Girls Talk

Album: Repeat When Necessary (1979)
Charted: 4 65
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Songfacts®:

  • This song was written by Elvis Costello but first recorded and released by Dave Edmunds, whose version was a big hit in the UK, charting at #4. Costello and Edmunds were in the same circle of friends that were making making music in West London. Among their cohorts was Nick Lowe, who was in a band with Edmunds called Rockpile and was also producing Costello's album Get Happy!!.

    In our interview with Edmunds, he told the story: "Elvis came to the studio one day, and he said, 'I've got a song for you.' And he gave me a cassette. Now, it wasn't very good - it was just him on a guitar, and he was rushing through it at a furious pace. At first I couldn't see it.

    And also there was some lines needed, because the verses weren't symmetrical. He had a verse with four lines in and then a verse with three lines in, so Nick and I made up some lyrics and popped them in. Then I threw the whole thing right down, got a groove going on it, and put the record together with some acoustic guitar punctuation like Don Everly used to do on the Everly Brothers early records. The record came together and I was quite proud of that."
  • Changing an Elvis Costello lyric is a bit like adding some brushstrokes to a Monet, and apparently Costello wasn't thrilled when Edmunds and Lowe added a line to this song. The added line comes in the second verse, where after "I got a loaded imagination being fired by girls talk," Edmunds sings: "It's a more or less situation inspired by girls talk."

    This gives the song an equal number of lines in each verse, but it wasn't what Costello had in mind, and it's certainly not a line he would write. When Costello released his own version in 1980 on his compilation album Taking Liberties, it was with his original lyric, complete with unbalanced verses.

    "I'm not sure Elvis liked it," Edmunds told us regarding his version. "He's quite an intense person and he's quick to point out things that he doesn't like. [Laughs] I remember playing it to him on the tour bus in America, and he didn't say much. It sounded great to me, and it got him a Top 5 record, so I'm sure he's not that upset about it, but I would have been delighted if someone had done a turnaround on a song I'd quickly jotted out and came up with a hit single."
  • Elvis Costello ascribes to that whole "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" thing, so we're not likely to get a breakdown of this song from him. The song could be about gossip, or possibly about a particular person. It's also possible that the song is entirely culled from his loaded imagination.
  • Linda Ronstadt recorded a popular version of this song that was released on her 1980 album Mad Love. Ronstadt was drawn to the first lines:

    There are some things you can't cover up with lipstick and powder
    I thought I heard you mention my name, can't you talk any louder?


    She explained that there were times when she would walk into a ladies' room or some other random place, and hear people talking about her.
  • In 1980, Edmunds released a completely different song called "Boys Talk" as the B-side of his "Singing The Blues" single. Written by Edmunds and his Rockpile bandmates, "Boys Talk" is a rundown of girls' names that have shown up in famous rock songs - Layla, Long Tall Sally and Maybellene among them. There's also nod to Elvis Costello when he mentions Alison.

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