel
I hang around dying to be tortured
You'll never be alone in the bone orchard
This battle with the bottle is nothing so novel

So in this almost empty gin palace
Through a two-way looking glass you see your Alice

——

Seriously - can ANYONE write like this besides Declan Macmanus? 

 
I really like this song, and the whole album, but before we get carried away with how this proves what a grand songwriter Elvis is I would suggest that this is really just a collection of clever non sequitur phrases strung together.  He's literate, no doubt, but I'm not sure this song is about anything other than clever for the sake of being clever.
 Steely_D wrote:

History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues

I'm just a oily slick
In a windup world with a nervous tick
In a very fashionable hovel
I hang around dying to be tortured
You'll never be alone in the bone orchard
This battle with the bottle is nothing so novel

So in this almost empty gin palace
Through a two-way looking glass you see your Alice

——

Seriously - can ANYONE write like this besides Declan Macmanus? 

 
+1

glad to see i'm not alone in my admiration for this song. i really didn't get "new wave" and was kind of averse to EC in the early 80s, but Imperial Bedroom changed my mind. Just brilliant. 
my fav

History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues

I'm just a oily slick
In a windup world with a nervous tick
In a very fashionable hovel
I hang around dying to be tortured
You'll never be alone in the bone orchard
This battle with the bottle is nothing so novel

So in this almost empty gin palace
Through a two-way looking glass you see your Alice

——

Seriously - can ANYONE write like this besides Declan Macmanus? 
Where's the 11 - very possibly the best EC tune of all time.
 lemmoth wrote:
This song was once rated the #1 favorite song among Elvis fans according to an EC website.

As a huge fan, I concur. It sets the tone for one of the greatest albums by anyone, Imperial Bedroom.

 
funny. i didn't know that. but it's probably my favorite one of his!
 nagsheadlocal wrote:
Listening to those one-note bass punctuations, leading up to a great ending. Really, Costello and the boys at the top of their game.

 
Yup! Everyone involved is doing their job (well) on this one.
 phlattop wrote:

Really? Damn, I love it too but not sure it makes a Top 5 Elvis C tune.
 

 
Oh most definitely a top 5 EC!
I was quite surprised to find out that Elvis is married to Diana Krall.  They can make some kool music together...
 lemmoth wrote:


I've seen a poll of EC fan's which ranked this one Number 1.

 
Really? Damn, I love it too but not sure it makes a Top 5 Elvis C tune.
 

Immediately takes me back to December of '82, freezing my "you-know-whats" off in Grand Forks, ND!


The man's a genius. So prolific I've not kept up but every time I hear him I think it's time to catch up. Love it.
 ariadne223 wrote:
Not only is Elvis Costello brilliant, and this song splendid, but this is also a great set.  George Harrison, The National, and into Elvis.  Nice!
 

{#Yes}
Not only is Elvis Costello brilliant, and this song splendid, but this is also a great set.  Johnny Cash, George Harrison, The National, and into Elvis.  Nice!
I love Elvis and his music, and this song. he is quite brilliant.

But the stare...

It's the same one my dad gave me, God rest his soul.

What?? What did i do?? 
 nagsheadlocal wrote:
Listening to those one-note bass punctuations, leading up to a great ending. Really, Costello and the boys at the top of their game.
 

Bruce and Elvis became mortal enemies, but there is no denying the brilliance of his playing on all the EC & Attractions records.
One of his best!
This song was once rated the #1 favorite song among Elvis fans according to an EC website.

As a huge fan, I concur. It sets the tone for one of the greatest albums by anyone, Imperial Bedroom.
 kaybee wrote:
I've always thought Elvis Costello had a great voice and I like the way he has grown and evolved with his music.  I don't understand why so many here are turned off by his voice.

  
jt1 wrote:

...and while I've never been much of a fan, I've quite liked several of his songs in the past but I find his singing of this song painful.
 
Wow, different strokes, eh?


Reminds me of "Green Shirt" another one of my favorites!
 kaybee wrote:
I've always thought Elvis Costello had a great voice and I like the way he has grown and evolved with his music.  I don't understand why so many here are turned off by his voice.

 
...and while I've never been much of a fan, I've quite liked several of his songs in the past but I find his singing of this song painful.


 dc_zee wrote:

Do you have to be so cruel to be callous?
 
Love it

 lemmoth wrote:

Not attacking the person, just their credibility in judging music.
 
Do you have to be so cruel to be callous?
 dmax wrote:

Don't attack the person; defend the song. The person didn't attack you, but said they didn't like the tune.
 
