The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Pretty self-explanatory
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:10 pm

https://floodmagazine.com/82803/elvis-c ... e-edition/

Elvis Costello, “Armed Forces: Super Deluxe Edition”
by AD Amorosi
8/10

There are so many pleasures derived from Elvis Costello’s brand new album Hey Clockface—there’s the heterogeneous sound of its continental divide, recorded as it was in Paris, Helsinki, and New York, with the scent of wet pavement emanating from each track. There’s the fact that Costello has, again, managed an opulently produced brand of latter-day punk rock to go with the record’s resplendent Bacharach-driving-down-Tin Pan Alley ballads. Present on songs like “No Flag” and “We Are All Cowards Now” is Costello’s patented and prickly view on geopolitics, one that takes its root in ravaging his home’s Queen, then spreading his bile outward to other less-sovereign nations.

To say that all of these advances began in 1979 with Costello & the Attractions’ third album Armed Forces is no exaggeration. Just listen to the difference between the spunky pub rock of his debut, 1977’s My Aim Is True, and his more sinewy, garage-pop, sophomore effort, This Year’s Model from 1978, and the differences between them and Armed Forces are day, night, and a lushly European, synth-pop-heavy weekend stay-over apart. Rather than going for something minimal, claustrophobic, and stripped down, Costello, his Attractions, and their producer Nick Lowe went into maximal overdrive, opened up space in its tight sound and allowed his more paranoid views of love and politics (or metaphorical relationships between the two equally torrid topics) to blossom.

Nothing sounds the alarm for the similarities between Clockface and Armed Forces more than the latter’s newly released Super Deluxe all-vinyl box set. Dubbed “The Complete Armed Forces,” the stammeringly dramatic “Accidents Will Happen,” the cosmopolitanly complex “Party Girl,” the menacingly tick-tocking “Green Shirt” and its slippery sister “Moods for Moderns,” the ABBA-like “Oliver’s Army,” and the chipper reggae-ish “Two Little Hitlers” all manage to sound crisper than even in original recording—a feat, considering how Lowe’s mix and Steve Nieve’s layered keyboards on the original were the portrait of sleek, icy precision. Even “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?,” the original album’s finale, no longer seems like the stuck-on, last minute, Lowe-written add-on that it was, and instead feels like the record’s seamless, rousing denouement.

Rather than focus on rarities, the vinyl-centric box set—complete with 7-inch 45s and 10-inchers such as Sketches for Emotional Fascism (Armed Forces’ original title)—tells a story of going from point A to point B. On studio and live recordings such as Hollywood High & Elsewhere, Riot at The Regent, Christmas in the Dominion, and Live at Pinkpop, you can hear how the sophisticated punks of the Attractions loosened up—enough so for the broader strokes, open spaces, uneasy connection to “disco synthesizers,” and complex melody duties heaped upon them by their boss.

In particular, we hear how Nieve moved from being his Question Mark and the Mysterians’ organ groove to something more eerily eccentric and baroque. Mainly, though, we hear through Armed Forces bigger, wider-ranging book, how Costello opened up as a composer and as a singer—an offbeat character actor as well as a noir novel-esque writer essaying such offbeat characters—and learned to love his paranoias, rather than buck against them.
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby Arnie » Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:20 pm

Nick Lowe bundle at least got me a cool metal lunchbox. Though this looks pretty nice, I have my original Columbia Armed Forces, and then the Ryko that I think came out of the very first box set. Can’t justify this one. Mostly packaging or am I wrong?

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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby Harry Lime » Tue Nov 17, 2020 9:20 am

Arnie wrote:Nick Lowe bundle at least got me a cool metal lunchbox. Though this looks pretty nice, I have my original Columbia Armed Forces, and then the Ryko that I think came out of the very first box set. Can’t justify this one. Mostly packaging or am I wrong?


That lunchbox is sure sweet. It has a prominent spot on my bookshelf.
Who put these fingerprints on my imagination?

