Tramp The Dirt Down

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I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child's face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice coming down on that child's lips?

Well I hope I don't die too soon, I pray the Lord my soul to save
Yes, I'll be a good boy, I'm trying so hard to behave
Because there's one thing I know, I'd like to live long enough to savour
That's when they finally put you in the ground
I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

When England was the whore of the world, Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn't haunted by every tiny detail
When she held that lovely face in her hands all she thought of was betrayal

And now the cynical ones say that it all ends the same in the long run
Try telling that to the desperate father who just squeezed the life from his only son
And how it's only voices in your head and dreams you never dreamt
Try telling him the subtle difference between justice and contempt
Try telling me she isn't angry with this pitiful discontent
When they flaunt it in your face as you line up for punishment
And then expect you to say "Thank you", straighten up, look proud and pleased
Because you've only got the symptoms, you haven't got the whole disease
Just like a schoolboy, whose head's like a tin-can
Filled up with dreams then poured down the drain
Try telling that to the boys on both sides, being blown to bits or beaten and maimed
Who takes all the glory but none of the shame?

Well I hope you live long now, I pray the Lord your soul to keep
I think I'll be going before we fold our arms and start to weep
I never thought for a moment that human life could be so cheap
But when they finally put you in the ground
They'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down

Alternate lyrics

Alternate lyrics performed 1991-08-03, Thurles, Ireland:

When England was the whore of the world, Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as the black tarmacadam
And if she seemed bulletproof I put it down to black magic
Every day now we're invited to pity the tragic
Forlorn faded figure whose story's on sale
As she finally swallows the fine bitter flavour that she likes to think is betrayal
While I pity those who forgot and forgave
I believe she should be hounded down into her grave
Along with the glove puppet that they put in her place
The simpering chump with the whimpering face
And whose classless society we all might applaud
On the day he gets round to shutting down the House of Lords
And kicking the royal cuckoos out of the nest
And placing the Queen Mother under arrest

Tramp The Dirt Down
Written byDeclan MacManus
Performed byElvis Costello
Produced byElvis Costello, Kevin Killen & T Bone Burnett
MusiciansElvis Costello - vocal
Dónal Lunny - bouzouki, acoustic guitar
Steve Wickham - fiddle
Davy Spillane - low whistle, Uilleann pipes
Mitchell Froom - Indian harmonium
Jerry Scheff - double bass
Pete Thomas - drums
Michael Blair - tambourine, glockenspiel
Marc Ribot - distant sound
Recorded1988, Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin & Ocean Way, Los Angeles
ReleasedFebruary 6, 1989
AlbumsSpike, 1989
CollectionsExtreme Honey: The Very Best Of The Warner Bros. Years, 1997
The Very Best Of Elvis Costello, 1999
Various Artists collectionsRoots: 20 Years Of Essential Folk, Roots & World Music: Britain, Ireland And North America, 1999
PromosSpike Album Sampler, 1989
Malice And Magic, 1994 (Japan)

First known performance:
May 24, 1987, BP Fallon Orchestra radio show
Last known performance:
March 20, 2017, Sheffield, England
     (108 known performances)

Alternate versions

Tramp The Dirt Down (Demo)
Performed byElvis Costello
MusiciansElvis Costello - vocals, guitar, piano
RecordedMay 1987, Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin
ReleasedAugust 21, 2001
AlbumsSpike (Rhino reissue), 2001

see also: Betrayal

Spike1989 Spike Album.jpg

Extreme Honey: The Very Best Of The Warner Bros. YearsEH album cover 500.jpg

Roots album cover.jpg

The Very Best Of Elvis Costello, 1999The Very Best Of Elvis Costello (2CD) album cover.jpg


David Fisher unreleased studio recording 2013 YouTube
Erich Sellheim home studio production, sung in German 2019 YouTube
The Whacking Shillelaghs Sending The Loons To Hades 1999 AllMusicAmazon.ukYouTube

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