Not attacking the person, just their credibility in judging music.

Musically fine, lyrically brilliant. The "empty gin palace" and "two-way looking glass" part kills me everytime. I got to know this via the Lambchop cover (on "The Decline of the Country & the Western Civilization"), which is unusually fun and upbeat for them and definitely worth checking out!
 lemmoth wrote:

Here's a few of the tunes this person rated a 1 —— 'nuff said
 
Don't attack the person; defend the song. The person didn't attack you, but said they didn't like the tune.
Elvis Costello sings quite naturally on this number compared to that weird nasally whine he normally manages, so I have to disagree and defend him for a change
 donna_birichina wrote:
I know this is not the best song ever. I know it's not even, probably, the best Elvis Costello song ever. But for  some reason it is on of my Top 5 All Time favorites.
 

I've seen a poll of EC fan's which ranked this one Number 1.
 woohouse wrote:
Always loved the drums on this track. There's a BBC radio documentary series on Elvis, and Pete Thomas, the drummer, recalls turning up at the studio badly hungover. He says he walked in, played the track once and went home. Bassist Bruce Thomas tells it slightly differently:
“Beyond Belief” was even recorded without the drummer present. Three of us played to a click track and Pete (Attractions drummer Pete Thomas) eventually turned up nursing a rather large hangover. E.C. was very irate and told him he could play the drums but without hearing what we’d done first. That’s why, if you listen to that track, the drums only play punctuations all the way through and don’t come into tempo until the song is about to start fading out!" (From Fender News)

 
You know I've never listened past the vocals (which I really like). I always wondered if they were doctored up because it's a much different sound. But, anyway, this time I focused in on the drums and wow - they are good!


Always loved the drums on this track. There's a BBC radio documentary series on Elvis, and Pete Thomas, the drummer, recalls turning up at the studio badly hungover. He says he walked in, played the track once and went home. Bassist Bruce Thomas tells it slightly differently:
“Beyond Belief” was even recorded without the drummer present. Three of us played to a click track and Pete (Attractions drummer Pete Thomas) eventually turned up nursing a rather large hangover. E.C. was very irate and told him he could play the drums but without hearing what we’d done first. That’s why, if you listen to that track, the drums only play punctuations all the way through and don’t come into tempo until the song is about to start fading out!" (From Fender News)

Funnily enough, this is probably the first time I heard his singing sound bearable, perhaps even quite good, who'd have thought

 
kaybee wrote:
I've always thought Elvis Costello had a great voice and I like the way he has grown and evolved with his music.  I don't understand why so many here are turned off by his voice.

 

I've always thought Elvis Costello had a great voice and I like the way he has grown and evolved with his music.  I don't understand why so many here are turned off by his voice.

 Carl wrote:
As an amateur singer, I really appreciate how hard it is to sing this song well, which he does. Bravo!

 
Difficult does not equal quality. Just sayin'.....

Wow.  I gave up on Elvis C after "Get Happy". Looks like I stopped one album too soon (I think I own Imperial Bedroom - I'll have to check in the archives.)  I really like this track!
So nice
One of my favorite EC songs! 
 Businessgypsy wrote:
I'm always struck by the awareness and control DM exercises over his voice in this track. The quality of his voice in a classical sense is beside the point. This is a vocalist who knows his instrument well and can make it perform at will. The phrasing is evocative of the best traditions of jazz singers to my ears.

 
Brilliant analysis.  This is my favorite EC performance on record of all time.

jonahboo wrote:
holy shit - worst vocals / singing ever
I'm always struck by the awareness and control DM exercises over his voice in this track. The quality of his voice in a classical sense is beside the point. This is a vocalist who knows his instrument well and can make it perform at will. The phrasing is evocative of the best traditions of jazz singers to my ears.

I know this is not the best song ever. I know it's not even, probably, the best Elvis Costello song ever. But for  some reason it is on of my Top 5 All Time favorites.


 jonahboo wrote:
holy shit - worst vocals / singing ever
 
Surely you jest.

this melody line is incredible. just incredible. I love this song but it's so damn short.
 jonahboo wrote:


yep - still sux ass
 
Nope.  Doesn't.

 nagsheadlocal wrote:
Listening to those one-note bass punctuations, leading up to a great ending. Really, Costello and the boys at the top of their game.
 
I agree, 100%. 28 years on, the song's opening notes still hit my ears like a wave. Unbelievably good. 10+

Listening to those one-note bass punctuations, leading up to a great ending. Really, Costello and the boys at the top of their game.
 jonahboo wrote:
holy shit - worst vocals / singing ever
 

yep - still sux ass
One of the best Elvis songs written...
 SweTex wrote:
Costello at his best.
 

