Goodbye Cruel World (Elvis Costello album)

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Goodbye Cruel World
Studio album by
Released18 June 1984
RecordedFebruary 1984
StudioSarm West, London
ProducerClive Langer and Alan Winstanley[1]
Elvis Costello and the Attractions chronology
Punch the Clock
Goodbye Cruel World
The Best of Elvis Costello and The Attractions

Goodbye Cruel World is Elvis Costello's ninth album overall and the eighth with his backing band the Attractions. It was released in 1984 by F-Beat Records in the UK and Columbia in the US.


Tensions within the band—notably between Costello and bassist Bruce Thomas—were beginning to tell, and Costello announced his retirement and the break-up of the group shortly before they were to record Goodbye Cruel World. Costello wrote at his official website: "I think the first time we ever got really attacked for a new release apart from when we first started was Goodbye Cruel World, and to be honest I knew it wasn't a good record by the time ... It was the only one I was tempted to ... I was committed to it. I'd spent too much money on it to not release it and I thought on balance the good things that I'd got wrong in the studio that were in the song writing probably outweighed the bad things that I'd allow to happen in the production, which is not distracting anything from the effort that Clive Langer made to do the best. I mean, I announced to them that it was the last record I was ever going to make before we went in the studio. I decided to quit for all kinds of weird personal reasons ... I was really down about lots of other things and I really just decided I wanted to do this one record, and I was asking them to make a record they weren't really set up to do, which was essentially a 'live-in-the-studio' record. And then we had a loss of nerve about that and started to edge it back towards the kind of production they did anyway. But the damage had been done, we'd started out to record a folk-rock record, which is what it originally sounded like, which you can hear in some of the more soulful songs, like 'Home Truth', which is an unbelievably painful, true song. I made Clive Langer's life impossible, and I take full responsibility for the failure of the production, 'cause I was asking them one time to do one thing and the next to do another, and changing my mind every 15 minutes and driving everybody in the band mad. And really just getting it as wrong as you can in terms of the execution of what are basically a bunch of really good songs."[2]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[6]
Entertainment WeeklyB[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[10]
The Village VoiceB+[13]

The album's production by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley—who also produced Costello's previous album, Punch the Clock (1983)—was not in line with Costello's other works, relying heavily on electronics and a production style in keeping with current trends of the day. Thus, the record is not regarded among his better works, with Costello's liner notes for the 1995 Rykodisc reissue even acknowledging this fact, opening with the statement, "Congratulations! You've just purchased our worst album." Trouser Press wrote: "Goodbye Cruel World seems awkward and forced. The playing’s overly baroque, the melodies mild and too much of Costello’s edge is sublimated by the Langer/Winstanley cushion of sound."[1] In The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll for the year's best albums, Goodbye Cruel World placed at #70 in the voting, which was by far his worst finish in that poll to date.[14]

Although two tracks from the album—"The Only Flame in Town" and the cover song "I Wanna Be Loved"—appear on the 1985 U.S. compilation album The Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions, other compilations were not as representative. For the 1989 compilation Girls Girls Girls (whose track listing was selected by Costello himself) and the 1994 compilation The Very Best of Elvis Costello and The Attractions 1977–86, both of which cover the same time period, only "Love Field" was selected and, in the case of the former, appeared solely on the CD iteration of the collection. For the 1985 compilation The Man – The Best of Elvis Costello and the 1999 two-disc The Very Best of Elvis Costello, the album is represented by "I Wanna Be Loved". Conversely, no tracks from the album appear on the self-selected 2007 compilation The Best of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years.

"The Comedians" was covered by Roy Orbison on the album Mystery Girl.

Track listing[edit]

"I Wanna Be Loved" is a cover of a Hi Records single by Teacher's Edition and features backing vocals by Green Gartside of Scritti Politti. "The Only Flame in Town" features vocals by Daryl Hall.

All songs written by Elvis Costello, except as indicated.

