"Hey Clockface/How Can You Face Me?" is a gypsy jazz-influenced tune, which finds Elvis Costello taking on time itself. "This is a song about picking an argument with time, the very clock face, either running too fast or too slow, depending on the company you keep," explained the singer.
The song came out of a productive weekend session in Paris' Les Studios Saint Germain. Working with producer Francois Delabriere, Costello recorded nine songs in two days. He sang live on the studio floor, directing his band from the vocal booth.
Costello's backing band included his longtime keyboardist Steve Nieve, as well as a horn player, a cellist, a reed player and a drummer/percussionist. "We spoke very little," the singer recalled. "Almost everything the musicians played was a spontaneous response to the song I was singing. I'd had a dream of recording in Paris like this, one day."
Elvis Costello's father, Ross MacManus, sang with the Joe Loss Orchestra. This jazzy tune reflects that style.
"My dad came out of the big bands," Costello told Billboard, "and once in a while I write songs that reference those songs."
Said Costello regarding the song's meaning: "'Hey Clockface' is me shouting at the clock, because it's weighing on us all; when you're with the one you love, time seems to speed up."