Song of the Day: “Oliver’s Army” – Elvis Costello

Happy 62nd birthday to Declan Patrick MacManus, who is much, much better known as Elvis Costello. Since his stellar 1977 debut My Aim is True, Costello has been delighting audiences with his acerbic, witty (sometimes political) lyrics and ear for memorable hooks. Since breaking big smack dab in the middle of the so-called “new-wave” scene, Costello has taken many risks in his career, delving into blues, country and jazz at times, but I firmly believe his first three albums (Aim, This Year’s Model and Armed Forces) represent a high point that is pretty hard to match. This was vintage Costello, practically dripping with acid and catchy as hell. Here’s Oliver’s Army, which appears on Armed Forces (my favorite of the bunch) and is Costello’s response to his experiences in troubled Belfast, Northern Ireland. The “Oliver” in question is actually Oliver Lyttleton, who was President of the Board of Trade for England under Churchill. I would assume that he’s significantly more famous if you’re British. The song alludes to “The Troubles” which is the colloquial name for the ongoing conflicts between Irish/Catholic nationalists and British/Protestant loyalists, and “Oliver’s Army” goes on to compare the unstable situation in Northern Ireland to that in South Africa and Cyprus, among other violent regions. Pretty heavy stuff for a rock song, but it was actually his highest-charting single. Here it is! Happy birthday Elvis! Congratulations on living way longer than that other Elvis!


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