Song of the Day – “American Without Tears” – Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello has published a memoir, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink. He’s touring right now with a series of interviews, and I saw him at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta earlier this week.

It was a fascinating couple of hours, and I could listen to the stories forever. Near the end he picked up a guitar and played a few tunes, starting with this number from 1986’s King of America.

It’s a song about a Britsh expatriate in America, sandwiched around a verse about American GIs in England during World War II:

By a bicycle factory as they sounded the siren
And returned into the dancehall she knew he was the one
Though he wasn’t tall or handsome she laughed when he told her
“I’m the Sheriff of Nottingham and this is Little John”


The year after King of America was released, Elvis gave us a compilation of B-sides and rarities under his own name and various pseudonyms. Called Out of Our Idiot, it followed in the manner of Taking Liberties a few years earlier – catchy tunes you find it hard to believe didn’t make the cut on his studio albums.

I prefer the arrangement on this version, “American Without Tears No. 2”. The lyrics are almost totally different, but I prefer the original lyrics except for this couplet:

Just like me she found out what true love is about
Anyway she’s in New Orleans it would never work out


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