Everyday I Write the Book

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"Everyday I Write the Book"

UK cover art
Single by Elvis Costello and the Attractions
from the album Punch the Clock
Released 1983 (1983)
Genre Rock
Length 3:54
Label F-Beat (UK)
Columbia (US)
Rykodisc (28 February 1995 reissue)
Rhino (9 September 2003 reissue)
Writer(s) Elvis Costello
Producer(s) Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley, assisted by Gavin Greenaway & Colin Fairley
Elvis Costello and the Attractions singles chronology
"Pills and Soap" "Everyday I Write the Book" "Let Them All Talk"

"Everyday I Write the Book" is a song written by Elvis Costello, from Punch the Clock, an album released in 1983 by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. It peaked at 28 on the UK Singles Chart and was their first hit single in the US[1][2] (33 on the Billboard Top 40).[3]


The lyrics draw various parallels between romance and the process of composing 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[4]


In an interview from November 1998, Costello said "Everyday I Write the Book" was "a song I wrote in ten minutes almost as a challenge to myself. I thought, maybe I could write just a simple, almost formula song and make it mean something. I was quite happy with it and I tried to do it in a kind of lovers-rock type arrangement and I wasn't happy with it and then ended up putting this other kind of rhythm to the song, which was written originally as a kind of Merseybeat knock off...I invested less emotionally in it than any other songs from that time yet it's the one that everyone warmed to."[5]


The music video for "Everyday I Write the Book" (directed by Don Letts[6]) has been called a "classic MTV hit"[2] and features footage of Elvis Costello and the Attractions performing in a studio with female backup singers (one of whom was Caron Wheeler) 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 Diana, Princess of Wales, Charles incongruously doing household chores and Diana watching television in a middle class domicile. Clips of the silent adventure film being watched by Diana are also included in the montage.[7]

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. Costello later commented that he had "no idea" of the reason for the interspersed royalty scenes, which were, he says, the director's idea.[6] At one point, the singer drops two stone tablets similar to those in the classic film The Ten Commandments.[7] and they are smashed.


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."[8] 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."[9] Robert Christgau included this song among those Elvis Costello hits "you like so much you think you understand them."[10] According to one source, the theme of the song's "hopeless pop romantic" lyrics are about "struggling to make his marriage work."[2][11]

Costello's live performances[edit]

I like singing it now, but I don't much care for the record.

—Costello in a June 2009 interview[12]

Costello has referred to "Everyday I Write the Book" as "a bad Smokey Robinson song";[2] in a June 1994 Central Park concert, it was one of only two of his best-known songs performed without remaining faithful to the original recording, with Costello instead performing it in what he called its "original" version.[13] A review of an August 2009 performance at the Ravinia Festival with "the Sugarcanes" was described as having its "hooky chorus turned into a dour lament."[14]


The song was re-released on the 1985 compilation album The Best of Elvis Costello and The Attractions,[10] the 1994 compilation album The Very Best of Elvis Costello and The Attractions 1977–86, and twice (1999 and 2001) on The Very Best of Elvis Costello, on first the PolyGram label then the Rhino label. It is also included on the 2007 compilation The Best of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years. The song appeared in 1998 on the soundtrack album for The Wedding Singer'.[15]

In 2010, in appearances premiering within a month of each other, the song was chosen by both Robert Harris[16] and Nick Park[17] as one of their "Desert Island Discs."


Year Single Chart Position
1983 "Everyday I Write the Book" Mainstream Rock 33
1983 "Everyday I Write the Book" Pop Singles 36


  1. ^ [1] New York Times (14 September 1983)
  2. ^ a b c d [2] morethings.com Review: Elvis Costello The Right Spectacle
  3. ^ [3]Billboard Artist Biography – Elvis Costello
  4. ^ [4] seeklyrics.com Elvis Costello – Everyday I Write The Book (Lyrics)
  5. ^ [5] SimonGrigg.info – Elvis Costello 26.11.98
  6. ^ a b Costello's audio commentary on the Right Spectacle dvd
  7. ^ a b [6] MTV Network: Elvis Costello – "Everyday I Write the Book"
  8. ^ [7] Allmusic: Punch the Clock (Ryko Bonus Tracks)
  9. ^ [8]Stylus Magazine Elvis Costello – Punch The Clock
  10. ^ a b [9]Robert Christgau: Elvis Costello and the Attractions
  11. ^ [10] Village Voice Media (3 March 2005)
  12. ^ [11] The Telegraph Elvis Costello interview (June 17, 2009)
  13. ^ [12] New York Times Down Memory Lane the Elvis Costello Way (10 June 1994)
  14. ^ [13] Time Out Chicago – Live review: Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes at Ravinia (27 August 2009)
  15. ^ [14]Billboard: The Wedding Singer (Original Soundtrack)
  16. ^ [15] BBC Radio 4 – Desert Island Discs: Robert Harris
  17. ^ [16] BBC Radio 4 – Desert Island Discs: Nick Park

External links[edit]