Elvis Costello Says He'll No Longer Perform "Oliver's Army," Wants Radio Stations to Stop Playing It
The 1979 track includes the phrase "white n—"
Published Jan 10, 2022Dig through enough big-name discographies and you're likely to find at least one song (or outfit or interview or album art or what have you) that would no longer fly today. Sometimes, you wonder how it's possible that they flew even at the original time of their release, but times change!
The most common course of action among legacy artists seems to be phasing out or forgetting about whatever that offending item may be, but in a new interview with The Telegraph, Elvis Costello has taken a somewhat more direct approach in addressing a controversial past work, suggesting himself that radio stations no longer play his 1979 song "Oliver's Army."
The track, included on Costello's third album Armed Forces, is about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and contains the line "Only takes one itchy trigger / One more widow, one less white n—."
"If I wrote that song today, maybe I'd think twice about it," Costello said in the interview. "That's what my grandfather was called in the British army – it's historically a fact – but people hear that word go off like a bell and accuse me of something that I didn't intend.
"On the last tour, I wrote a new verse about censorship, but what's the point of that?" he continued. "So I've decided I'm not going to play it. [Bleeping the word] is a mistake. They're making it worse by bleeping it for sure. Because they're highlighting it then. Just don't play the record!
"You know what. [Not playing it] would do me a favour," he went on. "Because when I fall under a bus, they'll play 'She,' 'Good Year for the Roses,' and 'Oliver's Army.' I'll die, and they will celebrate my death with two songs I didn't write. What does that tell you?"
You can read the whole interview here.