Accidents Will Happen

"Accidents Will Happen"

Cover of U.K. sleeve (printed on the inside rather than outside as a reference to the song)
Single by Elvis Costello and the Attractions
from the album Armed Forces
B-side "Talking in the Dark" and "Wednesday Week"
Released 4 May 1979
Format 7" single
Recorded 1978
Genre New wave
Length 3:00
Label Radar
Writer(s) Elvis Costello
Producer(s) Nick Lowe
Elvis Costello and the Attractions singles chronology
"Oliver's Army"
"Accidents Will Happen"
"I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down"

"Accidents Will Happen" is a song written by Elvis Costello. It first appeared on the 1979 album Armed Forces, which he recorded with The Attractions. The song was written by Costello on tour in Phoenix and originally featured a piano-centered arrangement.

The song was a moderate hit in the UK when released as the second single from Armed Forces, reaching the Top 30. It was accompanied by an animated music video that has since received acclaim. The song has been praised by critics.


The origins of "Accidents Will Happen" dated back to 1978, when Elvis Costello wrote the song in Phoenix Arizona during a tour.[1] The earliest rendition was debuted at Hollywood High School on June 4th 1978, where Costello was accompanied only by Attractions member Steve Nieve on piano. In his memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, Costello wrote that the song is "about a straying lover struggling to tell the truth and face the consequences."[2]

"Accidents Will Happen" was released as the second single from the Armed Forces album. It reached number 28 on the UK Singles Chart in June 1979. In reference to the song title, the cover of the single was printed inside-out, and the run-out groove on side A reads "Porky Prime Cuts Will Happen" (referring to the trademark signature of cutting engineer George Peckham). The record had two B-sides; "Talking in the Dark" and "Wednesday Week".

The accompanying music video, by Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, was one of the 35 videos selected for the Museum of Modern Art's "Golden Oldies of Music Video" exhibition in 2003.[3]


In 2003, Matt LeMay of Pitchfork Media described the song in this way: "'Accidents Will Happen', one of the finest songs in his, or any, repertoire, matches a signature smirking double-entendre with an almost Baroque pop sensibility. Melodically and lyrically, the song is above reproach, as Costello sings of infidelity with what could either be construed as regret or smug satisfaction. It's also one of several songs on Armed Forces to benefit from the album's dense production."[4]

In 2004, Entertainment Weekly voted it as one of Costello's top 10 greatest tunes.[5]

In other media

In E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Elliott's brother, Michael, sings this song in the family kitchen after coming home from school.[6]

The song is played in The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XXVI segment, "Wanted: Dead, Then Alive", in which Sideshow Bob keeps killing Bart Simpson and bringing him back to life over and over again in a montage.[7]


  1. "Lies and Inventions". Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  2. Costello, Elvis. Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. Blue Rider Press. ISBN 978-0399167256.
  3. "Golden Oldies of Music Video". MoMA. 2003-05-01. Retrieved 2014-05-09.
  4. Matt LeMay (2 March 2003). "Elvis Costello & The Attractions: Armed Forces (Reissue)". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  5. Brian Hiatt (23 September 2004). "Pump It Up: Elvis Costello's 10 Greatest Tunes". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  6. "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Soundtrack". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  7. Dennis Perkins (25 October 2015). "Sideshow Bob finally triumphs in a gory, middling 'Treehouse Of Horror'". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 26 October 2015.

External links

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