…good choice on his part… but he sounds like a real whiny John Cleese about it.
He really does! I read the article posted above and it wasn’t like, “I want to remove this song from the playlist because that lyric is really over the line for today’s audiences and I’m not here to offend people to make a point.” It’s “I’m removing this song so people don’t flip their lids at me.”
Although if he were really like John Cleese, he would instead play this song twice at every concert.
Oliver’s Army gets a constant flogging on a British 70s music channel that I can access, probably equal to all the other Elvis Costello songs combined. The offending word has been muted in the clip since I’ve been watching it.
I agree with @WOOKINPANUBv.2.
Here’s a song making a powerful statement against the colonial mindset. And the artist comes to realize that his words will be twisted and used against him by people who couldn’t care less what the message is.
When I was in college, I read everything I could about the conflict in Northern Ireland. On my first trip to the UK, I visited Belfast at the height of marching season. Even so, I did not grasp the contempt directed at Irish Catholics until I listened to the lyrics of “Oliver’s Army.”
As Elvis says in the American Songwriter piece, he is quoting the exact slur that was directed against his grandfather.
He’s exposing the bigotry that his own family experienced!
And now he feels obligated to silence himself.
It should be, anyway.
Back in the day I remember being surprised when I heard that “Chelsea” had been (at one time) his biggest hit.
For some reason the line/melody, “and I would rather be anywhere else, than here today” really was the part of OA that stuck w/ me. I also was always aware that it was one of his most popular tunes up to the time. I guess at the time I just had had less time w/ Get Happy and Imp Berm than I had w/ MAIT/TYM.
I also recall hearing that Veronica was his biggest in US. Really catchy tune, tho I never thought it the equal of several off the first couple albums.
What always struck me about those lyrics at the end was that I always thought it should be what you wrote, but he sings “…anywhere else, but here today” which seemed jarring to my American ears.
OA was on AF, of course, not MAIT/TYM.
I think TYM is my favorite album of his, but his first four albums are all excellent. Then, he took his own advice and got happy, and I thought the albums from Trust on were just not as good.
I have always had a - uh - loose relationship w/ song lyrics.
EC remains one of my all time faves. My oldest kid is named Allison (misspelt). My Aim is True thru Imperial Bedroom pretty much correlated w/ my undergrad years. Yeah, I know he made a lot of good music after that, but those were the years I was most into music, and he was at the top of my list.
One of my kids, but misspelled another way, is also named Alison after the song.
At the time (88), I don’t think I KNEW another Allison. But throughout her grade/high school, there were at least 2-3 in every class. Every conceivable spelling.
She chose to be called Al. DETESTED Allie.
How bout yours?
Ally, pronounced Alley (not al-eye). She was born in the late '90s and has a few other Allys/Allies/etc. in her classes.
His comment seems about right to me. And it’s notable that no one in this thread so far has come up with any actual reason why the song is in any way wrongheaded.
It’s all just “your behavior must comply with my decisions about what I’m going to be irrationally offended about”.
Very well said. Those in this thread who think it’s right that Costello has had to pull this from his set list, and that his reasons are “whiny” should read your comment and hang their heads in shame.
Totally loving the posters agreeing with each other how anyone getting offended at hearing the word “nigger” in a White man’s mouth is irrational, or that not wanting to hear a word still used by their brutalizers means they don’t understand context. Yes, we understand that that was the worst thing you could call a White person, and the historical context of Irish oppression. Understand, don’t care.
Putting the word “white” in front of it doesn’t make it not the word “nigger”, any more than putting “lime” after it makes “kaffir” an OK word for a non-White South African to hear, or putting “Venus” after it made “Hottentot” an acceptable part of a username.
Context is key, and this is something I understand well, as you should be able to tell by me being the only person besides you to actually type out the word “nigger” in this thread. But the “context” in this case isn’t some historical novel like Tom Sawyer, done and dusted. It’s a pop song by a still-living artist who is capable of regretting his word choices - or at least “thinking twice” about them. Because the word does “go off like a bell”.
I’m hoping to keep this a Cafe Society thread, and not IMHO or the Pit if possible. In the spirit of Cafe Society and book learning:
If it’s not too painful or offensive to describe, I have no idea what these mean.
I thought my reply was fine for the Cafe. Especially given that this is a thread where “irrationally offended” drew no such OP sanction…
It’s not painful or offensive:
“Kaffir” is the South African equivalent of “nigger” - worse, even, it’s never been reclaimed like “nigger” has, for instance. Absolutely the worst thing you can call a Black person (it could land you jail time for using it, here). But “kaffir lime” is the legit name of a fruit. Suffice to say, it’s not called that in South Africa, or by anyone who cares what Black South Africans think.
Hottentot’s a slur for Khoe-khoen and, by extension, all Coloured South Africans even if they aren’t Khoe-khoen. Someone registered with the name Venus Hottentot (a play on words relating to a historic exploited Khoe-khoen person). I objected.
I know it’s hard to tell, since I quoted you, but I actually replied to the thread. I didn’t mean to call you out specifically. Sorry for the confusion caused by my sloppy posting.
I didn’t know what Khoe-khoen was either, so I looked it up – they are a nomadic people who live in Southwestern Africa. Learn multiple things every day!
Thanks for cluing me in on the other stuff.
No worries, thanks for the clarification.
To be more specific - they (we, I should say, they are in my ancestry) used to live all over Southern Africa, including most of South Africa, before being first displaced from most of that area, then subjected to Apartheid and genocide.
Jeez. Well, I’m sure it’s all fine now. (that’s a joke – there’s a Simpson’s episode about Exodus and the joke is, after forty years wandering the desert, everything should be fine for the Jews. Right? Right??)
Not clear from your post you understand at all. Hint: it’s not relevantly anything to do with being the worst thing you could call a white person.
“That’s what my grandfather was called in the British army” - You think he was called that back then because the namecallers were highlighting the universal solidarity of the oppressed, a la Gerry Adams? No, it was an insult, and the “logic” of the insult was that there was nothing worse to call someone. He wasn’t calling himself that, it was a pejorative.