The Face, April 1981

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The Face

UK & Ireland magazines



Maria Eagle

I was disgusted (and amused) that Geoffrey Deane should be let loose to review “Trust” (FACE No. 11) when he is so obviously in total ignorance as to what some of the songs on the album are about.

In one of the most blatantly mistaken interpretations of a song I have ever witnessed in print, I read with amazement his description of “Big Sister’s Clothes” as a “tender requiem which mourns the passing of emotion in favour of romance”. This is absolute rubbish.

The song in question is a cleverly worded and chilling condemnation of nuclear proliferation and its inherent dangers. It is neatly wrapped, as is usual in Costello’s prime work, in metaphor and allegory.

She’s got eyes like saucers/Oh you think she’s a dish/She is the blue chip that belongs to the big fish.

“She” is a missile; the “big fish” one or other of the superpowers. The song conjures up a frightening vision of war. “The sport of kings”, and our helplessness in the face of it. We are like “sheep to the slaughter”. We can do nothing.

Passion went out of fashion/That’s all your concern meant/Sweat it out for thirty seconds on home improvements.

This is quite clearly a reference to that helplessness. Even concerned individuals (CND etc.) can do nothing to prevent the potential holocaust. It is a bleak and pessimistic scenario.

All little sisters like to try on big sister’s clothes.

“Little sisters” are small or developing countries longing for the influence afforded the “big sisters” – the superpowers. The “clothes” are those trappings which secure such influence, most notably military strength, and its ultimate expression, nuclear weapons.

It’s easier to say ‘I love you’ than ‘yours sincerely’ I suppose.

No matter how much GD may think this applies to personal relationships (and much of the song does, little sisters do like to try on big sister’s clothes) it has an interpretation in international relations too. It’s easier for the superpowers to profess support (usually militarily) and false devotion for their own purposes than to be truthful, honest, sincere in their dealings with other countries. How could you reviewer possibly miss the point of such an intricate and meaningful song?

To review Costello’s work you have to work. You have to listen and above all you have to think! Crass generalisations (and wrong ones at that) are not good enough.

Maria Eagle
Formby, Merseyside

Tags: TrustGeoffrey DeaneBig Sister's Clothes

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The Face, No. 12, April 1981

Maria Eagle responds to Geoffrey Deane's review of Trust in The Face, No. 11, March 1981.


1981-04-00 The Face page 61.jpg
Page scan.

1981-04-00 The Face cover.jpg


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