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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby Ymaginatif » Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:14 am

Another ('professional') look inside the box:

https://youtu.be/Qc09OaU1ijM
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Tue Nov 17, 2020 3:02 pm

7. OLIVER’S ARMY - from “Armed Forces”
8. DANCING QUEEN - from “Arrival” by ABBA

The tie-breaker in our “Tour Station Wagon Soundtrack Stand-Offs” was often this ABBA album. We loved ABBA so much that we even bought their Swedish language albums on our first venture to the country, shortly before making “Armed Forces”.

My song about boys being sent off to do other people’s dirty work was heading for a B-side pile until Steve Nieve borrowed Benny Andersson’s grand piano style and turned the song into a Top Five U.K. hit.
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby bronxapostle » Tue Nov 17, 2020 4:30 pm

there we go...a nice detailed description. thanks for this unboxing recap.

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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Fri Nov 20, 2020 2:04 pm

https://www.elviscostello.com/#!/news/299455

“(WHAT’S SO FUNNY ‘BOUT) PEACE, LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING” (LYRIC VIDEO): https://youtu.be/LlOxTn3ziNs

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” (Lyric Video) from ‘Armed Forces’ -

An Eamon Singer & Arlo McFurlow Co-Production
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Fri Nov 20, 2020 3:31 pm

9. BIG BOYS - from “Armed Forces”
10. SHE’S THE ONE from “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen

I’m sure the idea of starting “Big Boys” with a single note drone came from too many hours listening to the second side of Bowie’s “Low” or Iggy Pop’s “Mass Production” but as a member of the audience at Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” concert in London in 1975, I’m pretty sure that this is where I got the idea of the “She’s the one” refrain in “Big Boys”.
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby docinwestchester » Fri Nov 20, 2020 4:05 pm

sweetest punch wrote:9. BIG BOYS - from “Armed Forces”
10. SHE’S THE ONE from “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen

I’m sure the idea of starting “Big Boys” with a single note drone came from too many hours listening to the second side of Bowie’s “Low” or Iggy Pop’s “Mass Production” but as a member of the audience at Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” concert in London in 1975, I’m pretty sure that this is where I got the idea of the “She’s the one” refrain in “Big Boys”.


Was someone at the London show coughing too?

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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Sat Nov 21, 2020 2:09 pm

11. GREENSHIRT - from “Armed Forces”
12. AUTOBAHN - from “Autobahn” by Kraftwerk

"Steve Nieve had added a Polymoog and Mini Moog to his armory and alchemy by the time we entered Eden Studios to make “Armed Forces”. Neither came with an instruction manual, so we took cues for electronic music from The BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Kraftwerk".
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Sat Nov 21, 2020 2:22 pm

Since you put me down, it seems i've been very gloomy. You may laugh but pretty girls look right through me.

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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Tue Nov 24, 2020 1:20 am

13. PARTY GIRL - from “Armed Forces”
14. I WANT YOU (SHE’S SO HEAVY) by The Beatles

"I always tried to keep my quotations of The Beatles songs under control and leave that to Mancunians in the future. However, it’s pretty hard to deny that the guitar figure on “Party Girl” was an idea that occurred after combining “Abbey Road” with a bottle of gin. At least I’d wait a few years before writing a song with the same title."
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby Ymaginatif » Tue Nov 24, 2020 4:05 am

sweetest punch wrote:13. PARTY GIRL - from “Armed Forces”
14. I WANT YOU (SHE’S SO HEAVY) by The Beatles

"I always tried to keep my quotations of The Beatles songs under control and leave that to Mancunians in the future. However, it’s pretty hard to deny that the guitar figure on “Party Girl” was an idea that occurred after combining “Abbey Road” with a bottle of gin. At least I’d wait a few years before writing a song with the same title."


It's another Abbey Road song he lifted those guitars from, isn't it? You Never Give Me Your Money? Nothing like that in 'I Want You / She's So Heavy' ...
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby Neil. » Tue Nov 24, 2020 2:57 pm

Ymaginatif wrote:It's another Abbey Road song he lifted those guitars from, isn't it? You Never Give Me Your Money? Nothing like that in 'I Want You / She's So Heavy' ...


You're right! I think Elvis was misremembering.

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Re: Armed Forces Redux - 6 record set

Postby DMW-Photo » Tue Nov 24, 2020 6:13 pm

Has anyone found that that download version of AF has Big Boys demo instead of Busy Body demo ? Is the vinyl set correct on this ?

