Elvis Costello asks radios not to broadcast Oliver’s Army


By Mark Savage
BBC Music Correspondent

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Oliver’s army reached number two in 1979

Elvis Costello has revealed he will no longer perform his biggest hit, Oliver’s Army, and has also called on radio stations to stop broadcasting the song.

Written about the conflict in Northern Ireland, the lyrics use a racial insult to describe a British soldier: “Only take one itch trigger / One more widow, one less white [n-word]“.

“That’s what my grandfather was called in the British Army – it’s historically a fact”, he told the Telegraph, “but people hear that word … and accuse me of something I didn’t mean to.”

Released in 1979, Oliver’s Army has been played unedited on radio stations for decades – but as the word has become increasingly taboo, many have made the decision to beep the lyrics.

On his last tour, Costello rewrote the song in response to being ‘cut off by censors’, targeting the BBC, which drew criticism for edit song in 2013.

“They make it worse by beeping it for sure,” he told The Telegraph. “Because they highlight it then. Don’t play the record! “

Costello added that the radio stations would be “doing him a favor” by not playing the track again.

“Because when I fall under a bus, they’ll be playing She, Good Year for the Roses and Oliver’s Army,” he said.

“I’ll die, and they’ll celebrate my death with two songs I didn’t write. What does that tell you?”

Good Year For The Roses was written by Jerry Chesnut and performed by George Jones, while it was originally written and performed by Charles Aznavour.

Costello’s 1999 cover of She is his biggest song on the streaming services, with 80 million plays on Spotify alone. Radio stations looking for Costello originals to play in his obituary might choose the 1977 singles, Alison and Watching The Detectives, which are his next most popular tracks.

He’s not the only star to pull off one of his biggest hits. Here are seven more examples.

1) The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar

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The Stones pulled Brown Sugar from the setlist on last year’s No Filter tour dates, following unease over his sexualized portrayals of black women and his references to slavery, sadomasochism and heroin.

“Didn’t they realize it was a song about the horrors of slavery?” ” he said.

Mick Jagger had expressed mixed feelings about the lyrics as early as 1995, when he told Rolling Stone magazine: “I would never write this song now.

“I would probably censor myself. I would think, ‘Oh my God, I can’t. I have to stop. “God knows what I’m talking about on this song. It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty stuff at once.”

2) Paramore – Company of misery

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In Paramore’s groundbreaking single, singer Hayley Williams launched a devastating attack on the high school girlfriend of bandmate Josh Farro.

People never changeshe spat.Once a bitch, you’re nothing, I’m sorry, that will never change. “

She decided to stop playing it live in 2018, saying the band wanted to “get away” from the track because “calling someone a bitch wasn’t cool.”

In 2020, Williams also slammed Spotify for including the song in a Women In Rock playlist.

“I know this is one of the greatest songs from the band, but it shouldn’t be used to promote anything having to do with women’s empowerment or solidarity,” she wrote. on Instagram.

“I’m so proud of Paramore’s career, it’s not about shame. It’s about growth and progression… and while it will always be a fan favorite, we don’t need to. include it in playlists in 2020. “

3) Madonna – Material Girl and Like A Virgin

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The two songs that established and defined Madonna’s image in the 1980s are not to be mentioned in the presence of the Queen of Pop.

“I’m not sure I can sing Like a Virgin again,” she told Z100 FM in New York in 2008. “I just can’t, unless someone pays me, like $ 30 million or something like that. “

In a separate interview with US Weekly, she named Material Girl as her “least favorite” song, adding, “I never want to hear it again.”

She later relented, playing both tracks on her 2016 Rebel Heart tour, albeit in drastically altered form, but they’ve been resting ever since.

4) Bruno Mars – The Lazy Song

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Relentlessly optimistic song about the joys of slacking off, it topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and the video racked up over two billion views on YouTube, but Mars later confessed: “i hate this song. “

He quit performing it in 2014. Five years later, he took to Twitter and posted his response to anyone who “really likes” the song – a video of him staring straight at the camera and shaking his head with discouragement.

5) Prince – Anything with a bad word

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Prince is almost single-handedly responsible for the Parental Advisory stickers that were put on album covers in the 1980s.

Two of his songs, Darling Nikki and Sugar Walls (which he wrote for Sheena Easton) fell to a committee known as the Parents Music Resource Center, which then campaigned for the explicit content to be tagged on any music published in the United States.

While these songs were self-explanatory without containing swear words, Prince’s language grew coarser when he found himself competing with gangsta rap in the 1990s … story).

But after becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, the star gave up swearing and removed all swearing from her concerts.

“Have you ever heard of Muhammad Ali’s curse? “, He asked the magazine Essence in 2014.” Do you have a curse in front of your children? To your mother?

6) Radiohead – Creep

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Radiohead’s first hit single, Creep became a cornerstone around their necks, aligning them with the American grunge scene and, initially, marking them as hit marvels.

During the first concerts, fans would ask for the song, then come out as soon as it was over.

“We seemed to be going through the same four and a half minutes of our lives over and over again,” guitarist Jonny Greenwood told The Times in 1995. “It was unbelievably mind-numbing.”

Things get complicated during the concerts of the group’s third album, OK Computer. During a performance in Montreal, singer Thom Yorke shouted at fans who were clamoring to hear the song: “[Expletive] off, we’re fed up. “

It sealed the band’s reputation for hating their best-selling hit … But in reality, they never really stopped playing it. In fact, according to the Setlist.fm concert database, it’s Radiohead sixth most played song of all time, making the cut to 405 of their shows to date.

7) REM – Bright and happy people

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Shiny Happy People was one of REM’s biggest hits when they debuted on their 1991 album Out of Time, but the contagious, singing melody quickly became a source of contention for the group.

They only performed it live twice (both times for TV shows) and excluded it from their 2003 biggest hits album, In Time.

Lead singer Michael Stipe later said he had “limited appeal” to himself, telling the Space Ghost Coast To Coast TV show, “I hate this song.”

But the group relaunched it one last time in 1999, performing it on Sesame Street under the new title Happy, Furry Monsters.

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