Pump It Up (Elvis Costello song)

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"Pump It Up"
Artwork for UK vinyl single
Single by Elvis Costello
from the album This Year's Model
B-side"Big Tears"
Released28 April 1978
GenreNew wave
Songwriter(s)Elvis Costello
Producer(s)Nick Lowe
Elvis Costello singles chronology
"(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea"
"Pump It Up"
"Radio Radio"

"Pump It Up" is a 1978 song by Elvis Costello. It originally appeared on Costello's second album This Year's Model, which was the first he recorded with the backing group the Attractions.


AllMusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine described "Pump It Up" as being "underscored with sexual menace".[1] Costello frequently uses double entendres in his songs, and "Pump It Up" is a good example of this, with the phrase "pump it up" being used to refer both to turning up the volume on the music and to masturbation. The story in the song is about the narrator's sexual frustration at the hands of a femme fatale who's described in the lyrics as being "a bad girl" and "like a narcotic".

"Pump It Up" was written in reaction to the excesses of the Stiffs Live Tour.[2]


In his 2015 autobiography Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, Costello acknowledged that the song owed an inspiration to Bob Dylan: "'Pump It Up' obviously took more than a little bit from 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'. One night, many years later, Bob Dylan said to me: 'U2! How could they do that to you? How could they take your song like that?' It took me a moment to know what he was talking about, and a moment more to realise that he was putting me on. But then, U2's 'Get On Your Boots' was probably to 'Pump It Up' what 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' is to Chuck Berry's 'Too Much Monkey Business'."[3]


The video features the band performing in an unfurnished, light-drenched, wholly white set, and uses simple split-screen quadrant image effects. It was directed by Paul Flattery for Jon Roseman Productions.[4] Costello's leg movements become increasingly disjointed throughout the video.

The video for "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" was shot the same day in London, and all the musicians can be seen wearing the same clothes, although drummer Pete Thomas sports a plain grey jacket for Pump It Up. Bassist Bruce Thomas had cut his right hand on a bottle a few weeks previously and had needed eight stitches; his bandage can be clearly seen in both videos.[5]

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by various notable artists, including Chaos UK, The Hotrats, Exodus, Kills for Thrills, Mudhoney, Trixter, Buckcherry, Elastic No-No Band, Danko Jones, Maldroid, Status Quo, The Wildhearts, Kurt Baker, Starpool, Those Darn Accordions, Hurtsmile and, The Rubinoos.

In popular culture[edit]

The Beastie Boys sampled "Pump It Up" for their song "Egg Man" on their album Paul's Boutique. Costello later performed "Radio Radio" on Saturday Night Live in 1999 with Beastie Boys as his backing band.

The guitar riff was sampled in Rogue Traders' 2005 single "Voodoo Child".

Television shows to have used the song include Go On, Malcolm in the Middle, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and the Indecipherable Lyrics round of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Movies to have featured the song include PCU and 200 Cigarettes. It was also used in trailers for Shark Tale and I Spy.

The song is playable in the music video game Rock Band 2.


  1. ^ Erlewine, S.T. "This Year's Model". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  2. ^ "The spirit of Stiff Records lives on – Features, Music". London: The Independent. 25 January 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  3. ^ McManus, Declan (2015). Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, Page 316. Viking.
  4. ^ "Elvis Costello - The Right Spectacle: The Very Best Of Elvis Costello - The Videos (DVD)". Discogs.com. 2005-09-27. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  5. ^ "The Greatest Movie Never Made". /www.brucethomas.co.uk. Retrieved 11 November 2014.

External links[edit]