Big boys - a demo version recorded in early 1978 was on the TYM bonus disc and an alternate version from the Aug/Sept 1978 sessions was on the Armed Forces bonus disc. Little possibility of anything else emerging.

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Re: Armed Forces Redux - 6 record set

Postby sweetest punch » Wed Nov 25, 2020 1:05 am

DMW-Photo wrote:Has anyone found that that download version of AF has Big Boys demo instead of Busy Body demo ? Is the vinyl set correct on this ?

Big boys - a demo version recorded in early 1978 was on the TYM bonus disc and an alternate version from the Aug/Sept 1978 sessions was on the Armed Forces bonus disc. Little possibility of anything else emerging.


The vinyl set is correct!
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Wed Nov 25, 2020 5:43 am

https://spectrumculture.com/2020/11/24/ ... es-review/

Elvis Costello: The Complete Armed Forces

Released smack in the middle of a five-album gold run that could rival any hot streak in pop history, Elvis Costello’s third LP, Armed Forces, refined the pop hooks and lyrical acidity of This Year’s Model and showed just how quickly the artist had eclipsed even the loosest boundaries of punk. Already tenuously connected to the post-Sex Pistols scene more by general attitude than actual style or ethos, Costello and the Attractions pivoted into the brighter, more dance-oriented realms of new wave, the first of several substantial aesthetic change-ups that would define each Costello album well into the 1980s.

By the time the band went to record, they had been sharpened by endless touring into some of the most sophisticated pop musicians around. Keyboardist Steve Nieve was the standout player on the last album, sounding closer to a lead guitarist than an accompanist as he tore through tracks like “Pump It Up.” Here, he softens his approach somewhat, opting for dynamism over sheer energy. By Nieve’s own admission, he based his splashy part on “Oliver’s Army” on ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” while he adds hissing, harpsichord-like fills to the slower and more insular “Green Shirt.” And when he does let loose, as on “Goon Squad,” his keys are more fluidly integrated than front-and-center. Arguably, the true stars this time out are the brothers-from-other-mothers rhythm section of Bruce and Pete Thomas. Pete’s heavily syncopated drumming throughout is so catchy even Costello sings along to its cadences, matching the rolling hi-hat stutter on “Senior Service.” Bruce’s bass is so warm yet possessed of occasional lurches into chord progressions so knotty that he single-handedly pushes the record in the direction of jazz. A close reading of the Thomases on this album makes the band’s subsequent leap into old-school R&B on Get Happy!!! seem not only unsurprising but inevitable.

Costello’s original title for the album was Emotional Fascism, a term that would have not only been more perfectly suited to its contents but a concise description of his lyrical preoccupations for his work to that point. Armed Forces represents the apex of Costello’s core subject matter: girls, Hitler, and the way that girls who don’t reciprocate your feelings are Hitler. He’s bleakly sarcastic, as on “Chemistry Class,” in which Costello walks a metaphorical line between an actual schoolroom and a discussion of first sparks between a boy and a girl before he suddenly goes for the throat and asks “Are you ready for the final solution?” Even so, Armed Forces marks the moment when Costello began to put his persona of the self-deprecating but slightly unsettling incel under scrutiny, broadening his lyrical focus to place that character into a larger social context of post-empire British loathing.

Costello’s “political” album, Armed Forces paints a portrait of militarism as a desperate bid for self-respect. “Oliver’s Army” lacerates British colonialism and how it perpetuates in places like Northern Ireland, and the line “Have you got yourself an occupation?” drips with double meaning. “Senior Service” is perhaps his angriest angry-young-man tract, castigating the elderly for draining welfare that could be better spent on the young with more life left to live (“I want to chop off your head and watch it roll into the basket” he gleefully spits). But buried within these polemics are more intimate critiques of the presumptuousness of Costello and others like him. “Big Boys” captures the sense of the sexually inexperienced trying so hard that they screw things up, managing to look like a fool even if they get lucky. “Two Little Hitlers” picks an extreme metaphor to capture the internal war of jealousy and nervousness in a young lover shadowboxing at a partner’s previous paramours; “He wants to know the names of all he’s better than,” Costello sings with a hint of caginess that leaves the unspoken half of that equation, not wanting to know anyone he fails to measure up to, hanging visible in the air. “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding,” originally a non-album single in the UK but long-since added as the final track to all reissues, obviously clashes with the darker lyrical tone of the album as it was originally sequenced, yet its swelling, anthemic earnestness ultimately casts in further relief the hints that Costello was outgrowing his youthful venom.

