Costello’s paternal Irish grandfather “was an orphan who ended up in the British Army in the Second Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, wounded in France in 1917”, while his maternal grandfather spent five years in a farm in Poland, after being captured in 1915..
“So you can fuck yourself if you give me a hard time figuring out if I’m running for [the Royal Variety Performance], something that represents that continuity. I am two generations away from making a living with a shovel, and I am deeply grateful for my grandfather’s story. He learned to play the trumpet in the army, and because my grandfather played, my dad wanted to play the trumpet too, and because my dad played, I … realized that I couldn’t play the trumpet. the trumpet !
Costello’s mother passed away in January last year, aged 93. “She was at my show in Liverpool on the last tour. She insisted on coming, which was wonderful. Again, Costello gushes out as he speaks.
He had his own health crisis in 2018, “a cancerous malignancy, which required me to have an operation. If I hadn’t been so proud and tried to tour that spring, it would have stayed between me and my surgeon. I’m strong as an ox now, I think. In the years that followed, Costello lost close friends to both cancer and Covid. “It was difficult at times,” he says. “But you have to keep going. And we do.
He intends to return on tour with the Imposters in June. Fans are unlikely to hear her perform, however, is her greatest British hit, Oliver’s Army, which reached number 2 on the UK charts in 1979. A song about the military and imperialism, she is recently fell under the spell of cancellation culture due to its barbed-wire inclusion of the ‘n’ word to describe a British soldier (“Only take one itchy trigger / One more widow, one n —– white less ”).
“If I wrote this song today, I might think twice about it,” he says. “That’s what my grandfather was called in the British Army – it’s historically a fact – but people hear that word ringing like a bell and accuse me of something I didn’t know about. ‘intention.
“On the last tour, I wrote a new verse about censorship, but what’s the point? So I decided not to play it. When the song is broadcast on the radio, the offending word is often beeped, which, according to Costello, “is a mistake. They make matters worse by beeping him for sure. Because they highlight it then. Don’t play the record!
“You know what,” he continues, “that would do me a favor. Because when I fall under a bus, they’ll be playing She, Good Year for the Roses, and Oliver’s Army. Which means, Costello points out, if you take the latter out of the equation, “I’ll die, and they’ll celebrate my death with two songs I didn’t write.” What does that tell you? “
The Boy Named If will be released by EMI on Friday. Elvis Costello and The Impostors Tour begins June 5 at Brighton Dome (elviscostello.com)