I was hell-bent on destroying my powers of concentration
While you were living like a saint
And all the time the very one you trusted was washing off
Somebody else's paint

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

They're here to help you
Satisfy your desire
There's a bright future for all you professional liars

Now you know how to be dumb
Are you ready to take your place in the modern museum of mistakes?
Don't you know how to be dumb?
Like a building thrown up overnight in one of those reverse earthquakes

They emptied out all the asylums, they emptied out all the jails
The "new bruise" was the name of a dance craze
By "Jesus cross and the cruel nails"
Followed up by "torturing little beaver"
With their contraption of barbed wire
Between the fear and the fever lies all the rejection they require
They'll be howling by midnight, they'll be drooling by dawn
Skulls shrunk down to the size of their brains
Heads shaven and shorn


Trapped in the house of the perpetual sucker
Where bitterness always ends so pitifully
You always had to dress up your envy in some half-remembered

Now you're masquerading as pale powdered genius
Whose ever bad intention has been purged
You could've walked out any time you wanted but face it you
Didn't have the courage
I guess that makes you a full time hypocrite or some kind of
Twisted dilettante
Funny though people don't usually get so ugly 'til they think
They know what they want
Scratch your own head stupid
Count up to three
Roll over on your back
Repeat after me

Don't you know how to be dumb?
Are you ready to take your place in the modern museum of mistakes?
Don't you know how to be dumb?
Like a building thrown up overnight in one of those reverse earthquakes

Lyrics submitted by southboundpachyderm

How to Be Dumb Lyrics as written by Declan Macmanus

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Universal Music Publishing Group

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How to Be Dumb song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentThis is about Attractions bassist Bruce Thomas after he penned a thinly veiled tell-all about Elvis Costello and the Attractions called "The Big Wheel". Costello and Bruce Thomas remain estranged.
    JoeyJoeJoe70on June 21, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is a poison pen to Bruce Thomas, as most everyone knows by now.

    I actually read "The Big Wheel." It isn't what most people think it's going to be. "The Singer" is called neurotic, but otherwise it isn't terribly disparaging of Costello. It is closer to Kerouac's "On the Road," than a tell-all memoir. It mostly deals with the grind and craziness of touring with a sprinkling of funny anecdotes. (The Chuck Berry story is a killer.)

    Much later I heard Thomas in an interview say he wasn't fired because of the book, but he allowed people to think that to boost interest. I imagine it was just one of a number of conflicts the two of them had that led up to a parting. Costello has since been very complimentary of Thomas's playing--and rightly so. Some of those bass lines are as iconic as anything in pop music. I think they are on friendly terms now, but with no desire to work together again. The Imposter's bassist Davey Faragher is an excellent player, and can sing too.
    Atmanon November 02, 2020   Link

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