The Quietus, October 4, 2016

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The Quietus

UK online publications


Anti-fascist anthems

Musicians and The Quietus writers on anti-fascist anthems

Jeremy Allen


Elvis Costello: Less Than Zero

If Elvis Costello wanted to set himself apart from his punk contemporaries in 1977, then releasing an agitated first single about Oswald Mosley was a good way of going about it. Set to a wildly catchy hook, the song was more vituperative than it was rational, "more a slandering fantasy than a reasoned argument," according to Costello himself. The singer was inspired to write it after seeing a documentary on Mosley on the BBC where "the former leader of the British Union of Fascists seemed unrepentant about his poisonous actions of the 1930s." If criticising the Blackshirts leader was like shooting fish in a barrel, then Costello rose to the occasion with imaginative aplomb, inventing a scenario where Oswald had intercourse with his sister all captured as part of a "home movie," a proto-sextape scandal in the making. One presumes Mosley never heard the song, though if he’d planned to sue then any litigious action would have been curtailed by his death in 1980.


The Quietus, October 4, 2016

Jeremy Allen writes about "Less Than Zero" for The Quietus' piece on anti-fascist anthems.


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