The album has been reissued a number of times over the years, and Rhino’s new, vinyl-only box set is but the latest and most considerable of the lot. Spanning 9 discs of various size, the deluxe edition includes, among other things, reproductions of 7” singles, including Nick Lowe’s “American Squirm” and his original take on “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding.” A spare album of demos, b-sides and outtakes contains nothing new for anyone who bought the two-disc CD remasters in the early-2000s, but they still contain a host of tracks that most artists would kill to have gotten on a proper release, most especially the rollicking, rockabilly-on-amphetamine roar of “Wednesday Week” and “Tiny Steps,” one of Costello’s best songs and certainly the most fun tune ever written about a haunted doll. The meat of the set belongs to a number of live records. The Attractions’ focused intensity makes for very little sonic variation between the gigs presented here, but what mainly shines through is their ferocity on stage and how easily their setlists could be changed up from the already-deep backbench of their best songs’ a performance at the 1979 Pinkpop festival even finds them road-testing songs for Get Happy!!!. Remarkably, one of the discs consists of the notorious show at the Regent Theatre in Sydney, where Costello cut the set short and sparked a riot from the furious audience.

Whether Armed Forces is your favorite Elvis Costello album is largely a matter of preference, and by this time he had already proved he was no flash in the pan. Yet the record still feels like a breakthrough, following two out-and-out classics with a set of laser-focused songs that only deepened his double- and triple-entendre lyrics and the simple-yet-excellent skills of the Attractions. Rhino’s latest remaster backs off of the more brickwalled treatment they gave the album in their 2007 string of reissues; the record contained a great deal of studio sophistication, and you can hear the nuances of it better than ever. Though one hopes a more budget-priced issue of just the album is forthcoming, this is a finely crafted release of one of the best albums of all time.
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Thu Nov 26, 2020 5:58 am

15. GOON SQUAD - from “Europe ’79: Live At Pink Pop”
16. IT’S BETTER TO HAVE (AND DON’T NEED)” - by Don Covay

"Believe it or not this record by the great Don Covay was the record that the Attractions and I were attempting to imitate when we cut this song about a young man gone wrong."

"Due to our nervous disposition, the musical reference was mostly lost on the audience, although this ferocious Attractions performance from the summer of ’79 is something else entirely. P.S. Don’s record is way better."
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Sun Nov 29, 2020 6:34 am

17. BUSY BODIES - from “Armed Forces”
18. THE THEME FROM “CROSSROADS” - by Tony Hatch

"Cute observers of the time probably thought they were pretty sharp when they noticed that the guitar riff on this song owed something to Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” but I do not recall anyone recognising a hint of Tony Hatch’s soap opera theme in the arrangement."
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Tue Dec 01, 2020 1:25 am

https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/arc ... es/617238/

Why a 41-Year-Old Record About Fascism Matters Now
Elvis Costello’s 1979 album, Armed Forces, has been reissued at a moment when it feels more frighteningly vital and relevant than ever.

By 1979, Elvis Costello had established himself as an acerbic songwriter with a penchant for pungent turns of phrase, a sort of New Wave Bob Dylan. Critics adored his wordplay, and audiences made his first two records big hits. But when Costello delivered his third album, in January of that year, it was a reproach to anyone who thought they had figured out his shtick. Armed Forces represented a leap for the English singer and his band, the Attractions—a harmonic and sonic transformation. But the most remarkable thing about the record was its obsession with fascism, Nazis, and the Holocaust. A quiver of catchy riffs carries a dozen embittered songs, only to resolve in an unexpectedly earnest plea for harmony.

