"Shipbuilding" as written by Elvis Costello and Clive William Langer....
Is it worth it?
A new winter coat and shoes for the wife
And a bicycle on the boy's birthday
It's just a rumor that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon we'll be shipbuilding...
Well I ask you
The boy said "Dad they're going to take me to task, but I'll be back by Christmas"
It's just a rumor that was spread around town
Somebody said that someone got filled in
For saying that people get killed in
The result of this shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
It's just a rumor that was spread around town
A telegram or a picture postcard
Within weeks they'll be re-opening the shipyards
And notifying the next of kin
Once again
It's all we're skilled in
We will be shipbuilding...

With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls.

Lyrics submitted by 3ssence

"Shipbuilding" as written by Clive William/macmanus Langer

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

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Shipbuilding song meanings
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  • +2
    My OpinionThis is better than the Wyatt version better than the Suede version. Simply stunning musically, lyrically and jazzy solo at the end blows your fucking socks off.

    Fuck Thatcher , declan i'll help tramp the dirt down
    Northern88on June 17, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think one other thing is this- they're building the ships to support themselves, but then their own sons are the one's going off to die. It's a lose-lose situation for the common man.
    TheSilverNobleon August 31, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNever looked at it that way foreverdrone - you could be right. And although I still prefer EC's version, I also love Robert Wyatt's.
    paul_fon June 23, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIncidentally - it's probably only fair to note that the music was written not by Elvis, but by Clive Langer ("Cliff Hanger" of Deaf School fame and acclaimed producer of Madness amongst others).
    paul_fon June 24, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is one of Elvis' truely great songs: Strangely direct, evocative, plaintive, beautifully executed, as a tender ballad to a spiritually primitive mankind.
    This is a lament about how the common man finds himself feeling locked into an economic system which renders him a cog in a war machine; complicit in state-sanctioned mass murder. The sadness lies in the dual nature of that person; feeling trapped, while at the same time sensing that the way out of the trap is as close as their own mind and hands--and it is.
    razajacon October 06, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWell said Razajac. I know it was written with specific reference to the Falklands war revitalising the industry in the North.
    Dazberton October 01, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThat's a really great analysis, thankd for that. While written for the Falklands war, it has so much resonance with other, more current conflicts that it's scary.
    You absolutely MUST hear Robert Wyatt's version of this song. It will haunt your dreams.
    Zubbyon June 17, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree Zubby. I love Costello's version but Wyatt's is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard.
    NewKillerStaron February 25, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSuede do a wonderful version too.
    NewKillerStaron February 25, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAs ever with him,a many layered song,with an air of universality to it.The Falklands yes,but also WW 1,where the troops would be home from France 'by Christmas',from a conflict partly engendered by the Dreadnaught shipbuilding race with Germany in the early 1900s.
    lunaspieon July 01, 2007   Link

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