Singer Elvis Costello has said he will no longer perform the song “Oliver’s Army” in concert due to a racial epithet in the lyrics and urged radio stations to skip the song rather than play a censored version.
“If I wrote this song today, I might think twice about it,” the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer said in an interview with The Telegraph.
The word in question is often used as an insult against black people. In Costello’s song, however, it is used against a white person during the unrest in Northern Ireland of the last century.
“It was a derogatory term for Irish Catholics, which I sang to make the point,” Costello said in a separate interview with The Guardian. He told The Telegraph the word was used against his family.
“That’s what my grandfather was called in the British Army – it’s historically a fact,” Costello said. “But people hear that word ringing like a bell and accusing me of something I didn’t mean to.”
The 1979 song reached No. 2 in the UK – its highest position – and remained on the charts for 12 weeks.
“On the last tour, I wrote a new verse about censorship, but what’s the point? So I decided not to play it, ”he told The Telegraph.
Costello also said radio stations should ignore the song altogether rather than playing the censored version that is often used now.
“They make it worse by beeping him, that’s for sure. Because they highlight it at that time, ”he said. “Don’t play the record! “
Read the full interview here.
Costello’s latest album, “The Boy Named If”, will be released on Friday, and he’s touring the UK in June with his band, The Imposters.
He told The Guardian that even though he was done with “Oliver’s Army” after 44 years, fans can still expect to hear another favorite in concert.
“I’ll sing ‘(What’s So Funny’ Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding ‘instead,” Costello offered.