Photographs of fancy tricks to get your kicks at sixty-six
He thinks of all the lips that he licks
And all the girls that he's going to fix
She gave a little flirt, gave herself a little cuddle
But there's no place here for the mini-skirt waddle
Capital punishment, she's last year's model
They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie
I don't want to go to Chelsea

Oh, no, it does not move me
Even though I've seen the movie
I don't want to check your pulse
I don't want nobody else
I don't want to go to Chelsea

Everybody's got new orders
Be a nice girl and kiss the warders
Now the teacher is away
All the kids begin to play

Men come screaming, dressed in white coats
Shake you very gently by the throat
One's named Gus, one's named Alfie
I don't want to go to Chelsea

Oh, no, it does not move me
Even though I've seen the movie
I don't want to check your pulse
I don't want nobody else
I don't want to go to Chelsea

Photographs of fancy tricks to get your kicks at sixty-six
He thinks of all the lips that he licks
And all the girls that he's going to fix
She gave a little flirt, gave herself a little cuddle
But there's no place here for the mini-skirt waddle
Capital punishment, she's last year's model
They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie
I don't want to go to Chelsea

Oh, no, it does not move me
Even though I've seen the movie
I don't want to check your pulse
I don't want nobody else
I don't want to go to Chelsea


Lyrics submitted by Mopnugget

(I Don't Want to Go To) Chelsea Lyrics as written by Elvis Costello

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea song meanings
Add Your Thoughts

31 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +5
    General Comment

    I've always assumed this song was about the Chelsea Asylum, which was referred to simply as 'Chelsea'... The lyrics seem to make sense: warders, men in white coats, i don't want to go to Chelsea... also the reference to children and teachers - the military asylum housed war orphans...

    sjtindustrieson July 18, 2007   Link
  • +5
    General Comment

    I suppose this song refers to the Andy Warhol movie, "Chelsea Girls." The photographs, Warhol's polaroids, I've seen the movie, the models, the drugs, all the girls he's gonna "fix" meaning heroin. He doesn't want to be part of that type of scene event though he's "seen the movie." For all I know he visited with Warhol or else he was more using "Chelsea" as a metaphor of a drugged up, pop fashion scene.

    MalagaSlimon March 23, 2008   Link
  • +5
    General Comment

    I think a lot of people here have made the assumption that Elvis is referring to the Chelsea district of New York rather than the one in London. Of course, Elvis must have been aware of them both, so we can assume that he wrote the lyrics in such a multi-layered way that as many targets as possible could be assassinated in relatively few words.

    The pun 'capital' in capital punishment suggests the song is more about London as a capital city, as well as affluence as ThunderCow pointed out; Chelsea notably being a well-to-do area of West London.

    Whilst all the theories above (knowing EC's knack for lyrical intricacy) probably hit the nail on the head, it should also noted that the punk scene was centered around Chelsea (Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood's SEX boutique was situated on the King's Road) so that aspect shouldn't be ignored. Could Elvis be distancing himself from the punk bracket he found himself forced into with this tirade?

    tc149on August 12, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    I think that Elvis was involved with Bebe Buell (the model) at this time so was probably involved heavilyin the life she lived which would have been quite alien to him at that time. He probably considered it a mad lifestyle. Chelsea is associated with high end fashion so this ties in with the modelling ( the album this is from is called 'this years model') but chelsea has also historically been linked with asylums - I believe bedlam was situated there in 18th & 19th century. It seems to me that he is trying to link madness and modelling/fashion ( see Bruno- the movie!!)

    redmeloneateron July 22, 2009   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    Costello's clearly a genius and one of the most gifted lyricists of all of pop and rock. The first three records blazed a trail in three intense years '77, '78 and 79 that in my opinion has never been equalled by any other artist in terms of intensity.

    To me 'Chelsea is two stories in one. One is about the decadent lifestyle of the typical London, Chelsea rich upper class population, as lived by the likes of Max Mosley, witnessed thirty years later. Older men with younger girls, turning "fancy tricks." Girls who do not matter as individuals "you call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie" and this clearly is a life that repels the storyteller, as it's emotionally dead and degrading. In parallel there's the story about ending up at the Chelsea asylum and it's similarily repelling. The comparison between the rich, emotionally dead Chelsea life style and asylum life metaphorically connects the two worlds.

    Gadgetyon December 25, 2010   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    I can't believe nobody else noticed that the line "They call her Natasha but she looks like Elsie" is a reference to the number "Cabaret" from the musical of the same name, sung by the character Sally Bowles. Here are the pertinent lines:

    "I used to have this girlfriend known as Elsie With whom I shared four sordid rooms in Chelsea

    She wasn't what you'd call a blushing flower As a matter of fact she rented by the hour

    The day she died the neighbors came to snicker 'Well, that's what comes from too much pills and liquor'

    But when I saw her laid out like a Queen She was the happiest corpse, I'd ever seen"

    Musical clip:

    youtu.be/nx3F3YfsWHA

    Spunthon February 03, 2018   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    This song is pretty clearly Elvis' slap in the face to the art/fashion/modeling scene:

    Fancy tricks = models, last year's model = last season's "it girl", chelsea hotel reference = slap at the famous and fabulous exemplified by Warhol's gang, etc.

