Elvis Costello v. Margaret Thatcher


Thrifted lip from the one-time British DM* to the one-time British PM. “Veronica” was the Macca co-written single from Spike (1989), which also included the anti-Thatcher rant below. Robert Wyatt’s 1982 “Shipbuilding” single was, of course, penned by EC in reaction to the invasion of the Falklands. And finally, “Pills and Soap” was Costello’s oblique protest 7″, pseudonymously released on the eve of the 1983 British General election, to no apparent effect.


I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously
in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child’s lips

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t
haunted by every tiny detail
‘Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
all she thought of was betrayal

And now the cynical ones say that it all ends
the same in the long run
Try telling that to the desperate father who just
squeezed the life from his only son
And how it’s only voices in your head and
dreams you never dreamt
Try telling him the subtle difference between
justice and contempt
Try telling me she isn’t angry with this pitiful
When they flaunt it in your face as you line up
for punishment
And then expect you to say “Thank you”
straighten up, look proud and pleased
Because you’ve only got the symptoms, you
haven’t got the whole disease
Just like a schoolboy, whose head’s like a tin-can
filled up with dreams then poured down
the drain
Try telling that to the boys on both sides, being
blown to bits or beaten and maimed
Who takes all the glory and none of the shame

Well I hope you live long now, I pray the Lord
your soul to keep
I think I’ll be going before we fold our arms
and start to weep
I never thought for a moment that human life
could be so cheap
‘Cos when they finally put you in the ground
They’ll stand there laughing and tramp the
dirt down

*Declan McManus

Published in: on April 8, 2013 at 8:40 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Two of the finest rants against the war makers are Tramp the Dirt Down and Dylan’s Masters of War. . .i’ll stand at your grave til I’m sure that you’re dead. . .

    • One of the oddest performances I’ve seen of MOW, was by Dylan himself, at the Grammies shortly after the first gulf war. Taken at breakneck speed with a rock band, it was pretty heavy. Heavier still was Bob’s comment prior to the song, something like: “It’s possible to be so defiled by the world that your own father won’t recognise you.” It stuck with me.

      Oh, and I expect Elvis, along with former mining towns, have their tramping shoes all polished up.

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