Lyrically Evocative (11)

In 1982, I heard a song on the radio. It was sung by Robert Wyatt, and the tone was plaintive, with a haunting lyric. During the Falklands War, shipbuilding returned to the industrially-depressed areas of Britain, fuelled by the need to replace ships lost or damaged as a result of that pointless war. At the same time, many of the young men from those same areas were serving in the armed forces, and being killed or wounded in the same war that was providing employment for their communities.

With music from Clive Langer, Elvis Costello wrote some poignant and meaningful lyrics, and called the song ‘Shipbuilding’. It got into my heart and soul at the time, and still sounds as powerful today.

Here are the lyrics.

Is it worth it?
A new winter coat and shoes for the wife
And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon we’ll be shipbuilding
Well, I ask you
The boy said “dad, they’re going to take me to task
But I’ll be back by Christmas”
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
Somebody said that someone got filled in
For saying that people get killed in
The result of this shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
A telegram or a picture postcard
Within weeks they’ll be re-opening the shipyards
And notifying the next of kin
Once again
It’s all we’re skilled in
We will be shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
It’s all we’re skilled in
We will be shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
When we could be diving for pearls
When we could be diving for pearls
Songwriters: Elvis Costello / Clive William Langer

And here is the song sung by Elvis Costello, rather than the Robert Wyatt version.

16 thoughts on “Lyrically Evocative (11)

    1. I suspect it relates to the differences in working on ships, or serving on them in the navy, contrasted with the idyllic picture of pearl divers on an exotic island. But I could be wrong. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

All comments welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.