Veronica

Album: Spike (1989)
Charted: 31 19
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Songfacts®:

  • This song tells the story of an old lady who lives in a nursing home. She lives a quiet and still existence as she gradually loses her memory. It was inspired by Costello's grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
  • Paul McCartney wrote this with Costello. The lyrics are reminiscent of McCartney's Beatles song "Eleanor Rigby."

    This was the first song to come from McCartney and Costello's co-writing relationship. Other songs the duo wrote include Costello's tracks "So Like Candy" and "Playboy to A Man," and McCartney's "My Brave Face" and "You Want Her Too."

    Hard to believe, but McCartney was getting a lot of bad press around this time, as he was still feuding with his former Beatles associates and refused to attend The Beatles 1988 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Costello said in a 1989 interview with On The Street: "I know some people have very bad preconceptions about Paul McCartney, but I'm involved to the extent that I've written a bunch of songs with him as well. I know he's a really good bass player, so I'm not too bothered about what anyone thinks about him playing on my record. I don't think it reflects at all on my perception of myself as a songwriter."
  • This was Costello's first big hit in the United States. Seems Elvis prefers niche adulation to widespread commercial success, which might account for his lack of chart success. This song, in particular, is one he struggled with. He explained to NME in 1996: "As soon as you make a record, particularly if it becomes a big success, it doesn't belong to you any more, it's that 'Wah Boo!' situation. A similar thing happened with 'Veronica' in America. I never liked it. And recently I did this show with Steve (Nieve, Attraction's keyboardist), and I changed the key and the whole song changed completely. Suddenly I didn't have to think about the record. It went back to why I wrote it, how I wrote it about my grandmother and it really meant something to me, and I kind of regained it. I'd got my song back from the evil success that it had had."
  • Elvis Costello recalled the story of the song in his 2015 memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink:

    "When I'd got the call to say Paul wanted me to write some songs with him for his next record, I didn't know what to expect, but as his last co-written hit had been with Michael Jackson, I wondered whether I should be taking some dancing lessons. I'd brought an early draft of 'Veronica' that you would have recognized, but we immediately got to work putting a better flow into the chorus and shifting the bridge into making that part of the song seem more like a dream."

Comments: 9

  • Karen from SydneyThis songs mean so so much to me. My grandmother’s name was Veronica, she was a strong wonderful woman who died very slowly deteriorating with Alzheimer’s. I play it often, feels like it was for her and am grateful to Elvis Costello for this gift
  • Debbie from Massachusetts I had a neat grandmother "Nana" whose name was Grace. She was a tiny thing with huge blue eyes. I had just gotten married in 1989 when this song came out and I loved it and couldn't wait to hear it on the radio and loved the name Veronica. My Nana died suddenly in 1990 and when I saw her obituary I was so surprised to see that her middle name was Veronica. A few months later I found out I was pregnant and we thought we were having a boy; in 1991 our daughter was born and we named her Veronica Grace after her great grandmother and because of this song.

    Veronica, 30, has become a nurse and she too resembles her great grandmother with huge blue eyes and being small in stature!

    After teaching for many years, I changed careers and now I'm a caretaker for folks with dementia! The song is so well written and accurately reflects this hidden and fascinating world! What a tribute!

    I apologize for the length of this post!
  • Paula Linner from San DiegoI love this song & listened 2 the Spike album when I was pregnant in 1989. I was so sure I was having a boy, that I already had boy names. When she came out, I had no idea what 2 do! I named her Veronica, after this song. She was born 10/25/89. She is 27, now! She used 2 dance around when her song came on!
  • Jason from Melbourne, Australiaim 21 and into bands like rage against the machine, afi, muse, king of leon, pre sets, blocparty. The first time i heard this song was about a year ago and i just love it, just dont tell my freinds.
  • Stacy from West Hartford, Ctthis is my fav of all his songs... I made up my own menaing for a while before I found out it was about his grandmother. I really like the line "Well, she used to have a carefree mind of her own and a delicate look in her eyes, these days I'm afraid she's not even sure if her name is Vernocia." I like to think of this line when I think of how the Army made me drink the Kool-aid and I have lost a little of my own free thinking mind.
  • Leanne from Sydney, AustraliaHeard an interview with Elvis Costello yesterday where he says the song IS about his grandmother who had alzheimers disease.
  • Craig from Rockville, MdI have heard that this song is rumored to be based on his Grandmother.
  • Dk from Miramar Beach, Flplease correct the typo in "songfacts" number one. as it is now the line reads "the lives a quiet and still existence..........."
    shouldn't that be "SHE lives a quiet and still existence......." ?
    thanks
  • Jason from New York, NyThis song depressed the living heck out of me when it came out. I was only 15 and certainly didn't need any help manufacturing angst. Two years before the first person in my life who even remotely resembled a girlfriend was named Veronica too, so that was most of the problem. I've since come to terms with the song and its almost-toxic melancholy in favor of the rather jaunty beat. I have no idea what happened to the Veronica I met but I'm sure she got a kick out of this song sharing her name.
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