"Watching the Detectives" as written by and Elvis Costello....
Nice girls, not one with a defect
Cellophane shrink-wrapped, so correct
Red dogs under illegal x
She looks so good that he gets down and begs

She is watching the detectives
"Ooh, he's so cute"
She is watching the detectives
When they shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot
They beat him up until the teardrops start
But he can't be wounded 'cause he's got no heart

Long shot at that jumping sign
Invisible shivers running down my spine
Cut to baby taking off her clothes
Close-up of the sign that says "We never close"
He snatches at you and you match his cigarette
She pulls the eyes out with a face like a magnet
I don't know how much more of this I can take
She's filing her nails while they're dragging the lake

She is watching the detectives
"Ooh, he's so cute"
She is watching the detectives
Oh when they shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot
They beat him up until the teardrops start
But he can't be wounded 'cause he's got no heart

You think you're alone until you realize you're in it
Now fear is here to stay, love is here for a visit
They call it instant justice when it's past the legal limit
Someone's scratching at the window, I wonder who is it?
The detectives come to check if you belong to the parents
Who are ready to hear the worst about their daughter's disappearance
Though it nearly took a miracle to get you to stay
It only took my little fingers to blow you away

Just like watching the detectives
Don't get cute
Just like watching the detectives
I get so angry when the teardrops start
But he can't be wounded 'cause he's got no heart

Watching the detectives
It's just like watching the detectives
Watching the detectives
Watching the detectives

Watching the detectives
Watching the detectives
They're watching the detectives
Watching the detectives


Lyrics submitted by mourninghasbroken, edited by ljadwin, DocMarten, tdg

"Watching the Detectives" as written by Elvis Costello

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Watching the Detectives song meanings
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75 Comments

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  • +2
    General Commentwow, do any of you realize how inane your comments are? Do you really think anyone WANTS to read how much you like this song??! It's like trying reading an american graffitti wall - it means nothing but people just wanting to claim territory as quick as possible. Mindless, talentless tagging.
    So yeah, no shit - you like this song - otherwise you wouldn't be commenting on it.
    And how lame to post the lyrics then immediately comment with "fucking awesome song". Come on retard. Did you post the lyrics just so you could show everyone how much you liked it?

    Anyway, these lyrics are pretty mysterious, what i get is this hot chick's passively watching a detective show on TV. She's filing her nails while they're dragging the lake seems to say something about our callousness as consumers.
    The last verse is really odd and creepy. It's hard to tell if he's still talking about TV or the girl watching it, - which seems intentional.
    it only took my little fingers to blow you away could be about a gun, but also it could be as simple as turning off a TV. Either way, he seems to be implying that the girl died, and was perhaps killed violently/sexually.

    Pretty twisted lyrics for a somewhat upbeat song...
    Chinupon December 14, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI have always thought that the wife was the one that shot her husband and his young mistress. She then is all alone and watches the detectives try to recover the bodies. Her husband can't be wounded because he's got no heart seems to be a bit of a joke as he is dead. The first stanza seems to be a discussion as to the young mistress(es) that are also dead. Great song.
    Motownon September 06, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAh Elvis, only he would write a piece of music that is a perfect musical film noir. Think about the great black and white detective movies, or even better, Chinatown and then put this song with it. Ambiguous heroes, dastardly women and no real moral losestone - good stuff.
    magpi1on January 19, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOK, to the genius who said that "dragging the lake" is innuendo: "Blanking the Blank" isn't always innuendo. Just because Elvis writes about it fairly often doesn't mean that if the meaning of the song doesn't jump out at you in the first five minutes of staring then it's safe to assume its about sexual frustration. Granted, nearly all of his songs have a sexual undertone, but sex isn't always the MAIN theme. And also, LOL at the person who said Elvis is describing himself getting hot and bothered in the line "red dogs under illegal legs." "Dogs" is 70's English slang for "shoes", and they're red. Presumably high-heeled. Their under her legs. They're shoes.
    I think this song is simply about Elvis watching a movie about a slightly underage female who runs away with a beau, when the detectives come and mistake the situation for a kidnapping. Elvis also seems to be getting a little hot and bothered during the movie, invoking a touch of sadism, another theme common to Elvis Costello's music.
    ever.inspiredon March 11, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Commentoh yeh, i forgot

    the wife is flashing back to when she spied on them at the motel. When she decided to do it, kill the girl. The flashing vacancy light, maybe imagining the girl taking her clothes off, imagining how her husband lies with her. Or perhaps, being an enterprising lady, she actually saw the whole thing. She's muttering to her self 'I don't know how much more of this i can take.'

    very good song. definately inspired by cop shows. The question is, is elvis watching a cop show and describing it? or is it like him telling a story of a jilted lover? one of his signature notes? the unique changes of perspective, it kind of goes in and out like a moebius. Its his story about a story within a story. ok i've gone too deep. i like it. great song.
    grimjackon September 16, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe last verse of this song is extremely good. I think it clearly depicts a stalker breaking into the home of his stalkee and murdering her. But the other verses seemingly don't give the impression that anything untoward may occur, they just depict a woman sitting watching a detective show. Very creepy but also very good
    god bless ozon March 24, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI have always (untill reading your far more co-herant and logical thoughts) believed this song to be about corrupt police officers beating up men who had hit prostitutes.

    Think 'La confidentual' Russle Crowes character.
    Comrade_Liaron April 03, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI feel it took a miracle to get you to stay...

    Obviously, begging and pleading for a woman to stay with him...

    ...but it only took my little finger to blow you a way.

    He later gave her a handjob and she had a fantastic orgasm.

    He's an emotional wreck but very skilled lover. This sort of stark personality contrast is quintessential Elvis Costello.
    Matty Dubson December 18, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhenever I used to listen to this song when I was about nine or ten, I always thought it was about a jealous wife or ex-wife killing her husband/ex-husband and his lover (kind of like the movie Shawshank Redemption, but instead of the husband doing the killing, the wife does it)and after she kills them she doesn't really care or feel bad because all of her troubles and jealousy are over and she can just sit back, relax, and watch the detectives investigating their murders.
    hottiewitabodyon November 09, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYeah, ok this is what i think of this song. I think its about a Detective who is looking out for prostitutes [she looks so good that he gets down and begs]. He then picks up a girl, and turns on her and shoots her [Though it nearly took a miracle to get you to stay, it only took my little fingers to blow you away]
    rabbitmisteron January 10, 2007   Link

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