Yeah ... I am hot and cold on this guy but this is a great tune.
As an amateur singer, I really appreciate how hard it is to sing this song well, which he does. Bravo!

Pure Brilliance —- Where's the 11??
 bpkengor wrote:
Still Perfection!
 
And even 2 months later the streak continues {#Wink} = => 10!

holy shit - worst vocals / singing ever
I never hear this song without seeing that awesome laser-ish video in my head

Man out of time

So this is where he came to hide
When he ran from you
In a private detective's overcoat
And dirty dead man's shoes

The pretty things of Knightsbridge
Lying for a minister of state
Is a far cry from the nod and wink
Here at traitor's gate

'Cause the high heel he used to be has been ground down
And he listens for the footsteps that would follow him around

To murder my love is a crime
But will you still love
A man out of time

There's a tuppeny hapenny millionaire
Looking for a fourpenny one
With a tight grip on the short hairs
Of the public imagination

But for his private wife and kids somehow
Real life becomes a rumour
Days of dutch courage
Just three French letters and a German sense of humour

He's got a mind like a sewer and a heart like a fridge
He stands to be insulted and he pays for the privilege

(chorus)

The biggest wheels of industry
Retire sharp and short
And the after dinner overtures
Are nothing but an after thought
Somebody's creeping in the kitchen
There's a reputation to be made
Whose nerves are always on a knife's edge
Who's up late polishing the blade

Love is always scarpering or cowering or fawning
You drink yourself insensitive and hate yourself in the morning

(chorus)

 velvetglove wrote:


My favorite on Imperial Bedroom has always been "Man Out of Time."  Whenever I hear people whine about how overrated EC is, I direct them to that track; particularly the lyrics, which were penned at (arguably) the height of his writing skills.

More Imperial Bedroom, Bill!

 

I agree, "Man out of time" is a masterpiece. Blows me away every time I hear it.
Still Perfection!
Perfection!
". . .nervous tick. . ." . . .following Andrew Bird - nice segue, Bill.
 SweTex wrote:
Costello at his best.
 
This is an amazing song. I love the way it builds.
I was going to rate this a 4 because it sounded so off-key to my ears, but this is Elvis Costello ?!
Must be my ears.

Costello at his best.
I liked that whole "Imperial Bedroom" album. I thought it was so funny that Elvis would name an album after that embarrassing incident, really. {#Roflol}
Amazing!
Most excellent!
A genius who rescued my generation from the bland days of Stix, Kansas, and worse, Electric Light Orchestra.  I will not call them "ELO." Elvis, thank you for saving us.
 lemmoth wrote:
The best song on the best album by one of the two or three best singer/songwiters in the history of popular music.
 

My favorite on Imperial Bedroom has always been "Man Out of Time."  Whenever I hear people whine about how overrated EC is, I direct them to that track; particularly the lyrics, which were penned at (arguably) the height of his writing skills.

More Imperial Bedroom, Bill!

What do Reggie Dwight (Sir Elton) and Declan MacManus (Elvis C.) have in common? They both married Canadians and have houses here in the Great White North.


 holborne wrote:


Agree with the latter part of the sentence ("one of the two or three best singer/songwiters in the history of popular music") but disagree with the former part ("The best song on the best album"). I think the best song on this album is "Human Hands," and I although it's hard to pick a best album, I think I'd have to go with This Year's Model or Trust.

But these are quibbles. Rock on!
 

Yeah—depending on my mood, I fluctuate bewtween favorite albums and songs—although pound-for-pound "This Year's Model" is REALLY strong. I saw Elvis play Saratoga on his last full Attractions tour, and he opened with "Hand in Hand"!! I flipped! I was probably one of six people there who even knew the song.
There's the jazzy cool of "Trust", yes—but some of Elvis best whip-smart witty wordplay is buried in all the little nuggets on "Get Happy". I hope I never have to really choose.

 lemmoth wrote:
The best song on the best album by one of the two or three best singer/songwiters in the history of popular music.
 

Agree with the latter part of the sentence ("one of the two or three best singer/songwiters in the history of popular music") but disagree with the former part ("The best song on the best album"). I think the best song on this album is "Human Hands," and I although it's hard to pick a best album, I think I'd have to go with This Year's Model or Trust.

But these are quibbles. Rock on!
 lemmoth wrote:
The best song on the best album by one of the two or three best singer/songwiters in the history of popular music.
 

