Mar 07

IHM LYRIC WATCH: Elvis Costello April Fools Special

FT + I Hate Music2 comments • 1,037 views

Elvis Costello – clever name, clever guy, right? Or wrong? Let’s look at his 1992 track, aptly named “How To Be Dumb”:

Don’t you know how to be dumb?
Are you ready to take your place
In the modern museum of mistakes?

OK, not a great lyric, but a little work and application and Elvis might have a future as a comments box troll. But what happens next?

Don’t you know how to be dumb?
Like a building thrown up overnight
In one of those reverse earthquakes?

Yeah, those are really dumb! When I hear about one of those reverse earthquakes, I always think the buildings they throw up overnight are STOOPID.

Which reverse earthquakes? Oh, you know, those ones.

The use of “those” suggests that Elvis feels reverse earthquakes are something we all know about, rather than something which, well, only Elvis Costello knows about, in his deranged foaming vengeful Costellobrain. What possessed him to write such a line? A bit of research reveals that Mr Costello actually wrote the song on April 1st, after reading about “reverse earthquakes” in a newspaper of record. “That’s amazing!” he thought, “I can put that in my song!”

A quick glance at his lyric book suggests several other versions were under consideration:

Don’t you know how to please?
Like a delicious plate of spaghetti
From one of those spaghetti trees

Don’t you know how to show grief
Like a family on holiday
In war-torn San Serriffe?

Don’t you know you have bad habits
Like that disturbing 18th Century woman
Who gave birth to sixteen rabbits?

Who’s dumb NOW, eh Elv?


  1. 1
    Andrew Farrell on 31 Mar 2007 #

    That wopuld be those reverse earthquakes, then?

  2. 2
    Dumby dumby on 31 Mar 2007 #

    Yeahm… after reading that I still do not know what a reverse earthquake is.

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