King Horse

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Cheap cut satin and bad perfume
Showtime is almost here
Teased up by a strip cartoon
Laughing up your sleeve
Sniggering in your beer
He'd seen the bottom of a lot of glasses
But he'd never seen love so near
He'd seen love get so expensive
But he'd never seen love so dear

Now I know that you're all King Horse
Between tenderness and brute force
Now I know that you're all King Horse
Between tenderness and brute force

She can turn upon a sixpence in the mouth and trousers set
Hit the till, ring the bell, never spill a sip
And still she knows the kind of tip that she is gonna get
A lot of loose exchanges, precious little respect
When it's someone else's weekend
That's the best you can expect


So fond of the fabric
So fond of fabrication
From comic books to tragic
Through the heart of complications

Meanwhile back in some secluded spot
He says, "Will you please?" and she says, "Stop"
If I ever lose this good thing that I've got
I never want to hear the song you dedicated tonight
'Cause you see I knew that song so long before we met
That it means much more than it might


King Horse
Written byElvis Costello
Performed byElvis Costello & The Attractions
Produced byNick Lowe
MusiciansElvis Costello - vocals, guitar
Steve Nieve - keyboards
Bruce Thomas - bass
Pete Thomas - drums
RecordedOctober 1979, Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum, Netherlands and/or Eden Studios, London
ReleasedFebruary 1980
AlbumsGet Happy!!, 1980
SinglesI Can't Stand Up For Falling Down, 1980
CollectionsGirls Girls Girls, 1989
Rock And Roll Music, 2007
PromosGet Happy!! (Promo Album), 1980
Humo presents Torhout / Werchter 1977-1981, 1981
Punch The Clock, Trust & Get Happy!! Sampler, 2003

First known performance:
February 6, 1980, Liverpool, England
Last known performance:
November 2, 2019, Greensboro, NC
     (314 known performances)

“The armed forces are the only other line of work that encourages such unsuitable people to travel the world. Chaos reigns at 35,000 feet over the Pacific. In my notebook I'd stumbled on some lyrics about tawdry compromise and desperate fun, mostly the work of a very naive nineteen-year-old. Now I'm looking to hang it all on the best insult to the strutting male that I can find. The cult of the stallion with medallion is in full flower. I look at the silly schoolboys making the stewardess' life a misery. I look at myself in the toilet mirror... ‘King Horse’.” Girls Girls Girls liner notes, 1989.

Alternate versions

King Horse (Demo)
Performed byElvis Costello
Produced byElvis Costello
MusiciansElvis Costello - vocals, all instruments
Recorded1979, Archipelago Studios, London
ReleasedJuly 28, 2003
AlbumsGet Happy!! (Rhino/Edsel reissue), 2003

Back Stabbers / King Horse (Live 1983)
Performed byElvis Costello & The Attractions (with The TKO Horns)
MusiciansElvis Costello - vocal, guitar
Steve Nieve - keyboards
Bruce Thomas - bass
Pete Thomas - drums
Jim Paterson - trombone
Jeff Blythe - saxophone
Paul Speare - saxophone
Dave Plews - trumpet
RecordedSeptember 7, 1983, Austin, TX
ReleasedJuly 28, 2003
AlbumsPunch The Clock (Rhino/Edsel reissue), 2003
Get Happy!!GH album cover large.jpg

I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down singleI Can't Stand Up For Falling Down US 7" single front sleeve.jpg

Girls Girls GirlsGGG album cover 300.jpg

Punch The ClockPunch The Clock Rhino album cover.jpg

Rock And Roll MusicRock And Roll Music album cover.jpg


Robbie Fulks performed live, 2015-03-30, The Hideout, Chicago 2015 AllMusicYouTube
Jason Martin performed live, 2002-08-10, Brilliant Mistakes tribute, Albany, NY 2002 review
Steve Nieve performed live, 2020-04-24, The Daily Improvisation, France 2020 FaceBookEC Fan Forum
Erich Sellheim home studio production, sung in German 2014 YouTube
Thee Skiffle Kings home studio production 2011 YouTube

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