So this is where he came to hide
When he ran from you
In a private detective's overcoat
And dirty dead man's shoes

The pretty things of Knightsbridge
Lying for a minister of state
Is a far cry from the nod and wink
Here at traitor's gate

'Cause the high heel he used to be has been ground down
And he listens for the footsteps that would follow him around

To murder my love is a crime
But will you still love
A man out of time

There's a tuppeny hapenny millionaire
Looking for a fourpenny one
With a tight grip on the short hairs
Of the public imagination

But for his private wife and kids somehow
Real life becomes a rumor
Days of Dutch courage
Just three French letters and a German sense of humor

He's got a mind like a sewer and a heart like a fridge
He stands to be insulted and he pays for the privilege

To murder my love is a crime
But will you still love
A man out of time

The biggest wheels of industry
Retire sharp and short
And the after dinner overtures
Are nothing but an after thought
Somebody's creeping in the kitchen
There's a reputation to be made
Whose nerves are always on a knife's edge
Who's up late polishing the blade

Love is always scarpering or cowering or fawning
You drink yourself insensitive and hate yourself in the morning

To murder my love is a crime
But will you still love
A man out of time
Will you still love
A man out of time
Will you still love
A man out of time


Lyrics submitted by Mopnugget

"Man out of Time" as written by Elvis Costello

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Man Out of Time song meanings
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16 Comments

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  • +4
    General CommentThis is one of Elvis' most brilliant lyrics. That's saying a lot, he is an amazingly talented songwriter. The wordplay in this one still leaves me breathless, 25 or so years after it was released.
    "Whose nerves are always on a knife's edge
    Who's up late polishing the blade"
    There should be a medal awarded for that!
    This song seems to be a charecter study (like many of the songs on the essential masterpiece Imperial Bedroom) about a dried up shell of a man. He's dug his own grave for so long that there's nothing left to do but fall into it.
    Zubbyon June 17, 2006   Link
  • +4
    Song MeaningStraight from Elvis Costello in the liner notes of the 2002 Rhino reissue:

    "Disgusted, disenchanted, and occasionally in love, "Man Out of Time" was the product of a troubling dialogue with myself that continued through my more regretful moments. I recall looking at my reflection in the frozen window of a Scandinavian tour bus without any idea who the hell I was supposed to be. I was trying to think or feel my way out of a defeated and exhausted frame of mind to something more glorious.

    This was resolved in song, one shivering, hungover morning in the manicured gardens of a remote Scottish hotel. The house which we were staying had played a very minor part in one of Britain's most notorious political scandals, apparently serving briefly as a bolt-hole for one of the disgraced protagonists. I actually delighted at the thought of this sordid history; it suited my mood. I can't say that the words and ideas that emerged from these experiences were exactly welcome news to some of the band members. Like I could give a damn."

    ImperialBedroomon February 28, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentHow can people have not commented on this? I find that this song is so powerful, and is easily one of my favourite Costello songs. It's so relevant to me...
    Lukasaon June 18, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentYou drink yourself insensitive and hate yourself in the morning ...............................

    Awesome !
    ajhaanon October 13, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI'm with Zubby on this one.

    But I will add a bit more. He's also accusing another person; a "man-eater"? Elvis levels lots of acid accusations in his songs. It probably has a lot to do with why, tho talented beyond the regular super pop star, he remains a cult figure.

    But, in this regard, two images stick out: "So *this* is where he came to hide.": I'm your next fool, having run away to hide, just like your last poor sucker. I'm presuming the spiritual, psychological space I've run off to hide in is the same one your last beau had to run off to.

    Finally, the bridge also hints at recrimination of his ex-love interest for abusing him: "To murder my love is a crime." A person can murder another person's love, IF THEY LET THEM. The person singing this song let this other person murder his love. I think he accepts blame for his passive role, but still wants to state his case. He has run out of time. Can he still find someone to love him? Is there hope in the promise of true love?

    Lukasa said this song was *so* relevant to him/her. Really? My condolences. I hope you don't feel you're "out of time." This is a serious song, and, like Zubby said, this guy is pretty much ackowledging that he's botched it, perhaps terminally.
    razajacon January 29, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"he stands to be unsulted and he pays for the privilege"

    a per usual with EC this is a pun - it has at least two meanings - MP's have to pay a deposit to stand in an election / paying a prostitute for physical abuse
    William the conkeron March 16, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt has always struck me as about a British politician embroiled in a sex scandal.
    paul_fon May 14, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI heard that the chorus:-

    "To murder my love is crime
    But will you still love
    A man out of time"

    was in a love letter he wrote to Bebe Buell...
    uncomplicatedon May 27, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Dutch courage" = acting brave while intoxicated. "French letters" = condoms. "German sense of humour" = Apparently Germans aren't known for having one.
    skleggon September 14, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt has always struck me as about a British politician embroiled in a sex scandal.
    paul_fon May 14, 2008   Link

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