Elvis Costello has announced he’ll no longer perform his 1979 hit song “Oliver’s Army” is concert.
The rocker explained his decision during an interview with The Telegraph, noting that it stems from the lyric, “Only takes one itchy trigger / One more widow, one less white n_____.”
“If I wrote that song today, maybe I’d think twice about [the lyric],” Costello admitted, before noting that the slur was historically accurate. “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.”
“Oliver’s Army” was inspired by the conflicts in Northern Ireland that took place during the ‘70s. The song, which was included on the 1979 LP Armed Forces, hit No. 2 in the U.K. and remains the highest charting song of Costello’s career. At the time of release the song aired on radio stations uncensored, however the track has routinely been bleeped in recent years. Costello claimed such action was “a mistake.”
“They’re making it worse by bleeping it for sure. Because they’re highlighting it then,” the musician opined. “Just don’t play the record!”
Costello admitted he’d toyed with changing the inflammatory lyric. “On the last tour, I wrote a new verse about censorship, but what’s the point of that?” he questioned. “So I’ve decided I’m not going to play it.”
Costello is currently slated to hit the road for a U.K. tour in June. His new album, The Boy Named If, arrives on Jan. 14.
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