Elvis Costello Asks Radio Stations to Stop Playing “Oliver’s Army”
The musician also said he will no longer perform the controversial track live
Elvis Costello has announced that he won’t play his 1979 hit “Oliver’s Army” live anymore and requested that radio stations also pull the track from rotation due to its use of the n-word.
The song, which was written about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, contains the line “Only takes one itchy trigger/One more widow, one less white n—er.”
In a new interview about the track with The Telegraph, Costello pointed out the historical context of the phrase but also said he no longer wants to perform the song because he doesn’t want people to confuse its message with “something I didn’t intend.”
“If I wrote that song today, maybe I’d think twice about it,” he said. “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.”
He also noted that he considered changing the song’s lyrics but ultimately decided it was best to pull it from his setlist entirely, urging radio stations to follow his lead and stop playing it.
“On the last tour, I wrote a new verse about censorship, but what’s the point of that?” he said. “So I’ve decided I’m not going to play it. [Bleeping out the word on the radio] 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!”
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