Oliver’s Army was a song inspired by the troubles in Northern Ireland in the seventies. It was the first single to be lifted from the Armed Forces album and went on to become Elvis Costello’s most successful single in the UK, spending three weeks in the number two slot, and remaining in the charts for a total of twelve weeks.
The is a real juxtaposition between the lyrics and music, with the ‘happy’ (The keyboards were inspired by ABBA’s Dancing Queen single) sounding music contrasting against the rather serious commentary of the lyric, a fact that Elvis Costello himself acknowledges.
Oliver’s Army was recorded at Eden Studios in London using a custom made 32 track console based on Neve circuitry. Monitoring was via JBL 4350s and the recording was done to an Ampex MM1200 using Dolby A noise reduction, running at 15 ips.
Effects used was minimal, with the EMT 140 plate reverb being used for vocals, both Urie 1176 and DBX160 compressors, as well as an Electro-Harmonix Phaser and an early harmonizer.