Spike (Elvis Costello album)

Studio album by Elvis Costello
Released 6 February 1989 (February 7, 1989 U.S.)[1]
Recorded 1987–1988
Genre Singer-songwriter, baroque pop[2]
Length 63:50
Label Warner Bros.
Rhino (11 August 2001 Reissue)
Producer Elvis Costello, Kevin Killen & T-Bone Burnett
Elvis Costello chronology
Out of Our Idiot
Mighty Like a Rose
Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[5]
Entertainment WeeklyC+[6]
Los Angeles Times[7]
Rolling Stone[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[11]
The Village VoiceB[12]

Spike is the 12th studio album by the British rock singer and songwriter Elvis Costello, released on compact disc as Warner Brothers 25848. It was his first album for the label. It peaked at No. 5 on the UK album chart. It also reached No. 32 on the Billboard 200 thanks to the single and his most notable American hit, "Veronica," which reached No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No.1 on the US Modern Rock chart.


In 1987, Costello began writing with Paul McCartney for the latter's Flowers in the Dirt album. They composed a dozen songs together, which showed up on multiple albums by McCartney and Costello.[13]:3 Two of those songs appear on this album, "Pads, Paws and Claws" and the hit single " Veronica".

As his first album for a new label, in his own words Costello had the budget of "a small independent movie," and having in mind the blueprint for five different albums, decided to make all of them.[13]:4 He brought back his foil from King of America, T-Bone Burnett, to facilitate the sessions and produce the album. Studio time was booked in four different locations: Ocean Way in Hollywood; Southland Studios in New Orleans; Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin; and AIR Studios in London.[13]:25 Four different groups of musicians were assembled in each location. Writing credits on the album are given to both Declan MacManus and Elvis Costello.

The single "Veronica" peaked at No. 31 on the UK singles chart and at No. 19 in America, his best showing ever on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached No.1 on the US Modern Rock chart. "This Town" was also released as a single but missed both of the main singles chart in both nations. An extended play single was also released for "Baby Plays Around," peaking at No. 65 in the UK.

The second track, "Let Him Dangle", is a protest song opposing capital punishment, recounting the conviction and execution of Derek Bentley.

The seventh track, "Tramp the Dirt Down," is a fiery lament, depicting Costello's anger at the Thatcher government and its effect on Britain's society. In the song, Costello expresses his desire to live long enough to see Margaret Thatcher die and vows, "I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down." "I wish I'd written 'Tramp the Dirt Down'," said singer Natalie Merchant.[14] The song reached No. 79 on the iTunes chart following Thatcher's death in April 2013.[15] In addition, he played this song at Glastonbury 2013 having previously performed it there on the Pyramid Stage in 1987.

Lyrics are given in the booklet for the eighth track, "Stalin Malone," but the album recording is an instrumental and does not include vocals. A version with a recitation of the lyrics as poetry appears on the 2001 bonus disc.

Release history

The album was released initially on compact disc in 1989. As part of the Rhino Records reissue campaign for Costello's back catalogue from Demon/Columbia and Warners, it was re-released in 2001 with 17 additional tracks on a bonus disc. The bonus disc included three tracks with Nick Lowe on bass and Attractions drummer Pete Thomas for use as b-sides, recorded at Wessex Sound Studios after the Spike mixing sessions.[13]:7

Track listing

All songs written by Elvis Costello, except where noted; track timings taken from Rhino 2001 reissue.

  1. "...This Town..." – 4:32
  2. "Let Him Dangle" – 4:45
  3. "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror" – 4:07
  4. "Veronica" (Costello, Paul McCartney) – 3:09
  5. "God's Comic" – 5:31
  6. "Chewing Gum" – 3:47
  7. "Tramp the Dirt Down" – 5:41
  8. "Stalin Malone" – 4:09
  9. "Satellite" – 5:45
  10. "Pads, Paws and Claws" (Costello, McCartney) – 2:56
  11. "Baby Plays Around" (Costello, Cait O'Riordan) – 2:47
  12. "Miss Macbeth" – 4:23
  13. "Any King's Shilling" – 6:07
  14. "Coal-Train Robberies" – 3:18
  15. "Last Boat Leaving" – 3:31

2001 bonus disc

Tracks 1–12 are solo demo recordings.

