"The Beat" as written by and Elvis Costello....
We're all going on a summer holiday
Vigilantes coming out to follow me
Heard somebody say they're out to collar me
Anybody want to swallow me?
It takes two to tumble, it takes two to tango
Speak up, don't mumble if you're in the combo
On the beat (on the beat), on the beat (on the beat)
Till a man comes along and he says
"Have you been a good boy, never played with your toy?
Though you never enjoy, such a pleasure to employ"
See your friends in the state they're in
See your friends getting under their skin
See your friends getting taken in

Well, if you only knew the things you do to me
I'd do anything to confuse the enemy
There's only one thing wrong with you befriending me
Take it easy, I think you're bending me
I've been a bad boy with the standard leader
My neighbor's revving up his Vauxhall Viva
On the beat (on the beat), on the upbeat (upbeat)
Till a man comes along and he says
"Have you been a good boy, never played with your toy?
Though you never enjoy, such a pleasure to employ"
See your friends walking down the street
See your friends never quite complete
See your friends getting under their feet

Oh, I don't want to disease you
But I'm no good with machinery
Oh, I don't want to freeze you
Stop looking at the scenery
I keep thinking about your mother
Oh, I don't want to lick them
I don't want to be a lover
I just want to be your victim
I don't go out much at night
I don't go out much at all
Did you think you were the only one
Who was waiting for a call?

On the beat (on the beat) on the beat (on the beat) on the upbeat (upbeat)
Till a man comes along and he says
"Have you been a good boy, never played with your toy?
Though you never enjoy, such a pleasure to employ"
See your friends treat me like a stranger
See your friends despite all the arrangements
See your friends, nothing here has changed
Just the beat (just the beat) just the beat (just the beat)
Just the beat (just the beat) just the beat


Lyrics submitted by planetearth

"The Beat" as written by Elvis Costello

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Beat song meanings
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9 Comments

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  • 0
    General CommentHonestly, I've always thought this was about masturbation. Actually, I still kind of do, although it has a roundabout way of hitting that topic.
    Zubbyon June 17, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCould be...masturbating but idly wishing for a relationship; "waiting for a call". Good point.
    DJacques75on July 19, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOne possible clue is that "Standard Leader" was a rank in the SS. In light of all his other references to fascism, it seems significant. If nothing else, I can't figure out another way to make that line make sense.

    Similarly:
    -- "Vigilantes...out to collar me"
    -- "On the beat"
    -- "Your friends," which strikes me as a reference to the vigilantes
    -- "Though you never enjoy, such a pleasure to employ," and you know, "swallow me"
    -- Most of the last verse

    This all strikes me as a conversation between an authority figure and some person that he is sexually abusing.
    svcon June 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentsounds to me like it's ec and his friend's interest in exploring gay sex

    "anybody want to swallow me?"

    "till a man comes along and says have you been a good boy.... see your friends getting taken in"

    "there's only one thing with you befriending me, take it easy I think you're beding me"

    "I don't want to disease you..."

    "I don't want to be a lover, I just want to be your victim"
    Myronbon September 17, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is definitely about a clergyman sexually abusing a child.
    Drewwon June 24, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThose are some interesting ideas. I thought the song is another sarcastic take on casual sexual relationships that the Attractions may have been experiencing as a touring rock band. I heard lines 3-4 as "Heard somebody say, 'I took all of my/ antibodies, want to swallow me?'" I inferred this to mean that someone previously had the clap, but has taken medication to cure it. This is basically telling the potential sexual partner that "I'm clear" and that she is not at risk to get the STD.
    kipmaton September 17, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAnother one of Costello's love-as-police-state songs (cf "Two Little Hitlers" off Armed Forces, which was originally called Emotional Fascism). Full of military puns (The masterful police/masturbation reference of the title, "victim", "vigilantes", "confuse the enemy", and the aforementioned "standard leader"). "never played with your toy" is another masturbation reference, and "Oh, I don't want to disease you, but I'm no good with machinery" is possibly about condoms? It's hard to tell.
    chairmanroflmaoon January 31, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSummer holiday or "Soma holiday?????" (Brave New World)
    moikon November 08, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment>>and "Oh, I don't want to disease you, but I'm no good with machinery" is possibly about condoms? It's hard to tell. <<

    Clearly about condoms - absolutely no doubt.

    A lot of his early songs, the ones from the first three albums, seem to be about a young man's reaction to getting started with sex, the amazement and the frustrations; the jealousies and the the insecurities. Now EC is 55 and I'm 50 and we're both past all that - but these songs still speak to me - I can so clearly recall those days!
    moikon November 08, 2009   Link

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