The extensive use of Nazi-related motifs puzzled American listeners in the late 1970s. Even now, Costello’s casual use of the Third Reich as a metaphor for the strife of personal relationships comes across as flippant and even blasphemous. Unfortunately, the imagery no longer feels quite so foreign this month, in which Costello has released a sprawling, sumptuous new deluxe box set of the album. The American president clings to power and refuses to recognize an election that defeated him. Right-wing militias plot to kidnap governors. Around the globe, people are watching as authoritarians consolidate their power and fascist movements gain followers. More than four decades after its release, Armed Forces feels more frighteningly vital and relevant than ever.

On his first two records, Costello had begun to toy with fascism as a lyrical motif, a strange choice for a young man born nearly a decade after the end of World War II. His first single, 1977’s “Less Than Zero,” was inspired by an interview with Oswald Mosley, the 1930s British fascist leader, and likened a flirtation with fascism to clandestine teen hookups. On 1978’s This Year’s Model, Costello included “Night Rally,” a brief but blistering anti-fascist ditty, and “Radio Radio,” which painted the BBC as Orwellian for censoring the Sex Pistols. Costello initially planned to call his third album Emotional Fascism, before landing on a somewhat subtler title. Many of the songs on Armed Forces play, inchoately, with the idea of love as a fraught and even fascistic construct that leads people to inhumanity, unreason, and brutality. Costello had espoused a bleak vision of romance in an August 1977 interview, telling NME, “The only two things that matter to me, the only motivation points for me writing all these songs are revenge and guilt … Love? I dunno what it means, really, and it doesn’t exist in my songs.”

Yet, as those songs took him around the globe, the things he saw began to influence his political vision. On tour in the United States, he met “Me generation” college students whose complacency and hedonism made them appear to him as budding apparatchiks of despotism. “I could only imagine such people sliding blithely into some repressive future,” Costello wrote in the liner notes to the 2002 reissue of Armed Forces. “Either that or they might find an excellent career in advertising.” In Belfast, he saw baby-faced young men in fatigues carrying automatic weapons.

Meanwhile, Costello found ample fuel for his obsession with fascism at home. Britain was in the midst of a sharp uptick in fascist and racist political activity, as groups such as the National Front (NF) and the British Movement reprised Mosley’s efforts from 40 years earlier. “Thugs of the nationalist parties had recently been parading in the streets of London,” Costello writes in new liner notes to the Armed Forces box set. “Despite never being attracted to the slogan song, the U.K. edition of [the first Attractions album] This Year’s Model had closed with … ‘Night Rally.’ It was a projection into a possible future; I didn’t think I would be reporting current events.”

All of these experiences informed the writing of Armed Forces. Musically, the record was a more elaborate iteration of the formula from the first two Attractions records. Steve Nieve’s peppy Vox organ, Bruce Thomas’s muscular and melodic bass, and Pete Thomas’s steady drums remained, but the album was poppier and a little less punk than its predecessors, laden with hooks. The lyrics, however, were flintier than anything that had come before.

The shallow American undergraduates served as a muse for “Chemistry Class,” where a sneering Costello asks, “Are you ready for the final solution?” “Goon Squad” tells of a young man co-opted by a Brownshirts-like movement. “You’ll never get to make a lampshade out of me,” the narrator vows, a reference to a horrifying Holocaust rumor. The title of “Green Shirt” harkens back to pre–World War II fascist parties whose members adopted green shirts as an emblem, and the lyrics present a dystopic vision of population control by television and warns of torture at “the Quisling Clinic”—which, implausibly, was a real place Costello noticed in Madison, Wisconsin, and couldn’t resist enlisting in a double entendre for the notorious Norwegian collaborator. An early draft of “Senior Service,” the lyrics of which are included in one of the box set’s many booklets, began with a portrait of a postwar fascist underground.

Then there’s “Two Little Hitlers,” yet another love-gone-wrong tale that offers the most explicit of the album’s Third Reich references. Costello insists that the title is “just a turn of phrase,” but listening to such lurid lyrics with detachment is impossible. Over an incongruously cheery lite-reggae beat, Costello sings, “Two little Hitlers will fight it out until / One little Hitler does the other one’s will / I will return / I will not burn / Down in the basement.”