Side one

  1. "The Only Flame in Town" – 4:01
  2. "Home Truth" – 3:12
  3. "Room with No Number" – 4:13
  4. "Inch By Inch" – 2:29
  5. "Worthless Thing" – 3:04
  6. "Love Field" – 3:26

Side two

  1. "I Wanna Be Loved" (Farnell Jenkins) – 4:47
  2. "The Comedians" – 2:36
  3. "Joe Porterhouse" – 3:29
  4. "Sour Milk Cow Blues" – 2:50
  5. "The Great Unknown" (Costello, Clive Langer) – 3:00
  6. "The Deportees Club" – 2:54
  7. "Peace in Our Time" – 4:06

Bonus tracks (1995 Rykodisc)

  1. "Turning the Town Red" – 3:14
  2. "Baby It's You" (Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Barney Williams) – 3:11
  3. "Get Yourself Another Fool" (Ernest Tucker, Frank Heywood) – 4:01
  4. "I Hope You're Happy Now" – 2:51
  5. "The Only Flame in Town" (Live) – 4:16
  6. "Worthless Thing" (Live) – 3:11
  7. "Motel Matches" (Live) – 2:39
  8. "Sleepless Nights" (Live) (Felice Bryant, Boudleaux Bryant) – 2:39
  9. "Deportee" (Demo) – 3:22
  10. "Withered and Died" (Richard Thompson) – 3:14

Note: The Rykodisc version has the original tracks and bonus tracks on one CD. The Rhino version has two CDs with the original tracks on the first CD.

Bonus disc (2004 Rhino)

  1. "The Only Flame in Town" (Alternate version) – 4:05
  2. "Young Boy Blues" (Doc Pomus, Phil Spector) – 3:27
  3. "Turning the Town Red" – 3:14
  4. "I Hope You're Happy Now" – 2:51
  5. "Tomorrow's (Just Another Day)" (Mike Barson, Carl Smyth) – 2:54
  6. "Get Yourself Another Fool" (Frank Heywood, Ernest Tucker) – 4:03
  7. "Baby It's You (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) – 3:11
  8. "I Wanna Be Loved" (Demo version) (Jenkins) – 3:22
  9. "The Great Unknown" (Demo version) (Costello, Langer) – 2:35
  10. "She Loves the Jerk" (Demo version) (John Hiatt) – 3:10
  11. "Turning the Town Red" (Demo version) – 3:37
  12. "Peace in Our Time" (Demo version) – 3:30
  13. "Withered and Died" (Thompson) – 3:14
  14. "The Comedians" (Demo version) – 2:25
  15. "Inch By Inch" (Demo Version) – 2.11
  16. "Mystery Voice" (Demo version) – 2:23
  17. "Joe Porterhouse" (Demo version) – 3:19
  18. "The Town Where Time Stood Still" (Demo version) – 2:15
  19. "Blue Murder on Union Avenue" (Demo version) – 2:30
  20. "Home Truth" (Demo version) – 3:05
  21. "The Only Flame in Town" (Live) – 4:12
  22. "Worthless Thing" (Live) – 3:10
  23. "Sleepless Nights" (Live) (F. Bryant, B. Bryant) – 2:39
  24. "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend" (Live) (Jerry Dammers) – 2:10
  25. "Motel Matches" (Live) – 2:39
  26. "Love Field" (Live) – 3:21


The Attractions


The album credits keyboard player Steve Nieve with providing "random racket" under the name, "Maurice Worm".



Year Chart Position
1984 Billboard 200 35


Year Single Chart Position
1984 "The Only Flame in Town" Billboard Hot 100 56


  1. ^ a b "Elvis Costello". Archived from the original on 19 June 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  2. ^ "The Elvis Costello Home Page". Archived from the original on 22 April 2006. Retrieved 18 December 2005.
  3. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Goodbye Cruel World – Elvis Costello & the Attractions / Elvis Costello". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 24 November 2021. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  4. ^ Wolk, Douglas (March 2005). "Elvis Costello: Goodbye Cruel World". Blender. No. 34. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  5. ^ Kot, Greg (2 June 1991). "The Sounds Of Elvis, From San Francisco And Beyond". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 28 October 2020. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Costello, Elvis". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  7. ^ White, Armond (10 May 1991). "Elvis Costello's albums". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 7 February 2021. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  8. ^ Doyle, Tom (November 2018). "Band Substance". Mojo. No. 300. p. 59.
  9. ^ Aizlewood, John (September 2004). "Elvis Costello & the Attractions: Almost Blue / Goodbye Cruel World / Elvis Costello: Kojak Variety". Q. No. 218. p. 134.
  10. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Elvis Costello". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 193–95. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Archived from the original on 13 December 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  11. ^ Williams, Jay (30 June 1984). "Cruel Summer". Sounds. p. 40.
  12. ^ Roberts, Chris (September 2004). "Elvis Costello: Almost Blue / Goodbye Cruel World / Kojak Variety". Uncut. No. 88. p. 113.
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (30 October 1984). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  14. ^ "The Rise of the Corporate Single". The Village Voice. 19 February 1985. Archived from the original on 10 August 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.

External links[edit]