Elvis Costello says he will no longer perform ‘Oliver’s Army’, which contains a racial apology

Costello will no longer perform the song “Oliver’s Army”, a 1979 hit in the UK that contains the N-word, and has asked radio stations to stop playing it in an interview with the Telegraph as well.

Takes only one itchy trigger; one widow more, one less white [N-word], “Costello sings in the political anthem, inspired by Troubles in Northern Ireland and his encounters with young soldiers involved in the conflict.

“If I wrote that song today, I might think twice,” he told the Telegraph. “That was what my grandfather was called in the British Army – it’s historically a fact – but people hear that word go like a bell and accuse me of something I did not intend.”

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The song was long played uncensored on British radio waves, until 2013, when a BBC station denounced the apology to the dismay of some listeners, who claimed that its omission diluted the song’s anti-war message.

Costello agreed that beeping the word “makes it worse,” he told the Telegraph, “because [radio stations] then highlights it. “

The musician said he had written a new verse for the song – one that focused on censorship – for a previous tour, but decided to withdraw the song and that radio stations should do the same.

“Just don’t play the record!” he said.

Costello joins a growing group of musicians who have pulled back songs with offensive material. The Rolling Stones phased out “Brown Sugar,” which opens with a slave tale and sexualizes young black women, from their lineup last year, though Keith Richards said he hoped the band could bring a version of the song back in the future. The Hayley Williams-directed rock group Paramore also undoubtedly retired its most famous song, “Misery Business,” in part because it contains lyrics that refer to another woman as a “whore.”


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