Elvis Costello Launches Playlist Of Songs That Influenced ‘Armed Forces’

Last week, the artist reissued a deluxe, definitive edition of his revered 1979 album.

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Elvis Costello
Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Elvis Costello launched a new Spotify playlist that offers insight into the music that inspired his revered, 1979 album, Armed Forces. The developing playlist, dubbed “Armed Forces 33 1/3 Network,” currently includes two tracks, paired with commentary on the artist’s website. The playlist, which will grow over the coming weeks, follows the release of a deluxe, definitive edition of Armed Forces, which includes such classic hits as “Accidents Will Happen,” “Oliver’s Army,” and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding.”

Sharing the playlist on Twitter earlier today, Costello wrote, “Spin the dial to this frequency to hear songs and cues and catches from the 20th Century jukebox and radio airwaves that were enlisted into Armed Forces.”

Today’s additions include an outtake from Armed Forces, “Clean Money,” as well as Cheap Trick’s “Big Eyes,” off their 1977 power pop classic, In Color. In his commentary, Costello shared that “the opening track of our 1979 album was supposed to be ‘Clean Money.’ It was definitely indebted to The Beatles’ ‘Back In The U.S.S.R’ and a favorite group of ours from Madison, Wisconsin: Cheap Trick. Indeed, Rick Neilsen generously introduced us to a slightly skeptical crowd at ‘Bunky’s’ in Madison in the Winter of 1977. I never did learn how to juggle all those guitars.”

In the liner notes of an earlier reissue of Armed Forces, Costello elaborated that the song’s arrangement “owes quite a bit to The Beatles’ White Album rockers or more likely to The Beatles-influenced sound of Cheap Trick. Their record, In Colour (And In Black And White), had been another road favorite. We threw everything at the song: a rock and roll beat that is almost completely absent from the final running order, tracked guitar feedback, a guest background vocal from Dave Edmunds, plus a rare appearance from The Attractions as a vocal harmony group. It’s hard to imagine the record opening with this belligerent tone rather than the blindingly obvious first line of ‘Accidents Will Happen.’”

“Armed Forces 33 1/3 Network” follows Costello’s recently-wrapped “50 Songs for 50 Days” playlist, which led up to the US presidential election.

The Complete Armed Forces, meanwhile, was released last week via UMe. The super deluxe edition offers a new 2020 remaster of the album, B-sides, alternate versions and outtakes, demos, and a slew of live recordings – including 23 unreleased live tracks. The box set edition also includes seven notebooks with newly-updated liner notes from Costello, handwritten lyrics, insight into his songwriting process, plus rare photos, memorabilia, and concert ephemera.

Looking ahead, Costello will appear on a live-streamed Q&A this Friday, November 13 at 7:00 pm GMT, to discuss his latest release, Hey Clockface with host Janice Long of the BBC. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the official website.

The Complete Armed Forces is out now and can be bought here.

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