Originally commissioned to compose at least three songs for the soundtrack of Absolute Beginners, Elvis Costello's contribution to the movie was eventually circumscribed by a personal conflict with director Julien Temple and the general confusion surrounding the movie's embattled production, as he explains here:
"Basically, what was that I just fell out with Julien Temple. In the end, I just got exasperated by the fact that he expected everybody to be telepathic and understand frame by frame what he was thinking. He would change his mind so often about what he wanted and that coupled with the various restrictions in budget that were being imposed upon him just made it impossible to write a song that he was satisfied with.
"The minute you got a song finished he'd changed his mind again and you had to change the lyrics. In the end, I wrote a very good song, a very good ballad, and they simply cut the whole episode from the film, and my song was the culmination of that episode and out it went, which is a shame. From what I can gather, it had become a very unwieldy sort of production by then, so that was the first one that got sacrificed.
"Then I had disagreements over another big production number. That was over the lyrics. In the end, the third song I wrote, I just refused to write the music until Julien Temple had agreed the lyrics. Cos I just wasn't going to put in the hours doing it. It was just becoming too laborious and there were other things I wanted to be getting on with. In the end I just fell out with Temple altogether. I don't know what's been left in. I think I might have an instrumental version of the big production number that was scrapped due to the budget. Again, it was a good song — I had to be very vitriolic about English TV which was really tough, as you con imagine. So that was a shame that it didn't get used and it probably won't now be heard cos it's simply tough to find another context for the lyric.
"The only good thing about working on the entire project as far as I'm concerned was meeting Gil Evans, that was really exciting. But basically it seemed such an unwieldy project and subject to all this political wrangling at Goldcrest, which, of course, I wasn't party to. I just kept hearing things about it cos Clive Langer was working on it and it was constantly, 'Yeah, your bit's in, your bit's out.' I just couldn't give two fucks, you know, It's not my place to judge it as a movie, you know. I don't know whether it's going to be good or bad. I just know that I didn't find it satisfying being involved in it, it wasn't anything inspiring for me to work on. But I wish them all the best, obviously. I mean, I hope they don't fuck up cos other people won't get to make any films if it's a disaster. I mean, they're going to ruin the industry if this film flops, From that point of view, I hope it's a success."