Elvis Costello - Riot Act (song & lyrics)





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Published on Jun 11, 2007

Created with written permissions/agreements with: Universal Music Group. Pardon typos :(
Elvis Costello: "From the wiped-out sound of this track you'd never guess that these dark thoughts were written on a beautiful beach at dawn. April of 1979. Columbus, Ohio. Where a ridiculous drunken argument would culminate in me speaking the exact opposite of my true beliefs in an attempt to provoke a fight that inevitably arrived. That I was speaking in some absurd, exaggerated, supposedly ironic humour, in which everything is expressed in the reverse of that which one knows to be true, is no excuse. There was nothing sparkling or glorious about this wordplay, just the seed of madness. It was the product of crazed indulgence. The racial nature of these alleged remarks - I say "alleged" because I have about as much true memory of what actually transpired as any of the other drunken combatants - created a fairly major scandal.

Our records were pulled from the few radio play-lists where they were featured, our shows picketed by the very anti-racist organisation for which we had appeared six months earlier and there were over a hundred death threats to my person, necessitating the employment of armed bodyguards throughout the remaining dates. I left the U.S. having failed to explain myself to the satisfaction of the hysterical and, it must be said, delighted liberal press. The people I had supposedly slandered, Ray Charles and James Brown, had a much more generous view of these remarks, rightly putting them down to drunken idiocy. I didn't imagine that I would ever return, nor did I particularly think that I deserved to do so despite the fact that I knew in my heart that the people who had sought to make mischief of the incident had many hypocrites among their number. I could never properly explain how such words came out of my mouth. The humour of outrage never did sit that well with people and is particularly useless if the intent is garbled drunkenly.

Only one of the songs on this record refers to these events, "Riot Act" and particularly the lines. "I got your letter, now they say I don't care for the colour that it paints me". With hindsight, it might be tempting to claim that I had some noble motive in basing this record on the music that I had admired and learned from prior to my brush with infamy. But if I was trying to pay respects and make such amends, I doubt if pride would have allowed me to express that thought after I had made my rather contrived explanation to that jury of the seething and self-righteous. I simply went back to work and relied on instinct, curiosity and enduring musical passions."
Album: Get Happy. Re-Released on: Girls+Girls+Girls
Produced by Nick Lowe.
Roger Bechirian Engineer, Balance Engineer
Barney Bubbles Cover Design
Elvis Costello Organ, Guitar, Vocals, Producer, Instrumentation
Dan Hersch Mastering
Nick Lowe Producer, Author
Keith Morris Photography
Steve Nieve Organ, Piano
Bruce Thomas Bass, Harmonica
Pete Thomas Drums
To obtain rights to a song administered or published by Universal Music Publishing Group. Contact:
Telephone: 310 235 4721
Fax: 310 235 4905
E-mail: umpg.licensing(at)umusic.com
Website: synchexpress(dot)com or umpg(dot)com
Video: T.Tuthill


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