The album’s finest song, however, avoided Nazi references, and instead turned Costello’s gimlet eye on British militarism. “Oliver’s Army” is one of several tracks on Armed Forces that poke at the embers of the British empire, and a bouncy, ABBA-inspired piano line helps sugarcoat dour lyrics about young working-class men “from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne” who are sent off to fight wars of empire around the globe. The titular Oliver is Cromwell, the leader of the New Model Army in the English Civil War, who remains hated in much of Ireland for his brutal treatment of the country. Costello imagines Cromwell joining a roll call of British leaders in making the same empty promise to new recruits: “But there’s no danger / It’s a professional career / Though it could be arranged / With just a word in Mr. Churchill’s ear.”

As Costello was writing the record, Britain’s music scene was itself experiencing a convulsion of racism and far-right politics. Though extremist groups like the National Front were on the fringe, they could create real disturbances. In August 1977, 500 NF members gathered for a march through Lewisham, an area in southeast London with a significant Black community, where they were met by thousands of counter-protesters and police. The ensuing riot, called the battle of Lewisham, left 111 people injured, half of them police officers; more than 200 people were arrested. In April 1979, an NF meeting in Southall, a heavily Asian area of western London, resulted in a riot and one man’s death.

Neofascism attracted some prominent rock musicians. At a 1976 concert in Birmingham, Eric Clapton chanted racist slogans and praised Enoch Powell, a notorious Tory member of Parliament who warned in 1968 of “rivers of blood” if immigration was not curtailed. “Keep Britain white,” Clapton said. “I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man.” (He has since apologized.) Around the same time, David Bowie repeatedly praised fascism. “I think Britain could benefit from a fascist leader,” he said in 1976. “After all, fascism is really nationalism.” (Bowie also later recanted.) Reacting to the far-right movement, a group of musicians calling themselves Rock Against Racism organized hundreds of concerts across Britain, including two large outdoor shows in London. Costello’s participation in the second London concert was an indication of both his political engagement and the earnest streak that undergirded his outward irony.

The initial release of Armed Forces ended with “Two Little Hitlers,” but by the time the record was released in America, the single “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” had become a hit, so it was tacked on. It’s the album’s only cover song. The producer Nick Lowe had written it as a teasing send-up of hippie pieties, and some critics have pegged Costello’s version as similarly mocking, but Costello wrote in the liner notes to the 2002 reissue that he delivered the song with angry sincerity: “We certainly attacked the song with little sense of irony and as if it were obvious that no one knew the answer to the question that the song posed.” The song wasn’t a self-deprecating rejoinder to what had come before; it was a neat bow tied on the preceding 40 minutes of anguish and fury.

If Costello had released the record today, it might have been both praised and panned as a “woke” message. The politics it displays makes the catastrophe of Costello’s 1979 U.S. tour especially remarkable. During his previous American tour, Costello had overhauled “Less Than Zero,” realizing that U.S. audiences didn’t know Mosley and would assume “Mr. Oswald” was Lee Harvey. He rewrote the song to be about the John F. Kennedy assassination, in what he called the “Dallas Version.” But he didn’t tone down the militancy on his 1979 tour. His retinue wore combat fatigues and traveled in a bus labeled camp lejeune, after the U.S. Marine base. Live recordings included in the box set give a good sense of what an Armed Forces–era Attractions concert was like: Every song seems about 15 percent faster and 30 percent more punk than the album version. To an unsympathetic listener, Costello can sound twee in studio, especially surrounded by Nieve’s filigrees. These tapes show that the concerts were rougher affairs.

By March, Armed Forces had reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 200. Drinking at the Holiday Inn in Columbus, Ohio, with Stephen Stills’s band, Costello began attacking American music as insincere. When Bonnie Bramlett, one of Stills’s singers, took issue, Costello became more belligerent, calling James Brown a “jive-ass nigger” and Ray Charles “a blind, ignorant nigger.” Bramlett, who is white, did the reasonable thing: She decked Costello, knocking him off a barstool. The incident was, and remains, baffling. Costello’s comments were both morally and musically indefensible, no matter how drunk he was. And wasn’t this the same guy who a few months earlier was playing Rock Against Racism shows? The same songwriter who on the Armed Forces track “Sunday’s Best” had lampooned dyspeptic British pensioners who would “blame it all upon the darkies”? Costello writes in the new liner notes that the Holiday Inn incident “is a story without excuses or coherent explanation.”

