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Rock Hall Anniversary: Elvis Costello’s and the Attractions’ Armed Forces

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After entering the music scene with his first two albums, Elvis Costello released his first album to also credit his band the Attractions on the cover.

January 1979 saw the release of Costello’s third album Armed Forces. It was also his second with his band the Attractions, after 1978’s This Year’s Model. It featured the singles “Accidents Will Happen” and “Oliver’s Army”, both of which went top 30 in the UK (number 2 and 28 respectively), while the album peaked at number two there as well. In the US, Armed Forces became Costello’s first and only top ten album, and second to go gold there (while going platinum in the UK).

Unlike his previous two albums, Armed Forces was more melodic, containing a lot of spacious arrangements including keyboard-driven sounds and layered guitars. Lyrically, the tracks was where Costello used a lot of personal politics, as it would be demonstrated in songs including “Oliver’s Army”, “Moods for Moderns”, and “Green Shirt”. Another track “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”, which became an enduring hit for Costello, was originally a B-side for a song by Nick Lowe (who produced the album) and was featured in the US version of the album.

Upon it’s release, Armed Forces received positive reviews, and through the years continued to be regarded as one of Costello’s best works, finding it’s way to different avenues of pop culture including being heard in the 1982 film E.T., the Extra Terrestrial, as well as many best of lists from different magazines including Rolling Stone.


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