  1. "Miss Macbeth" – 3:51
  2. "...This Town..." – 3:50
  3. "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror" – 4:07
  4. "Coal Train Robberies" – 2:52
  5. "Satellite" – 4:50
  6. "Pads, Paws and Claws" (Costello, McCartney) – 2:08
  7. "Let Him Dangle" – 3:39
  8. "Veronica" (Costello, McCartney) – 3:03 b-side to "So Like Candy"
  9. "Tramp the Dirt Down" – 5:19
  10. "Baby Plays Around" (Costello, O'Riordan) – 2:42
  11. "Put Your Big Toe in the Milk of Human Kindness" – 3:17
  12. "Last Boat Leaving" – 3:29
  13. "The Ugly Things" (Nick Lowe) – 2:56 b-side to "The Other Side of Summer"
  14. "You're No Good" (Clint Ballard, Jr.) – 2:22 b-side to "Veronica"
  15. "Point of No Return" (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) – 2:34 b-side to "Baby Plays Around"
  16. "The Room Nobody Lives In" (John Sebastian) – 4:46 b-side to twelve-inch and CD single of "Veronica"
  17. "Stalin Malone" – 3:12 version with recitation



New Orleans




Year Single Chart Position
1989 "Veronica" Billboard Hot 100[16] 19
Billboard Alternative Songs[17] 1
UK Singles Chart[18] 31
Australian Singles Chart[19] 27


Weekly charts

Chart (1989) Position
Australian Albums Chart[20] 26
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[21] 19
Japanese Albums Chart[22] 61
New Zealand Albums Chart[23] 34
Swedish Albums Chart[24] 13
UK Albums Chart[25] 5
United States Billboard 200[26] 32

Year-end charts

Chart (1989) Position
U.S. Billboard 200 82


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[27] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[28] Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. RIAA.com
  2. John Floyd (11 July 1996). "Still The King". Miami New Times. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  3. Ruhlmann, William. "Spike – Elvis Costello". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  4. Wolk, Douglas (March 2005). "Elvis Costello: Spike". Blender. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  5. Kot, Greg (2 June 1991). "The Sounds Of Elvis, From San Francisco And Beyond". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  6. White, Armond (10 May 1991). "Elvis Costello's albums". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  7. Cromelin, Richard (5 February 1989). "Costello Opens Floodgates in 'Spike'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  8. Staunton, Terry (11 February 1989). "Puncture the clock". NME.
  9. Cooper, Mark (March 1989). "Scathing". Q (30).
  10. Wild, David (9 March 1989). "Spike". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  11. Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Elvis Costello". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside Books. pp. 193–95. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  12. Christgau, Robert (25 April 1989). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Costello, Elvis. Spike. Rhino Records 8122 72486 2, 2001, liner notes.
  14. 'Q Questionnaire': Q, January 1994, p154
  15. Sherwin, Adam (10 April 2013). "'Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead' closer to number one spot as it reaches top five following Margaret Thatcher's death". The Independent. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  16. "Elvis Costello – Billboard – The Hot 100". Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  17. "Elvis Costello – Billboard – Alternative Songs". Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  18. "Elvis Costello – UK Singles – Official Charts". Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  19. "Elvis Costello - Veronica - australian-charts.com". Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  20. Steffen Hung. "Elvis Costello – Spike". australian-charts.com. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  21. "dutchcharts.nl Elvis Costello – Spike" (ASP). dutchcharts.nl (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  22. Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  23. "charts.org.nz – Elvis Costello – Spike" (ASP). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  24. "swedishcharts.com Elvis Costello – Spike" (ASP) (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  25. "Elvis Costello – Spike". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  26. Allmusic – Elvis Costello > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums
  27. "British album certifications – Elvis Costello – Spike". British Phonographic Industry. Enter Spike in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
  28. "American album certifications – Elvis Costello – Spike". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
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