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
Are 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 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 rumour
Days of dutch courage
Just three French letters and a German sense of humour

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


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


Lyrics submitted by Mopnugget

Man Out of Time song meanings
Add Your Thoughts


sort form View by:
  • +5
    General Comment

    This 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
  • +5
    Song Meaning

    Straight 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
  • +3
    General Comment

    You drink yourself insensitive and hate yourself in the morning ...............................

    Awesome !

    ajhaanon October 13, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    How 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
  • +1
    General Comment

    I'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 Comment

    It has always struck me as about a British politician embroiled in a sex scandal.

    paul_fon May 14, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I 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 Comment

    It has always struck me as about a British politician embroiled in a sex scandal.

    paul_fon May 14, 2008   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
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
When We Were Young
This is a sequel to 2001's "Reckless Abandon", and features the band looking back on their clumsy youth fondly.
Album art
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
Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran tells a story of unsuccessfully trying to feel “Amazing.” This track is about the being weighed down by emotional stress despite valiant attempts to find some positivity in the situation. This track was written by Ed Sheeran from the perspective of his friend. From the track, we see this person fall deeper into the negative thoughts and slide further down the path of mental torment with every lyric.
Album art
Ed Sheeran
There aren’t many things that’ll hurt more than giving love a chance against your better judgement only to have your heart crushed yet again. Ed Sheeran tells such a story on “Page.” On this track, he is devastated to have lost his lover and even more saddened by the feeling that he may never move on from this.