Imperial Bedroom

Imperial Bedroom is the sixth album by Elvis Costello and the Attractions, released in 1982. It was the second Costello album, after Almost Blue, not produced by Nick Lowe: production was instead by Geoff Emerick, who was well known for his engineering work with Beatles . "I wanted to try a few things in the studio that I suspected would quickly exhaust Nick's patience," Costello wrote in the liner notes to the 1994 Rykodisc reissue.[1]

Imperial Bedroom
Elvis Costello & the Attractions-Imperial Bedroom (album cover).jpg
Studio album by
Released2 July 1982
RecordedNovember 1981
StudioAIR Recording Studios, London
GenreNew wave, baroque pop, post-punk
LabelF-Beat (UK)
Columbia (US)
Rykodisc (30 August 1994 Reissue)
Rhino (19 November 2002 Reissue)
Hip-O (1 May 2007 Reissue)
ProducerGeoff Emerick "from an original idea by Elvis Costello"
Elvis Costello & the Attractions chronology
Almost Blue
Imperial Bedroom
Punch the Clock
Singles from Imperial Bedroom
  1. "You Little Fool"
    Released: 18 June 1982
  2. "Man Out of Time"
    Released: 30 July 1982

It was voted the best album of the year in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.[2] In 1998 readers of Q magazine named it the 96th greatest album ever. In 1989, it was ranked No. 38 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 100 Greatest Albums of the 80s. In 2003, the album was ranked number 166 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[3] maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list.[4] It was voted number 321 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[5] In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at No. 59 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".[6] The album reached number 6 in the UK charts and number 30 in the USA but the singles were less successful. "You Little Fool" and "Man Out of Time" each briefly appeared in the UK Singles Chart, but neither charted in the USA.


The songwriting and arrangements were done during the twelve-week recording session at AIR Studios. It was recorded at the same time as Paul McCartney's Tug of War, on which Emerick simultaneously served as recording engineer. Other working titles were "Revolution of the Mind", "Music To Stop Clocks" and "PS I Love You".

Unlike the previous two albums, there was no intent to have the songs in any particular arrangement or production style. Instead, they covered a variety of styles and included songs that were written at the end of the Trust (1981) sessions, through Costello's production of Squeeze's East Side Story, and during the "Nashville adventure"[1] of Almost Blue.

Imperial Bedroom continued a direction, starting with Trust, where Costello used a piano to compose songs, which was different from the writing approach he used on his first four albums.[1] Initial versions of the songs sounded very much like Trust, but none of these recordings survived to the final album, except the intro and coda of "Man Out of Time". Instead, the band experimented with different instrumental choices, including a 40-piece orchestra for ".....And in Every Home". Costello also attempted to vary his vocal performances, such as the contrasting vocal tracks in "Pidgin English". Many of these studio embellishments had to be stripped when the songs were played live in concert.

Despite some of the lyrical content, Costello had imagined this to be his most optimistic album to date.[1]

The album inspired the title of Bret Easton Ellis' Imperial Bedrooms, a sequel to Ellis' earlier novel Less Than Zero, the title of which was taken from Costello's debut single.


The name of the album appears on the sleeve as IbMePdErRoIoAmL. The cover painting, titled "Snakecharmer & Reclining Octopus"[7] by Barney Bubbles (but credited to "Sal Forlenza") is a pastiche of "Three Musicians" by Pablo Picasso, and letters on the zipper-like creatures in the upper right spell "PABLO SI".[1]

This was the first Elvis Costello album to include a transcript of the lyrics. They were printed on the inner sleeve in all capitals with no punctuation. The UK release varied this presentation of the lyrics, such that on one side of the inner sleeve there was a circular cut, which made one side of the LP's centre label visible. The lyrics, printed on that side of the inner sleeve, continued straight across that side of the LP's centre label.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [8]
Blender     [9]
Chicago Tribune    [10]
Entertainment WeeklyA+[11]
Mojo     [12]
Q     [13]
Rolling Stone     [14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [15]
Uncut     [16]
The Village VoiceB+[17]

Imperial Bedroom was ranked among the top ten "Albums of the Year" for 1982 by NME, with "Man Out of Time" ranked among the year's top ten tracks.[18]

Robert Palmer of The New York Times also hailed it as one of the year's best, writing that "the music is a sumptuous melange of pop styles, from Beatles-baroque to Phil Spector Wall-of-Sound to torch-song intimacy. The lyrics find room for heartfelt sentiments as well as dizzying word play. Mr. Costello revealed earlier this year that his favorite singer is Chet Baker, and his vocals have taken on something of Mr. Baker's worldly melancholy, utterly innocent of self-pity. Anyone who doubts that Mr. Costello is the finest songwriter churned up by rock's new wave should start here."[19]

Parke Puterbaugh of Rolling Stone felt that Costello had written "his masterpiece" after spending some years trying out various approaches on previous albums.[14] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice praised Costello's songwriting and felt that certain songs "are as great as songwriting ever gets," but he criticized the album for concentrating too much on technique, arguing that the result made the emotions seem literate rather than heartfelt and the finished work "pretentious."[17]

LP track listingEdit

All songs written by Elvis Costello unless otherwise indicated.

