Musical Diary 05 – ‘Elvis’ Army’

It’s time for the latest edition of my monthly blog ‘Musical Diary’, where I dip back into the past for a musical moment that meant a lot to me personally. It’s actually been two months since the last post, but this month we go back 36 years to focus on a classic album release – ‘Armed Forces’.

January 1979

Before we go any further let’s make it clear, the title ‘Elvis’ Army’ refers to Mr Costello not Mr Presley (sorry fans of ‘The King’). ‘Armed Forces’ was the then newly released third album by Elvis Costello & The Attractions, the first to credit his band on the cover.


Originally to be called ‘Emotional Fascism’, the Nick Lowe produced long player was renamed ‘Armed Forces’ instead. Featuring the ground-breaking graphics and design of Barney Bubbles , Stiff Records in-house designer, early original UK copies featured a sleeve that folded out, along with four postcards and a free live 3-track vinyl EP.

EC armed forces sleeve

The album featured the hit single ‘Oliver’s Army‘, a song about mercenaries, the title referencing Oliver Cromwell’s hired army. Other tracks included ‘Accidents Will Happen’, ‘Goon Squad’ and .Two Little Hitlers’, whilst the live EP included old favourites ‘Watching The Detectives’ and ‘Alison’.

EC don't join

Promoted by a national tour, ‘Armed Forces’ was both a critical and commercial success and moved Elvis Costello into the mainstream, breaking free of his ‘New Wave’ shackles. The album has since appeared on both Q Magazine and Rolling Stone’s ‘Greatest Albums’ of all-time lists. The record still sounds fresh some 36 years after it first graced the charts and record shop racks. I still remember heading into my local record shop in Dunstable and picking up one of those now sought after early editions with fold-out sleeve, postcards and live EP.

Great memories of a cracking album.

On tour, playing live back in January 1979 were:

Elvis Costello/The Jerks – London, Music Machine
Richard Hell/John Cooper Clarke – Birmingham, Odeon
999 – Manchester, Russell Club

Until next month, cheers the MoL


About themanofletters

Love poetry, love Marmite, Alright?
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