Certain Songs #415: Elvis Costello – “How To Be Dumb”

elvis costello mighty like a rose Album: Mighty Like a Rose
Year: 1991

Rule #1 about pissing off a great songwriter: don’t. I mean, they’re just going to write a nasty song about you, so why even bother?

And given that he’d probably seen it happen countless times, Bruce Thomas knew that he was playing with fire when he wrote a bunch of unflattering things about Elvis in his 1990 memoir, The Big Wheel.

Perhaps he was still mad about Elvis not working with The Attractions anymore, but then you didn’t see Garry Tallent write a tell-all when Bruce Springsteen dumped the E Street band at around the same time.

And sure enough Elvis responded with the jauntily vitriolic “How To Be Dumb.”

Now you’ve got yourself a brand new occupation
Every fleeting thought is a pearl
And beautiful people stampede to the doorway
Of the funniest fucker in the world

The cool thing about “How To Be Dumb” is how much fun it is. With a clanging grand piano battling a 50’s rock sax, the chorus of “How To Be Dumb” ranks with Elvis’s best, especially with Pete Thomas doing the “Like a Rolling Stone” build on the drums.

“How To Be Dumb”

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