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Elvis Costello

Everyday I Write The Book (5:00)

"Everyday I Write the Book" is a song from Punch the Clock, an album released in 1983 by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. It was written by Elvis Costello and was a Billboard Top 40 hit in the United Kingdom and the United States. It was Elvis Costello's first hit single in the United States, as well as his biggest. According to one reviewer, Elvis Costello himself is consistently dismissive of the composition despite its success and refers to it as "a bad Smokey Robinson song."

Lyrics

The lyrics draw various parallels between romance and the process of composing written texts. The narrator identifies himself as "a man with a mission in two or three editions" and tells his paramour "your compliments and your cutting remarks are captured here in my quotation marks." He also compares the stages of their relationship with chapters in a book saying:

Chapter One we didn't really get along
Chapter Two I think I fell in love with you
You said you'd stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three
But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four, Five and Six
Video

The music video for "Everyday I Write the Book" has been called a "classic MTV hit" and features footage of Elvis Costello and the Attractions performing in a studio with female backup singers dressed in African clothing and kente cloth headwraps. Footage of Costello and his bandmates performing is mingled with footage showing celebrity lookalikes of Prince Charles and Princess Diana incongruously doing household chores and watching television in a middle class domicile. Clips of the silent adventure film being watched by Princess Diana are also included in the montage.

When Prince Charles appears wielding a rapier and wearing a swashbuckler costume like that of the actors in the silent film, Princess Diana rolls her eyes and returns her attention to the television. Further attempts by Prince Charles to impress his spouse—including presenting her with a red rose and jumping through a flaming hoop—are similarly rebuffed as she is more interested in the romances depicted on her television. At one point, Elvis Costello drops two stone tablets similar to those in the classic film The Ten Commandments.

Reviews

A reviewer for Allmusic described this song and one other as the best on Punch the Clock and said they work well as "shiny pop singles." A writer for Stylus Magazine said it is one of three best songs on that album and that its "fractured keyboards" feature the most successful use of the "overdub cut-and-paste style." Robert Christgau included this song among those Elvis Costello hits "you like so much you think you understand them." According to one source, the theme of the song's "hopeless pop romantic" lyrics are about "struggling to make his marriage work."

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