Shipbuilding Lyrics - Elvis Costello

Review The Song (3)

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
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

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Beautiful Tune - Right On Lyrics from Naive Rock Star The Bono of the 80s | Reviewer: John | 9/2/14

Robert Wyatt's Haunting Vocal is so good that I never really tried to listen to the lyrics properly, imagining that it was an elegy for a lost lifestyle, lost by changing times. In the context of the Falklands War it is plain daft, because the new ships built then have yet to be used in anger. Instead the it was the ships built in the years of relative economic boom for Shipbuilding before Thatcher that were lost.
Was it worth it? Taking the wages for building new warships is a no-brainer. A better question would be whether the loss of life in the War is worth the future mineral rights in the Antarctic that arise from keeping hold of the Falklands. I wonder if Elvis/Declan discussed this with his new friends when he started hanging around with the Country and Western people later on?

Hauntingly beautiful | Reviewer: Liz | 1/30/13

This song makes me cry. It always gets to the point where sacrifice of the common man happens. Leaders of the human race declare war more often because wars it can make them a lot of wealth, resources, or territory. it's the average Joe who conscripts and joins up for military service because he does have a wife and kid to support and not much else is paying enough, isn't that how it goes??? Wow if we could live in peace and enjoy our lives and build up instead of destroy.
"Diving for dear life.....when we could be diving for pearls"

Important Enough to get a Stephen Colbert Reference! | Reviewer: Dolores Haze | 11/27/12

I don't know why, but this is one freaking BEAUTIFUL song! It uses the metaphor...well, maybe it isn't one, since people really did and DO build ships and get destroyed by them...but he uses the metaphor of it for the futility of "progress" and how the lower classes are sacrificed to it by being duped into thinking that it will improve their lives, in the most pathetic way! The kid wanting a bike, or a coat for the wife, for godssake!

Costello is saying how cheap life is in the industrial world, to feed the unlimited appetite of corporations and the rich, who seemingly, can never have enough, no matter what the cost. It's a scathing commentary on the result of the Industrial Revolution, and could as easily have been written about the building of the Titanic as about the Railroads in America, or the diamond mines in South Africa: human life is WORTHLESS TO THE RICH!

And yet is beautiful, lyrical, liltingly haunting...never "in your face". And that's it's power, if the listener takes a few minutes to PONDER the message. That's what makes Costello, like Randy Newman and the Clash, so great in the realm of socio-political commentary, as well as being great, musically.

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------ Performed by Elvis Costello

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------ 11/22/2014

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