Less Than Zero

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Calling Mister Oswald with the swastika tattoo,
There is a vacancy waiting in the English voodoo,
Carving V for vandal on the guilty boy's head.
When he's had enough of that maybe you'll take him to bed
To teach him he's alive before he wishes he was dead.

Chorus
Turn up the TV. No one listening will suspect,
Even your mother won't detect it,
So your father won't know.
They think that I've got no respect
But everything means less than zero.
Hey, ooh hey, hey, ooh hey.

Oswald and his sister are doing it again.
They've got the finest home movies that you have ever seen.
They've got a thousand variations: every service with a smile.
They're gonna take a little break, and they'll be back after a while.
Well I hear that South America is coming into style.

Chorus

A pistol was still smoking, a man lay on the floor.
Mister Oswald said he had an understanding with the law.
He said he heard about a couple living in the USA.
He said they traded in their baby for a Chevrolet.
Let's talk about the future now we've put the past away.

Chorus

Less Than Zero
Written byElvis Costello
Performed byElvis Costello
Produced byNick Lowe
MusiciansElvis Costello - vocals, guitar
John McFee - guitar
Sean Hopper - keyboards
Johnny Ciambotti - bass
Mickey Shine - drums
Stan Shaw - organ
Recordedlate 1976-early 1977, Pathway Studios, London
ReleasedMarch 25, 1977
AlbumsMy Aim Is True, 1977
Viva England, 1982 (Spain)
SinglesLess Than Zero, 1977
Alison, 1978 (Germany)
Less Than Zero, 1985 (12" single)
CollectionsStiff Box Set No. 2, 1981
Girls Girls Girls, 1989 (CD only)
2½ Years, 1993
Singles, Volume 1, 2003
Various Artists collectionsA Bunch Of Stiff Records, 1977
Heroes & Cowards, 1978
The Stiff Records Box Set, 1992
Unusual Sounds For Levi's® Selected By Tahiti 80, 2005
The Big Stiff Box Set, 2007
Born Stiff, 2010
Promos4 Track Sampler From My Aim Is True, 1977
Our Aim Is True, 1978
NoteThe original Less Than Zero single (with "LYN-7473" etched in the runoff groove) and A Bunch Of Stiff Records have an alternate mix with a more prominent organ part.

First known performance:
July 21, 1977, Manchester, England
Last known performance:
March 16, 2017, Bruges, Belgium
     (260 known performances, 1 as a snippet)


Song inspiration -

David Pryce-Jones,Tonight (BBCtv1), face-to-face with Sir Oswald Mosley, Nov. 1976

Alternate versions

Less Than Zero (Live 1977)
Performed byElvis Costello & The Attractions
MusiciansElvis Costello - vocal, guitar
Steve Nieve - keyboards
Bruce Thomas - bass
Pete Thomas - drums
RecordedAugust 7, 1977, London, England
ReleasedSeptember 11, 2007
AlbumsMy Aim Is True: Deluxe Edition, 2007
Length3:27

Less Than Zero / Radio, Radio (Live 1977)
Performed byElvis Costello & The Attractions
MusiciansElvis Costello - vocal, guitar
Steve Nieve - keyboards
Bruce Thomas - bass
Pete Thomas - drums
RecordedDecember 17, 1977, Saturday Night Live
ReleasedSeptember 21, 1999
Various Artists collectionsSaturday Night Live: The Musical Performances Volume 1, 1999
VideosSaturday Night Live: 25 Years Of Music, 2003
Saturday Night Live: The Complete Third Season, 2008
Length3:05

see also: Less Than Zero (Dallas Version)

Single: Less Than ZeroLess Than Zero UK 7" single front sleeve.jpg

A Bunch Of Stiff RecordsA Bunch Of Stiff Records album cover.jpg

My Aim Is TrueMAIT UK initial album cover large.jpg

Single: AlisonAlison Germany 7" single front sleeve.jpg

Single: Less Than ZeroLTZ Stiff 12inch.jpg

Girls Girls GirlsGGG album cover 300.jpg

2½ Years2½ Years album cover.jpg

Saturday Night Live: The Musical Performances Volume 1Saturday Night Live The Musical Performances Volume 1 album cover.jpg

Singles, Volume 1Singles Volume 1 album cover.jpg

Covers

Sam Baylor, with the Long Players performed live, My Aim Is True tribute show, Nashville, 2006-01-13 2006 Long PlayersMy Aim Is True tribute show
Skip Castro Band performed live, 1980, Charlottesville, VA 1980 digdc.dclibrary.org
Sam Gleason Sam Gleason  (EP) 2013 iTunesYouTube
Cool Frog Si No Es Stiff... No Merece Un Tributo 2009 info
Milton & The Devils Party Best World Going 2002 Amazoninfo
Oliver's Army (Dallas) performed live, Dallas-area Costello tribute band 2003 - OliversArmyBand
Tet Offensive performed live, 2003-06-, CBGB's Gallery, New York 2003 YouTube
Tet Offensive performed live, 2009-09-11, Sidewalk Cafe, New York 2009 YouTube
Tet Offensive performed live, 2010-11-10, Cafe Nine, New Haven, CT. 2010 YouTube
Bob Walkenhorst performed live, 2012-02-29, Kansas City, MO 2012 archive.org

Chords

Tabbed by Phillip Charles Saunders
 
|F Bb C|  F C|F Bb C|  F C|
 
F              Bb              C            F
Calling Mister Oswald with the swastika tattoo,
      C     F        Bb           C           F
There is a vacancy waiting in the English voodoo,
C      Bb                      Gm
Carving "V" for vandal on the guilty boy's head.
          Bb                               Gm
When he's had enough of that, maybe you'll take him to bed
    C              Dm/F    C                    Dm/F C
To teach him he's alive before he wishes he was dead.
 
|C   FC|  -  |
 
 
Bb                       F
Turn up the T.V. No one list'ning will suspect.
           Bb                              F
Even your mother won't detect it, so your father won't know.
Bb                      F
They think that I've got no respect,
   Ebm                F
But ev'rything means less than zero.
     Bb    F  C  F
Hey,  ooh hey,
C  F Bb    F  C
Hey,  ooh hey.

Internal links

External links