Elvis Costello on Thatcher

The song’s not a party political broadcast, there’s no manifesto. It just says, ‘I’ll only be happy when this woman’s dead.’

“And some people no doubt might find that extreme. But it’s meant to be. I make no apology for that song. It’s an honest emotional response to events, and writing it was like casting out demons or something. And the song itself is the result of a form of madness, because when you get to that point of thinking these thoughts, actually wishing somebody dead, it really does become a form of madness. It’s a psychopathic thought. And it’s fucking disturbing to find it in your own head. But it would be cowardly not to express it. Because once it’s there, if you don’t get it out, it’s only going to come back and haunt you some more.

“I also think you have to remember that it’s not only her that the song is aimed at. It’s what she represents. The way she’s changed the way people value things. It’s like some kind of mass hypnosis she’s achieved. People are afraid to speak out. You know, one thing I thought I’d be asked when people heard it was whether I was saying it might’ve been a good thing if she’d died in the Brighton bombings. I don’t think so. It would have made things 10 times worse, because then she would have been a martyr. We would have had a dead queen. So really, in a profound sense, the song is hopeless. It’s a hopeless argument. Because I think it’s a hopeless situation. So, no, it’s not in a large, historical sense, going to change anything.”



  1. 1

    Why do you get your inspiration and theology from these singers from the 70s? Are these guys authorities on theology, or politics, or economics? No, they’re artists–outdated ones at that. I know you admire them, but they wrote songs. There’s a massive learning curve when it comes to politics and economics, a huge one. To comment intelligently and prudently, with foresight and great circumspection on how best to raise the standard of living for millions of people, it’s not enough to be able to enjoy a good spliff, write poetry, and have a heart full of compassion. You need more than that. You actually need to study, and these guys have not studied these very difficult issues and principles. They wrote songs! Can you not get that? They wrote songs, got married, got divorced, got married again, got divorced, tried a third time, slept with band members’ girl friends, ate only vegetables, supported a woman’s right to choose, but not our right to choose to kill cows for steak, hamburger, and sausages. Look, these guys are, I’m sure, nice guys, well meaning….but they don’t know a f*****g thing about the laws of economics (macro or micro), politics, leadership, how to run a business let alone a country, and the biggest problem of all is that they don’t know their limits, like most successful artists. Let’s get serious, Teddy boy! Life is not so simple. Gosh, if it were that simple, then let’s just call up Bruce Cockburn, and James Taylor, and Carol King, etc., and let them be our economic advisers and the world will just be the paradise that they always sing and dream about.

  2. 2
    wmgrace Says:

    Thatcherites are getting their shirts in a knot over the resurgence of the Ding Dong song – “the wicked witch is dead”. Anti-Thatcher protesters are alive and well in the UK as they attempt to push this song to the number one spot on the Radio One Chart Show, in time for her burial Sunday. In view of the carnage she left behind this seems a worthwhile goal.

  3. 3

    None of you see any inconsistency with celebrating and rejoicing over the death of another human being. This is weird! And this is very revealing. The ironies never stop.

  4. 4

    brother Hill

    I should be inspired asa catholoic by economists like Harper or how about Paul ryan, both ripping the feces out of safety nets.Costello is sharp—like jeremiah. They see thru the crap.

    Bro Ted

    Bro Ted: Firstly, my name is not really Hill. That’s a pseudonym. But I think it is better if we dialogue here, on the forum. Isn’t that what a blog is for?

    But I think you confuse Catholicism with socialism. Costello is not like Jeremiah. He’s not like him at all. And Harper and Ryan are not trying to destroy the safety net. That’s just silly, and very simple minded. It must be nice to live in such a simple world. Yet it is so unfair, so unjust that you would attribute such negative motives to Harper and Ryan. Economics is very complicated, and if you had ever spent more than 10 minutes studying the fundamental principles of economics, you’d see that there are so many problems with the interventions and regulations and government funded programs that we’ve had in this country since Trudeau. It’s not that these guys are cold hearted pricks who are totally indifferent to the poor–that’s just your own bigotry, which is something you are blind to. The problem with these programs is that they are going bankrupt, Interventionism continues to lead to higher unemployment, it stifles the economy, but this is a very complicated story to trace. You have to do your research, or listen to those who have. You don’t seem to understand the trade offs that are involved in economics. Like a typical liberal, you think there are solutions without serious economic repercussions. And so when you think that way, you have no other avenue than to attribute evil motives to these conservatives. The truth of the matter is that they want to reduce poverty and unemployment as much as you do. You can’t see that, though, because bigotry has that effect. It’s like those who are convinced that you can’t trust black people, or those who are convinced that anyone with a hijab is a cooperator with terrorism. There are people who just cannot be moved out of that conviction, no matter what the evidence.

    It’s just not that simple, Ted. It’s just that you’ve hated conservatives for so long that you just can’t imagine another possibility, that perhaps they have an argument. The fact of the matter is that Catholic social teaching condemns socialism, even moderate socialism. Pope John Paul II spoke of the failures of the welfare state. You’ve just been a socialist for so long that you read Catholic social teaching as a socialist. It’s just way too simple. No one wants to see anyone suffer, to be without protection. But you have to look at what has worked and what has not worked. If something is not working but leading a country towards financial collapse–and this is what the world’s leading economists are saying–, then it’s not good for the poor, it’s not good for anybody. If you want to help the poor, you have to understand something about the laws of economics, and you have to get the economy is shape, and you can’t do that by taxing people to the gills. You can’t keep making it impossible for businesses to flourish. But it seems only those who know what it means to run a business from the inside understand that. Business is another thing that is very complicated; it’s not as simple as you 60s socialists seem to think it is. There’s a whole universe you are not familiar with, one that you don’t even suspect exists. That’s the problem, and that’s the problem with these artists who do not have a mind for business, but who are great artists, who love music, who are attuned to the beautiful. They just don’t get it. They have lots of compassion, lots of love, but they do not know the first thing about the things they shoot their mouths off about. Elvis Costello’s commentary is about as enlightened as that of a a first year university student. It’s not sharp at all. What’s so sharp and complex about connecting the fact of sudden job loss on the one hand, which is said to be bad (as we all agree), and social safety net on the other hand (which is “good”), therefore government cuts are bad, and those who propose them are bad, cold hearted, rich and powerful, and indifferent to the plight of the poor. It’s so tired, and so simple, and so dumb, and so utterly ignorant, and we only wonder when you are going to move on and actually begin to study again.

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