Everyday I Write the Book

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"Everyday I Write the Book"
Everyday i write the book uk.jpg
UK cover art
Single by Elvis Costello and the Attractions
from the album Punch the Clock
Released1983 (1983)
GenreNew wave, pop
Songwriter(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] (36 on the Billboard Hot 100).[3]


The lyrics draw various parallels between romance and the process of writing a book. The narrator identifies himself as "a man with a mission in two or three editions" and tells his lover "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" was directed by Don Letts[6] and 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 Claudia Fontaine and 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 films being watched by Diana are 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 wrote 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]

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]." In October 2015 Costello performed an acoustic version of the song as the conclusion to on stage book tour interviews promoting his memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink[15].


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'.[16]

In 2010, in appearances premiering within a month of each other, the song was chosen by both Robert Harris[17] and Nick Park[18] as one of their "Desert Island Discs."


Chart (1983) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 36
US Top Rock Tracks 33


  1. ^ Holden, Stephen (14 September 1983). "THE POP LIFE - NYTimes.com". Select.nytimes.com. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "REVIEW: Elvis Costello DVD - The Right Spectacle". Morethings.com. 13 October 2005. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  3. ^ "Elvis Costello - Biography". Billboard. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  4. ^ "Elvis Costello - Everyday I Write The Book Lyrics". Seeklyrics.com. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  5. ^ "Simongriggdotinfo | An Elvis Costello Interview". Simongrigg.info. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  6. ^ a b Costello's audio commentary on the Right Spectacle dvd
  7. ^ a b "Everyday I Write the Book | Elvis Costello | Music Video". MTV. 6 January 1990. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  8. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Punch the Clock - Elvis Costello,Elvis Costello & the Attractions | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  9. ^ "Elvis Costello - Punch The Clock - On Second Thought". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  10. ^ a b "CG: Elvis Costello and the Attractions". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  11. ^ Mosi Reeves (3 March 2005). "This Year's Model | New Times Broward-Palm Beach". Browardpalmbeach.com. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  12. ^ "Elvis Costello interview". Telegraph. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  13. ^ Neil Strauss (10 June 1994). "Review/Pop; Down Memory Lane the Elvis Costello Way - New York Times". Central Park (Nyc): Nytimes.com. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  14. ^ "Chicago Music & Nightlife". Time Out Chicago. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  15. ^ https://blogcritics.org/book-tour-unfaithful-music-disappearing-ink-by-elvis-costello/
  16. ^ "Soundtrack - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  17. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, Robert Harris". Bbc.co.uk. 3 December 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  18. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, Nick Park". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 9 May 2014.

External links[edit]