Word of the melee spread. Costello was spotted wearing a sling, thanks to a separated shoulder sustained when he fell off the stool. Faced with protests and death threats, Costello apologized and said he was acting stupidly and drunkenly, and was mostly just trying to provoke the Stills band. But American radio stations and listeners boycotted Armed Forces, and it tumbled down the chart. By 1982, when Costello discussed the incident with Rolling Stone, he remarked bitterly that it was what he was best known for. In his 2015 memoir Costello wrote, “That Ohio evening may very well have saved my sorry life. So what if my career was rolled back off the launching pad? Life eventually became a lot more interesting due to this failure to get into some undeserved and potentially fatal orbit.”

Just as Costello’s burgeoning star was dimming, the British fascist movement was running out of steam. In spring 1979, as the Attractions limped home from America, the U.K. held general elections. The National Front drew almost 200,000 votes, but that was a high-water mark; the real story turned out to be Margaret Thatcher’s victory. Although racist, fascist parties still occasionally regenerate in Britain, the NF’s moment had passed.

Perhaps Bramlett’s right hook didn’t just knock Costello off a barstool and the charts. It might have also shattered some of the arrogance and smugness that informed Armed Forces’ lyrics. Costello’s career recovered and thrived, and today he is able to critique his lyrics with distance. “Some of the highly charged language may now seem a little naive; it is full of gimmicks and almost overpowers some songs with paradoxes and subverted clichés piling up into private and secret meanings,” he writes. “I was not quite 24 and thought I knew it all.”

Costello has never abandoned cynicism, disgust, and anger in his lyrics. But he has never written another record so searing in its combination of romantic and political fury as Armed Forces. Over the ensuing decades, he occasionally commented on current events in songs, but he was more plainspoken and more righteously indignant than ironic—and then dropped the habit altogether. “There is the delusion that you are effecting change with a [political] song,” he told GQ in 2015. But Armed Forces never feels that way. It’s not pedantic in its treatment of the looming threat of fascism. It’s furious and afraid. Costello seems less interested in trying to change anything than he is in describing with horror what he sees around him.

That makes it a perfect album when not only are far-right parties and leaders on the rise, but also the coronavirus pandemic has left people around the world feeling powerless. Now, more than in 1979, fascism is everywhere. Donald Trump calls the press the enemy of the people, grounds his appeal in racism, and seeks to undermine democratic elections. Echoing the NF marches of the late 1970s, white nationalists stage marches across the U.S. Ultra-right-wing parties are ascendant around the globe. Reporters are abducted in consulates, tortured, and killed. Internet-incubated far-right movements of outcasts, once written off by most as a bunch of meme-obsessed losers and “shitposters,” now dominate governments. Costello warned us: “You think they’re so dumb; you think they’re so funny / Wait until they’ve got you running to the night rally.”

Meanwhile, despite his repudiation of agitprop, Costello has taken a turn back toward the political in his most recent album, Hey Clockface, released in October. The album’s first single is called “No Flag,” and it bristles with some of the same paranoid anger as Armed Forces. “We want everything and we don’t wanna share / Outer space for the faces we fear / Look in the mirror and see who I used to be / Made out of plastic in a factory,” Costello shouts over an industrial thump. Asked by Stephen Colbert in an interview whether it was a protest song, Costello demurred: “No, those sorts of things just happen by coincidence.”

Perhaps—but as Costello would be the first to teach, you shouldn’t always take what people say at face value. “No Flag” shows up on a Spotify playlist of “50 Songs for 50 Days” that Costello rolled out to conclude on Election Day, an endeavor that he called his “October Surprise.” Costello has also been pointedly quoting a song he wrote for a musical adaptation of A Face in the Crowd, Elia Kazan’s film about a demagogic grifter. The songwriter might have tried to stay away from politics, but just as in a poisonous relationship, temptation can be strong.

These more recent songs are aimed at the moment, but Armed Forces might still speak to it most forcefully. Greil Marcus’s 1979 description of the record doubles as a description of the reality of contemporary America. “Every moment of personal failure or unsatisfied passion is invaded by the cruelty and shamelessness of the political world,” Marcus wrote. “The secret, unspeakable realities of political life … rise up to force a redefinition of relationships between men and women, the essential stuff of ordinary life, on these unspeakable terms.”

