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Oliver's Army


Carl
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It's a reference to Oliver Cromwell, leader of of the Parliamentary army in the English Civil War against the Royalist army of Charles 1.

Amongst other things, he established what was called The New Model Army. which was the first professional, properly trained and drilled fighting force England had .

Costello's song is a general anti-military statement, it's main target is the fact that the only real option that the unemployed have is to join the army (British unemployment figures were at an all-time high when he wrote the song in the early 80s). It doesn''t have anything particular to do with Cromwell, other than the title.

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sorry but the oliver cromwell suggestion is completely wrong. the writer was clearly not english and oliver cromwell is one of the few olivers commonly taught about overseas. anyways, the oliver is question is oliver churchill, brother of winston. Oliver Churchill was a politician as well and heavily influenced social matters in the UK years ago. The song is about his policy of giving jobs to those who are unemployed by making them soldiers. People were unable to recieve dole(welfare) if they were eligible to join the military and didnt. Britain was pretty much building up their army and sending soldiers all over the place to solve unemployment. This is what olivers army is about.

Proving lyrics:

"called careers information, have you got yourself an occupation?"

"But there's no danger. It's a professional career, though it could be arranged with just a word in Mr. Churchill's ear.If you're out of luck you're out of work

We could send you to Johannesburg"

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  • 1 month later...

Winston Churchill had only one brother, and his name was John, though he was known as Jack - where did you get Oliver Churchill from? The person who suggested Oliver Cromwell seems to have been from London, by the way, and I am from Belfast, also in the U.K. (and by which the song was inspired).

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Early on in his career I was somewhat taken by his innovative songwriting yet sneering, Andy Newmanish delivery. I was even more impressed with his extensive participation in Britain's Rock Against Racisim campaign although had always been leery of his presence and obvious preoccupation.

But in '79, my suspicions about him were affirmed when stating to Bonnie Bramlett while sloppy drunk in an Ohio bar that Ray Charles was an "ignorant, blind, *******."

I can just imagine how he is behind closed doors.

Ever since then his vocal capability has reminded me of what a hypocrite he truly is.

There's many references to Oliver's Army but as far as I'm concerned the little Irish lush can figure out his own songwriting. I'm no longer interested in whatever moody song he writes. He also should steal another name. He's no King, even though he's used Presley's musicians a few times.

Oliver most certainly is Cromwell though.

I'm sure to get a comment, Denmark comes to mind. But easy, just speaking the truth.

::

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I think you do Costello a huge injustice.

The Ray Charles comment is something he has been questioned over about a thousand times, and he has never once attempted to avoid the issue, or play it down. He has gone on record again and again as stating that he deeply regrets it, and that it was said in a stupid drunken rage purely to anger Bramlett, who he was arguing with, in an effort to provoke him.

There is simply no way that Costello is a racist, everything he has said and done since proves that, and to dismiss him because of a flippant comment made nearly 25 years ago is just daft.

BTW, I love to know where that guy got "Oliver Churchill" from. Was he related to Rupert Eisenhower by any chance? ::

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muzic-he's British, not Irish. His mum is from Liverpool. As far as naming himself Elvis, he says he was just a cheeky young lad then. Maybe he chose Elvis because he wanted to get music back to Rock and Roll and away from disco (he made his debut in 1977).

P.S. When I see your pic, I can't help but sing "Easy reader that's my name..."

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I have been looking for the meaning to this song for over an hour now, and thanks to AMG, I think I have a solid explanation. The song is from his third album, 1979's Armed Forces, an album full of political songs. Oliver is Oliver Cromwell, Puritan Leader in the 1600's. Oliver Cromwell serves as a metaphor for Puriticanical, conservative English attitudes. Mr. Churchill is of course Winston Churchill. Outside of kings and queens, Cromwell and Churchill are probably the two most recognizable figures in British History, atleast probably to Americans. Basically the song is a warning to British youth that if you aren't careful, the British Army could suck you into their ranks to fight unjust political battles. The great irony is that Costello disguised this message with a catchy pop melody. The song is a pastiche of political situations (Johanesburg=Apartheid, Checkpoint Charlie=The Berllin Wall, etc.) As AMG puts it " 'Oliver's Army' sounds like the sort of recruitment song Costello could have been warning about, with the truth of its meaning hidden in plain sight." I think the meaning of the song is lost to us in America, simply because we are not British, but many of the songs nuances are lost today, given the end of Apartheid and the Berlin Wall. As far as Costello's lyricism, his song writing is often layered and nuanced, especially his earlier works when he was representative of the angry young man (see his performance on SNL that got him banned from the show.) I appreciate how he plays with words because so many artists have zero originality and probably have never seen a thesaurus. (Britney, Avril, I'm talking to YOU!) Of course you would expect such a long rant from one called Costellogirl, and I must take every opportunity i can get to slam Avril Levine. I will stop now.

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I agree that AMG is a very useful site, and I often use it as a reference source.

But you should keep in mind that because it is an American site, with American contributors, its review sections often look a little bizarre to us here in the UK. For instance, bands that were extremely important and successful here, such as The Jam or Madness, are treated with litle concern on AMG simply because they didn't do much in the the US.

BTW, costellogirl, you are quite correct that EC is a Brit, as are his parents. Its his fathers' parents who came from Ireland, hence the family name McManus. But you probably already know all that !

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