Elvis Costello: You Hung the Moon (2010)

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Elvis Costello: You Hung the Moon (2010)

On his 2010 album National Ransom, Elvis Costello gave dates and places for where his songs were located.

In You Hung the Moon (a saying which means you were terrific/great/wonderful) he locates the song in "a drawing room in Pimlico, London, 1919".

That date puts it just after the end of World War I (1914-1918). 

It starts with Costello setting the scene at a sceance in which a family is trying to contact a soldier who has not come from the war.

But then in the last verse we have another voice speaking and through it we learn why the soldier has not returned.

You Hung the Moon, Elvis Costello
 

"The homecoming fanfare is echoing still
 Now tapping on tables and sensing a chill
 Poor families expecting a loved one's return 
Only son and some charlatan specter, oh, when will they learn?

[Chorus] "You hung the moon from a gallows in the sky.
 Choked out the light in his blue lunar eye.
 The shore is a parchment, the sea has no tide . . . since he was taken from my side

"The lines of the fallen are viewed through the glass.
 You cannot touch them at all
 or hear their footfall just as they go past
 the drunken ground is where they are bound

[Chorus] "You hung the moon from a gallows in the sky
 Choked out the light . . . 

and then the twist

"So slap out his terrors and sneer at his tears
. We deal with deserters like this.
 From the breech to the barrel, the bead we will level
. Break earth with a shovel, quick march on the double
. And lower him shallow like tallow down in the abyss.

[Chorus] You hung the moon from a gallows in the sky 
Choked out the light . . . 

"The homecoming fanfare is echoing still"

You Hung the Moon, Elvis Costello

Shifts of perspective and the intrusion of other voices or views can be unsettling, like the "poetic leap" in many American poems in the Sixties and Seventies which jolt the reader/listener out of one consciousness and into another.

Leon Russell's Sweet Mystery is another fine example. 

.

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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