As uncomfortable as the mixing of the personal and political on Armed Forces made Costello nearly two decades ago, his grim vision of how movements in the streets reflect and affect our personal lives makes the album feel disquietingly timely today. If Costello’s anguish at fascism translates all too directly to the present day, his parting question hasn’t lost any of its power over the past 40 years. What, in the end, is so funny about peace, love, and understanding?
Since you put me down, it seems i've been very gloomy. You may laugh but pretty girls look right through me.

sulky lad
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sulky lad » Tue Dec 01, 2020 2:16 am

What a brilliant and insightful review - loved it !

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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Tue Dec 01, 2020 6:10 am

19. SUNDAY’S BEST - from “Armed Forces”
20. ENGLAND’S GLORY - by Max Wall

"This song was a catalogue of small-minded English prejudices and seething sanctimonious preferences. It took its cue from what, in my ever so ‘umble opinion, is the greatest record ever released on Stiff Records. It is the Ian Dury song, “England’s Glory” performed by the great music hall comedian and actor, Max Wall."
Since you put me down, it seems i've been very gloomy. You may laugh but pretty girls look right through me.

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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby docinwestchester » Tue Dec 01, 2020 6:26 pm

sulky lad wrote:What a brilliant and insightful review - loved it !


Fantastic review of the music and historical backdrop.

When EC opened with Night Rally, the night prior to Election Day 2016, I actually felt chills. It was downright scary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWDANh8EDQc
2016-11-07

sulky lad
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sulky lad » Tue Dec 01, 2020 10:17 pm

What an amazing context- but also pretty frightening !

sweetest punch
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Re: The Complete Armed Forces (Super Deluxe Edition)

Postby sweetest punch » Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:02 am

http://www.undertheradarmag.com/reviews ... costello/#

Elvis Costello
The Complete Armed Forces

Given how often the incredible third album by Elvis Costello (his second with his long-time backing band The Attractions, a union that produced many more incredible albums up to 1986 and again more briefly from 1994 to 1996) has been reissued and that some (though not all) of the bonus material here has seen official release via said reissues, it is tempting to dismiss a release like this gargantuan set as for hardcore fans only. That would be missing the point, though.

Sure, while that is true given the audience, it’s still important to look at the contents. Along with the original album on the first LP is his iconic cover of album producer Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” a track only added to the U.S. version and released as a single in the UK On the second LP, there is the first ever vinyl release of the full Live at Hollywood High show, which was released on CD in 2011. It should be noted that original copies of the LP came with a 7-inch containing three songs from that historic show, including a jaw-dropping piano and vocal version of the album’s opening track, “Accidents Will Happen.”

LP three has the first ever official release of a show from the Pink Pop festival in Holland and that one features early live versions of songs that would end up on the following year’s Get Happy!!, but in radically different arrangements. The next three records here are 10-inch EPs, two of them live and one featuring well-known (to fans) B-sides and outtakes that have been on various compilations (such as 1980’s Taking Liberties) and CD reissues over the years, but they are still great to hear in this form all together. The material here is truly top-notch and would be anyone else’s A-sides.

The set concludes with three 7-inch EPs, presented here in their original form as they were released in the UK, with the aforementioned “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” also appearing as the B-side of Nick Lowe’s “American Squirm” single (also included here). And if all that wasn’t enough, you also get 200 pages with seven comic books, artwork featuring pulp fiction novel style covers pertaining to each song, Costello’s detailed liner notes, and copies of handwritten lyrics along with rare photos and memorabilia. Again, this is a gargantuan set for the most hardcore of fans, but I can’t imagine that any of them will be displeased by the contents here. All in all, one can view this as a celebration of one of Costello’s most popular albums. It went Top 10 in the U.S., his first ever album to do so, and “Oliver’s Army” was a #2 hit in the UK as well, all of which brought him even more attention and renown than his first two albums already had. (www.elviscostello.com)

Author rating: 9/10
Since you put me down, it seems i've been very gloomy. You may laugh but pretty girls look right through me.


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