TESTIFY!
Not my favorite one... but still quite interesting.
Bill!!! Please, play "Delivery Man"!!!
Thanks RP!
 cc_rider wrote:


Well said. I saw him here a few years ago, just him and his piano player (from the Attractions maybe?) I was expecting a mellow 'unplugged'-ish show, but even with just two of them, they blew the doors off the joint. Awesome musician and performer.

c.
 

I caught that tour, EC and Steve Nieve, in a small intimate setting.  Absolutely astounding!  He performed one song (I think it was Clown Parade, not sure though) where he finished away from any microphone and just blew me away.  He may not have a voice many would consider melodic, but he knows how to sing very powerfully within his range.  Imperial Bedroom is one of my favorite of his albums, but then again I have every one of his albums and there is always something great in each one.
The best song on the best album by one of the two or three best singer/songwiters in the history of popular music.


Brilliant !

If you do not have the album  Imperial Bedroom ,  from which this is the opening track , you should go out and get it right now ....
ThePoose wrote:
Now, in his 50s, he will be writing daddy music: he knocked up my fellow Canuck Diana but good:she's as big as a house with twins and ready to drop by this Christmas.
Heck, I'm okay with that. The world could use some more DECENT 'daddy music'. Trout Fishing in America and They Might Be Giants come to mind.
andrewimft wrote:
He's a great singer with a vocal texture that's an acquired taste. The amazing thing is how great he is musically as a singer. When you listen to the harmonies and the notes he hits perfectly in his backing vocals, like on Hoover Factory or some of his soul tinged or chorus laden harmony songs or on the Get Happy CD, you're just blown away. It is awesome. The irony is that his voice sort of has a wretched tone quality he was born with yet he's perfected the art of singing as a musician. And I believe he's taught his wife Diana Krall how to sing. She's the opposite-- her vocal texture is pretty yet in the past her delivery was so casual it had no depth and no feeling and was dreadfully dull. Since they've been together, she's developed much more depth of tone and feeling and her phrasing is so much better. I can't but help believe he's taught her how to really sing.
Well said. I saw him here a few years ago, just him and his piano player (from the Attractions maybe?) I was expecting a mellow 'unplugged'-ish show, but even with just two of them, they blew the doors off the joint. Awesome musician and performer. c.
I was so impressed last time I saw him play in Santa Rosa: He stepped away from the mic' and sang without any amplification. Incredibly powerful voice.
junebaby65 wrote:
Always loved his voice....really underrated...
He's a great singer with a vocal texture that's an acquired taste. The amazing thing is how great he is musically as a singer. When you listen to the harmonies and the notes he hits perfectly in his backing vocals, like on Hoover Factory or some of his soul tinged or chorus laden harmony songs or on the Get Happy CD, you're just blown away. It is awesome. The irony is that his voice sort of has a wretched tone quality he was born with yet he's perfected the art of singing as a musician. And I believe he's taught his wife Diana Krall how to sing. She's the opposite-- her vocal texture is pretty yet in the past her delivery was so casual it had no depth and no feeling and was dreadfully dull. Since they've been together, she's developed much more depth of tone and feeling and her phrasing is so much better. I can't but help believe he's taught her how to really sing.
93vx800 wrote:
Ah, the eighties! Imperial Bedroom is one of my all time favorite albums. How about a bit of Joe Jackson, Bill!
Just saw Joe Saturday night--he was REALLY good!
Imperial Bedroom was the record that started it for me. I was in 11th grade and it was like an oasis in the early 80s craptastic rock desert my buddies were trudging through. Been a rabid/avid Elvis fan ever since. Even named my son Declan. Is that wrong?
Ah, the eighties! Imperial Bedroom is one of my all time favorite albums. How about a bit of Joe Jackson, Bill!
Cool and creepy - the sound of sludge never sounded so slick!! :twisted:
So in this almost empty gin palace, through a two-way looking glass, you see your Alice.
tompoll wrote:
You see this? Looks familiar. From October! I think I'm starting to see how Bill sets up his programming...
