Oh, I used to be disgusted
And now I try to be amused
But since their wings have got rusted
You know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
But when they told me 'bout their side of the bargain
That's when I knew that I could not refuse
And I won't get any older, now that angels wanna wear my red shoes

Oh, oh, I was watching while you're dancing away
Our love got fractured in the echo and sway
How come everybody wants to be your friend?
You know that it still hurts me just to say it

Oh, I know that she's disgusted (oh, why's that?)
Because she's feeling so abused (oh, that's too bad)
She gets tired of the lust (oh, I'm so sad)
But it's so hard to refuse
Can you say that I'm too old
When the angels have stolen my red shoes?

Oh, oh I said, "I'm so happy I could die"
She said, "Drop dead," then left with another guy
That's what you get if you go chasing after vengeance
Ever since you got me punctured, this has been my sentence

Oh, I used to be disgusted
But now I try to be amused
But since their wings have got rusted
You know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
But when they told me 'bout their side of the bargain
That's when I knew that I could not refuse
And I won't get any older, now that the angels wanna wear my red shoes

Oh, I won't get any older, now the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes


Lyrics submitted by Mopnugget

(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes Lyrics as written by Elvis Costello

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes song meanings
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18 Comments

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  • +5
    General Comment

    Great, great song. Combining a story line and great refrain with literary references, the lyrics of a jaded old man, while he was only, what 22 at the time?

    Like several other songs such as Mystery Dance and No Dancing on the first album, this one's about sex, lust and relationships. I hear a reference to H.C. Andersen's classic (and gruesome) fairy tale about the vain girl (in this case the storyteller) whose red dancing shoes, once she starts dancing, won't let her stop. The storyteller makes a deal with the angels, where they show him the secret of sex, and once he understands it, he can't stop. His girlfriend gets tired of his lust, feels disgusted and abused. Once the angels lose their own power "their wings have got rusted", they want the shoes back, resulting in the storyteller's quick aging and imminent death. While he declares his love "I'm so happy I could die" to the girl, she tells him to drop dead and dances on without him.

    Gadgetyon December 25, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I realize I’m a responding to a post here that’s pretty old, having said that: A previous poster had stated that ‘Red Shoes’ is “obviously” about suicide. That writer is on track but did not finish. The more literal line of this story is, starting after the ‘lead in’ refrain, is about a older man (“how can you say I’m too old..”) in blissfully ignorant to reality love (“I’m so happy I could die”) with a girl who is sleeping around (“everybody wants to be your friend (it hurts me just to say it)”, and, (the lust is) “hard to refuse”. She finally tells him to “drop dead”, but (stalker like logic) he looks to get vengeance, either on her, by his suicide, or, going after the guy she is with. In either case his gets wounded (“you got me punctured”) mortally (“my sentence”, “won’t get any older” and ‘wearing red shoes’). At first he is pissed off at his situation, then as he resigns to death, he finds cynical amusement in the situation he brought on himself (“I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused”).

    More broadly, the song is about giving your life to something or someone that does not appreciate the level of your sacrifice, and especially, about the visceral feelings when the truth is recognized. This is something that is usually not experienced while one is still young and idealistic, which maybe why Elvis is quoted as saying he finds it funny he wrote this at 22 years of age. I don’t think its funny…. it is flat out inspired. I think we are looking at the lyrical Van Gogh of our time. Under- understood and appreciated, he writes the poetry of the anti-fairy tale, vignettes of real life drama of the mundane or base human experience. His lyrics are a bit of a Rorschach test and allow for lots of visceral resonance. They are understood somatically even when they are not instinctually.

    RidgehandDadon June 09, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I think this is Costello's nod to his cynicism. He used to be disgusted by the world, but now he tries to make fun of it, to stay sane. Now all the angels, idealistic people, find that their idealistic wings failed them. They want his red shoes, his cynicism and realistic outlook.

    DrewKatsikason June 01, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    It seems that whenever Elvis talks about dancing it usually means sex (Mystery Dance, No Dancing), especially on his first album. And in the song The Angles Wanna Wear My (Red Shoes) there’s the lyric “I was watching while you were dancing away/ our love got fractured in the echo and sway/ How come everybody wants to be your friend?” Judging by that, I’d say he’s fallen in love with a big slut. And the lyric “She gets so tired of the lust/ but it’s so hard to refuse” I think just supports my theory that the woman is just a big hussy.

    Imposteron June 24, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    this song is OBV about suicide. "And I won't get any older, now the angels wanna wear my red shoes." this woman left him ("she said drop dead and left with another guy") and he doesn't want to live anymore because the angels that "want to wear his red shoes" have tempted him with death.

    lethologicalon June 11, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    THIS SOnG KICKS! ELVIS YOU ROCK MY WORLD!

    PunKRoCkEr-Grrrl!on July 04, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    This song is one of Elvis's best songs.

    mafiachuckon April 13, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Not entirely sure but the opening line is great if you frame it thinking of an ex that you still have feelings for that you then find out is dating someone you despise. You are at first disgusted but then you try and take it in stride. Also works for someone you're into who you find out is with someone you dislike.

    Cardiff Gianton May 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    the last word should be intellectually not instinctually-apologies Dad

    RidgehandDadon June 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Rorschach test, indeed. It would be great if Elvis would log in and tell us who, if any of us, is right. But isn't a truism of postmodernism that the audience, not the author, determines what narratives "really" mean, which means meanings are always plural and contentious?

    Well, I hadn't listened carefully to Red Shoes until recently (I'm not an original Elvis fan but recently got to see him live). Suicide had not occured to me, but after reading these posts, it now seems quite logical. However, my original impression was quite different.

    Angels stealing his shoes could refer to death. But the way he refers to angels suggested to me they signify something else. What does he mean their wings are rusted? What is the bargain they offer that he can't refuse?

    So, though Elvis may choke, here's what I hear. This song is about his (then) newfound fame, and groupies. The angels are girls, who used to spurn him (given his "nerd" persona, not impossible), which disgusted him. Now that he's famous, they throw themselves at him, an offer he "can't refuse" (there is no pronoun saying who can't refuse the lust), a change of situation about which he tries to stay amused. The stuff in the middle is a flashback of sorts, thinking about a girl (or girls) who hurt him in the past, and who, even now, are compelled to chase after famous or "cool" guys (e.g., groupies, who may feel "abused"). Basically, the song takes a pretty dim view of women, but now that Elvis is on the other side of the fence, as it were, he's pretty amused about it. Is this the vengeance he's wreaking -- sleeping with groupies? (By the way, in this interpretation, red shoes take on a specific meaning -- his fame. It would make sense that Elvis would be grappling with the house of mirrors qualities of fame at about this time.)

    Anyway, the most fascinating part is my interpretation can be just as coherent but completely different from someone else's. A testatment to the genius amgibuity w/which Elvis's lyrics are imbued. Personally, I feel my interpretation fits the upbeat melody a bit better.

    mouldheadon October 18, 2007   Link

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