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"
Released 28 April 1978
Genre New wave, punk rock, power pop
Length 3:17
Label Radar
Writer(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]


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.[3] Costello's leg movements become increasing disjointed.

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 seen clearly in both the videos.[4]

Cover versions[edit]

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

In popular culture[edit]

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

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. ^ "Elvis Costello - The Right Spectacle: The Very Best Of Elvis Costello - The Videos (DVD)". Discogs.com. 2005-09-27. Retrieved 2016-10-13. 
  4. ^ "The Greatest Movie Never Made". /www.brucethomas.co.uk. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 

External links[edit]