Well, sure. Bill and Rebecca run the whole show. How long could you work 24 hours/day creating new playlists, finding music, running your business etc without a break? They use playlists, but they mix it up too. Contrast that with most commercial radio where it's the same eleven or so songs played six times a day in little grouplets of two or three surrounded by almost constant commercial interruptions, mindless dj chatter and idiotic "comedy" bits usually revolving around a body part. Sorry - (was that out loud?)
tompoll wrote:
You see this? Looks familiar. From October! I think I'm starting to see how Bill sets up his programming...
I AGREE.
sigmonsays wrote:
Fantastic playlist. Bill, kudos. What a roll: 2:46 pm - Elvis Costello - Beyond Belief 2:43 pm - Spoon - The Book I Write 2:36 pm - George Harrison - Isn't It A Pity 2:32 pm - Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around 2:28 pm - Manic Street Preachers - To Repel Ghosts 2:25 pm - Daniel Lanois - Jolie Louise 2:22 pm - Jayhawks - Settled Down Like Rain 2:18 pm - Graham Parker - If It Ever Stops Rainin' 2:14 pm - Big Sugar - All Over Now 2:12 pm - John Lee Hooker - I'm In The Mood 2:08 pm - Afro Celt Sound System - Lovers of Light 2:05 pm - Talking Heads - I Zimbra 2:02 pm - The Dead 60s - Riot Radio 1:59 pm - Squirrel Nut Zippers - Ghost of Stephen Foster 1:53 pm - Built To Spill - Gone Coldplay had to F$CK IT UP right before built to spill. Guess they all can't be winners.
You see this? Looks familiar. From October! I think I'm starting to see how Bill sets up his programming...
after SPOON, would be better ELVIS COSTELLO-EVERY DAY I WRITE THE BOOK.
I was just singing this at the top of my lungs in the minivan with my 1 and 3 year old. Makes me feel connected to the rest of the world!
The number one rated song on the number one rated album for Elvis fans. Brilliant, brilliant, genious. Fantastic musically and lyrically. Love it live.
One of my favorites from a long list of great EC songs.
Always loved his voice....really underrated...
Fantastic playlist. Bill, kudos. What a roll: 2:46 pm - Elvis Costello - Beyond Belief 2:43 pm - Spoon - The Book I Write 2:36 pm - George Harrison - Isn't It A Pity 2:32 pm - Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around 2:28 pm - Manic Street Preachers - To Repel Ghosts 2:25 pm - Daniel Lanois - Jolie Louise 2:22 pm - Jayhawks - Settled Down Like Rain 2:18 pm - Graham Parker - If It Ever Stops Rainin' 2:14 pm - Big Sugar - All Over Now 2:12 pm - John Lee Hooker - I'm In The Mood 2:08 pm - Afro Celt Sound System - Lovers of Light 2:05 pm - Talking Heads - I Zimbra 2:02 pm - The Dead 60s - Riot Radio 1:59 pm - Squirrel Nut Zippers - Ghost of Stephen Foster 1:53 pm - Built To Spill - Gone Coldplay had to F$CK IT UP right before built to spill. Guess they all can't be winners.
boober wrote:
Very clever songwriter(not a bad singer either).Saw him in KC 3 years ago.Great show.
Saw him in KC in '78 - great show! :biggrin:
rumplestiltskin wrote:
This must be an incredibly hard song to sing.
I love singing along with it. It annoys my officemate but it's super fun.
Greenman wrote:
Imperial Bedroom is a masterpiece.
One of his best. From his peak. Haven't cared for anything he's done since King of America, another great one.
this is from the thoroughly awesome Imperial Bedroom, would love to hear more from that LP.
This song is well described by its title.
I heart Elvis costello :)
Sucking in the belly too, Elvis? Not judging, just asking.
Sunman wrote:
Touring
And burping the twins.
I'm not a big fan of Costello but this album is definitely a good one.
eastcoast wrote:
Where is he now?
Touring
spacemoose wrote:
Wow, that's the stupidest comment I've read today. Congrats! You beat physicsGenius!!! Elvis has fantastic pipes and control. His versions of "almost blue", "my funny valentine", and "love for sale" are to die for. He has incredible range and power. You may not like how he chooses to sing, but that's not the same as him having a lack of ability. When I saw him in concert he did the encore acappella, with no amplification. It was a small venue and we all just crowded up to stage to hear him. I was right in front. It was just incredible. I'd be hard pressed to come up with a more accomplished and skilled modern vocalist. Of course, there's always what leonard cohen's lawer told him once "none of you guys can sing. If I want to hear singing I go to the opera..."
I think I may just link to your post every time I see one of those stupid "Elvis can't sing" spews.
Where is he now?
Very clever songwriter(not a bad singer either).Saw him in KC 3 years ago.Great show.
I can't believe this is the first time I am hearing this. Elvis is so very cool.
I can't believe I've never heard this before. I love it!
Imperial Bedroom is a masterpiece.
rumplestiltskin wrote:
This must be an incredibly hard song to sing.
No kidding! Man, those Attractions were super-tight.
This must be an incredibly hard song to sing.
Excellent song. :meditate: