Oliver's Army being retired from Costello's setlist

Gosh darn cancel culture!!

Just kidding. Elvis Costello is retiring the song Oliver’s Army from his setlist and he’s asking radio stations to stop playing it. It uses the N word. It’s his song, and I have no issue with him retiring it.

I hope he doesn’t pull it from the streaming services, because it will screw up the album sequence on Armed Forces – I’ve listened to the album so many times that I know the sequence.

That song is kinda racist for other lyrics as well. You can find the lyrics anywhere, so I’m not going to post any here. If he does pull it from the streaming services, I’ll just have to listen to that album from the mp3s that I ripped years ago and are already on my phone.

Here’s a cite/explanation:

Something I didn’t know: That song was the highest charting song of his career???

How it that possible? I would have thought Alison, Watching the Detectives, What’s So Funny (bout Peace Love and Understanding), Pump it Up, Radio Radio, Every Day I Write the Book, and Veronica did better, at least.

Yeah. Not a huge fan but I recognize all the songs RitterSport mentioned and have never heard of this one.

It was big in the UK.

I was about to say that the article must have been talking about UK charts, but the website is American Songwriter.

If this site is to be believed, I was way, way, way off in my list:

Yeah, if I had been asked to guess his highest charting songs, that’s pretty close to the list I would have come up with.

As far as I can remember, I’ve only ever heard “Oliver’s Army” in the context of playing the album it appears on (Armed Forces).

US and UK radio are very different, I guess. He never charted here in the US, apparently, but those songs I listed still get radio play on the rock stations.

Official Charts is the music charting service of record for the UK. Somewhat like Billboard in the US. The UK and US charts are often very different.

In the US, he charted 3 times, with Veronica being highest at #19. Everyday I Write The Book (the only thing of his I can remember seeing on MTV) hit #36. I’m surprised to see Pump It Up didn’t chart - that’s probably the song I heard most on the radio.

I would be surprised if I ever heard the song on the radio. The other songs I know word for word. I had to look up Oliver’s Army right now just to see if I recognized it.

If a billion people now YouTube it, how much will he stand to make?

I don’t think I ever heard it on the radio - even KROQ which played all the punk/new wave/alternative stuff - but I had the cassette (oy, am I old) and it was / is one if my favorites.

It’s his decision to make but it disappoints me. The song is about pointing out the injustice of colonization and the degradation of minorities by The Empire. Not really related to U.S. race relations, and “nigger” in this sense is referring to those downtrodden minorities. It’s a song of protest and disdain; he is in no way expressing racist sentiments. At least that’s how I’ve always interpreted it.
Context is the key; or are there people whose ears will literally go up in flames at the sound of a racial slur?

It is a radio staple in Australia.

Seriously, you have to ask that question?

The key line that is allegedly offensive is about the danger of being casually shot as a member of an oppressed minority, FFS.

I hear it all the time, and cringe. He made the right choice.

Given that E.C. successfully made major alterations to the lyrics of “Less Than Zero” to make it more pertinent to American audiences by referencing the JFK assassination, I find it odd that he doesn’t simply re-write that one small rhyme and keep the rest of the song.

Only takes one itchy trigger
One more widow, one less white African American

And now everyone’s happy

Only takes one itchy trigger
One more chuckle, one little snigger

Yeah that certainly makes it sufficiently meaningless and pointless that no one could be offended.