Side one

  1. "Beyond Belief" – 2:34
  2. "Tears Before Bedtime" – 3:02
  3. "Shabby Doll" – 4:48
  4. "The Long Honeymoon" – 4:15
  5. "Man Out of Time" – 5:26
  6. "Almost Blue" – 2:50
  7. "...And in Every Home" – 3:23

Side two

  1. "The Loved Ones" – 2:48
  2. "Human Hands" – 2:43
  3. "Kid About It" – 2:45
  4. "Little Savage" – 2:37
  5. "Boy with a Problem" (music: Costello; lyrics: Chris Difford; additional lyrics: Costello) – 2:12
  6. "Pidgin English" – 3:58
  7. "You Little Fool" – 3:11
  8. "Town Cryer" – 4:16

Bonus tracks (1994 Rykodisc CD)

  1. "From Head to Toe" (Smokey Robinson) – 2:34 produced by Elvis Costello
  2. "The World of Broken Hearts" (Mort Shuman, Doc Pomus) – 3:01 produced by Elvis Costello
  3. "Night Time" (Patrick Chambers) – 2:52 produced by Elvis Costello
  4. "Really Mystified" (Tony Crane, John Gustafson) – 2:03 produced by Elvis Costello
  5. "I Turn Around" (Demo) – 2:09 produced by Elvis Costello
  6. "Seconds of Pleasure" (Version 2 of The Invisible Man) – 3:43 produced by Elvis Costello
  7. "The Stamping Ground" (Demo) – 3:09 produced by Elvis Costello
  8. "Shabby Doll" (Early version) – 4:18 produced by Elvis Costello
  9. "Imperial Bedroom" (Demo) – 2:47 produced by Elvis Costello

Bonus disc (2002 Rhino)

  1. "The Land of Give and Take" (Early version of "Beyond Belief") – 3:05
  2. "Tears Before Bedtime" (Alternate version) – 3:03
  3. "Man Out of Time" (Alternate version) – 3:43
  4. "Human Hands" (Early version) – 2:44
  5. "Kid About It" (Alternate version) – 3:18
  6. "Little Savage" (Alternate version) – 3:07
  7. "You Little Fool" (Alternate version) – 2:59
  8. "Town Cryer" (Fast version) – 2:15
  9. "Little Goody Two Shoes" (Alternate version of "Inch by Inch") – 3:10
  10. "The Town Where Time Stood Still" (Alternate version) – 2:57
  11. "...And in Every Home" (Rehearsal) – 3:12
  12. "I Turn Around" – 2:09
  13. "From Head to Toe" (Robinson) – 2:34
  14. "The World of Broken Hearts" (Shuman, Pomus) – 3:01
  15. "Night Time" (Chambers) – 2:52
  16. "Really Mystified" (Crane, Gustafson) – 2:03
  17. "The Stamping Ground" – 3:09
  18. "Shabby Doll" (Demo version) – 4:18
  19. "Man Out of Time" (Demo version) – 3:27
  20. "You Little Fool" (Demo version) – 3:11
  21. "Town Cryer" (Demo version) – 3:03
  22. "Seconds of Pleasure" (Demo version) – 3:19
  23. "Imperial Bedroom" – 2:47

Note: The Rykodisc version has the original tracks and bonus tracks on one CD. The Rhino version has two CDs with the original tracks on the first CD.




Year Chart Position
1982 Billboard Pop Albums 30
1982 UK Albums Chart 6[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e Imperial Bedroom (Inset). Elvis Costello and the Attractions. USA: Rykodisc. 1994.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  2. ^ "The 1982 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. 22 February 1983. Archived from the original on 10 August 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  3. ^ "(166) Imperial Bedroom". Rolling Stone. 1 November 2003. Archived from the original on 28 February 2010. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  4. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Archived from the original on 13 April 2019. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  5. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2006). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 131. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  6. ^ [1] Archived 14 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Inglis, Paul. "Biography". The Elvis Costello Home Page. Archived from the original on 28 May 2007. Retrieved 3 June 2007.
  8. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Imperial Bedroom – Elvis Costello / Elvis Costello & the Attractions". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 21 September 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  9. ^ Wolk, Douglas (March 2005). "Elvis Costello: Imperial Bedroom". Blender. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  10. ^ Kot, Greg (2 June 1991). "The Sounds Of Elvis, From San Francisco And Beyond". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  11. ^ White, Armond (10 May 1991). "Elvis Costello's albums". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 21 October 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  12. ^ Doyle, Tom (November 2018). "Band Substance". Mojo (300): 59.
  13. ^ "Elvis Costello & the Attractions: Imperial Bedroom". Q (98): 136. November 1994.
  14. ^ a b Puterbaugh, Parker (5 August 1982). "Imperial Bedroom". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 15 November 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  15. ^ "Elvis Costello: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  16. ^ Hasted, Nick (January 2003). "Snide effects". Uncut (68): 138.
  17. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (5 October 1982). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Archived from the original on 15 October 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  18. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year". NME. 2016. Archived from the original on 28 October 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  19. ^ Palmer, Robert (22 December 1982). "The Pop Life". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  20. ^ "Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello & the Attractions". UK Albums Chart. Archived from the original on 14 December 2020. Retrieved 1 March 2012.