    The line that gets misunderstood, I think, is "they call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie." Elsie is a typical rural, girl-next-door, wholesome beauty's name (think the publican's daughter) -- the American equivalent might be Becky Sue (or Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island). So the rural natural beauty can't cut it in the fashion world, which has to make her into an "exotic" manufactured product -- "Natasha" -- to make its money.

    ditkoquestionon December 28, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    this song has such a great beat.

    brain.damageon May 22, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Yeah, It's definitely my favourite Elvis Costello song. I can only really understand small bits of the lyrics, but it's a brilliant song all the same. The drumming's amazing, particularly at the start.

    badroboton September 21, 2004   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning

    In part I think there's an element of the women (fashion models, or prostitutes, or?) being quickly discarded as 'yesterday's'. The lyrics "she's last year's model / They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie" I think refer to Elsie the cow, the symbol for Borden milk, which is or was the biggest milk brand in the US--in other words, Natasha is so last-year, she looks like a cow (too fat).

    Could it be that the men in white coats are at an institution dealing with eating disorders (reportedly common in fashion models) on an in-patient basis? Be anexoric or be discarded like Natasha! But don't let anyone SEE your disorder (finger down your throat privately, please).

    Could the he, at sixty-six, be a photographer (like EC on the cover) or a fashion designer? Is EC saying such men use models like prostitutes?

    NAwlinsContrarianon May 17, 2009   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

More Featured Meanings

Album art
Son Şansın - Şarkı Sözleri
Hayalperest
This song seemingly tackles the methods of deception those who manipulate others use to get victims to follow their demands, as well as diverting attention away from important issues. They'll also use it as a means to convince people to hate or kill others by pretending acts of terrorism were committed by the enemy when the acts themselves were done by the masters of control to promote discrimination and hate. It also reinforces the idea that these manipulative forces operate in various locations, infiltrating everyday life without detection, and propagate any and everywhere. In general, it highlights the danger of hidden agendas, manipulation, and distraction, serving as a critique of those who exploit chaos and confusion to control and gain power, depicting a cautionary tale against falling into their traps. It encourages us to question the narratives presented to us and remain vigilant against manipulation in various parts of society.
Album art
Holiday
Bee Gees
@[Diderik:33655] "Your a holiday!" Was a popular term used in the 50s/60s to compliment someone on their all around. For example, not only are they beautiful, but they are fun and kind too ... just an all around "holiday". I think your first comment is closer to being accurate. The singer/song writers state "Millions of eyes can see, yet why am i so blind!? When the someone else is me, its unkind its unkind". I believe hes referring to the girl toying with him and using him. He wants something deeper with her, thats why he allows himself to be as a puppet (even though for her fun and games) as long as it makes her happy. But he knows deep down that she doesnt really want to be serious with him and thats what makes him.
Album art
Mountain Song
Jane's Addiction
Jane's Addiction vocalist Perry Farrell gives Adam Reader some heartfelt insight into Jane’s Addiction's hard rock manifesto "Mountain Song", which was the second single from their revolutionary album Nothing's Shocking. Mountain song was first recorded in 1986 and appeared on the soundtrack to the film Dudes starring Jon Cryer. The version on Nothing's Shocking was re-recorded in 1988. "'Mountain Song' was actually about... I hate to say it but... drugs. Climbing this mountain and getting as high as you can, and then coming down that mountain," reveals Farrell. "What it feels to descend from the mountain top... not easy at all. The ascension is tough but exhilarating. Getting down is... it's a real bummer. Drugs is not for everybody obviously. For me, I wanted to experience the heights, and the lows come along with it." "There's a part - 'Cash in now honey, cash in Miss Smith.' Miss Smith is my Mother; our last name was Smith. Cashing in when she cashed in her life. So... she decided that, to her... at that time, she was desperate. Life wasn't worth it for her, that was her opinion. Some people think, never take your life, and some people find that their life isn't worth living. She was in love with my Dad, and my Dad was not faithful to her, and it broke her heart. She was very desperate and she did something that I know she regrets."
Album art
Blue
Ed Sheeran
“Blue” is a song about a love that is persisting in the discomfort of the person experiencing the emotion. Ed Sheeran reflects on love lost, and although he wishes his former partner find happiness, he cannot but admit his feelings are still very much there. He expresses the realization that he might never find another on this stringed instrumental by Aaron Dessner.
Album art
Plastic Bag
Ed Sheeran
“Plastic Bag” is a song about searching for an escape from personal problems and hoping to find it in the lively atmosphere of a Saturday night party. Ed Sheeran tells the story of his friend and the myriad of troubles he is going through. Unable to find any solutions, this friend seeks a last resort in a party and the vanity that comes with it. “I overthink and have trouble sleepin’ / All purpose gone and don’t have a reason / And there’s no doctor to stop this bleedin’ / So I left home and jumped in the deep end,” Ed Sheeran sings in verse one. He continues by adding that this person is feeling the weight of having disappointed his father and doesn’t have any friends to rely on in this difficult moment. In the second verse, Ed sings about the role of grief in his friend’s plight and his dwindling faith in prayer. “Saturday night is givin’ me a reason to rely on the strobe lights / The lifeline of a promise in a shot glass, and I’ll take that / If you’re givin’ out love from a plastic bag,” Ed sings on the chorus, as his friend turns to new vices in hopes of feeling better.