Elvis Costello is hardly resting on his laurels this fall. He's prepping for the October 30 release of his latest studio album, Hey Clockface, and is in the middle of a 50 Songs for 50 Days online campaign in which he showcases a different - and often politically relevant - song each day until the U.S. election. Now, he's announced his biggest project yet for 2020: a deluxe 9-disc vinyl Super Deluxe Edition of Armed Forces with three 12-inch LPs, three 10-inch LPs, and three 7-inch singles including 23 previously unreleased live tracks and the complete contents of the previous Rhino/Edsel deluxe edition. It's due from UMe on November 6.
Armed Forces was the third studio album from Costello and second with The Attractions, arriving in January 1979. It was originally conceived under the title Emotional Fascism, which says a lot about the artist's state of mind while writing and recording. Much was made at the time about Costello moving away from the punk sound of its predecessors and embracing a new wave style, but (then as now) genre tags were simply reductive when it came to Costello's oeuvre. He brought a deep and abiding love of pop, rock, and R&B in all their forms to Armed Forces, turning in some of his most beloved compositions including "Oliver's Army" (anchored by Steve Nieve's ABBA-inspired keyboard riff) about the Troubles in Northern Ireland; the tense, paranoid "Green Shirt"; and elegant, haunting "Accidents Will Happen," inspired by Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Anyone Who Had a Heart." One of the LP's most famed songs wasn't on the original U.K. issue, however. "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" was introduced by Nick Lowe - the producer of Armed Forces - by his band Brinsley Schwarz in 1974 and re-recorded by Costello, The Attractions, and producer Lowe in 1978 credited to "Nick Lowe & His Sound." Costello's biting rendition was added to the U.S. version of the album where it replaced "Sunday's Best."
Various configurations of Armed Forces have been released over the years. The original U.K. LP had the "elephant stampede" cover, while the U.S. edition had the "splattered paint" artwork. Early pressings included a three-track EP, Live at Hollywood High, with a live version of "Accidents Will Happen" as well as "Alison" and "Watching the Detectives." Rykodisc's 1993 CD issue based on the original U.K. sequence appended "What's So Funny" and the EP plus five additional bonus cuts. The 2002 deluxe edition, released by Rhino in the U.S. and Edsel in the U.K., upped the ante with an entire bonus disc of 17 selections including all of the Ryko bonuses and a generously expanded Hollywood High boasting nine songs. In 2007, Universal's Hip-o imprint controversially restored Costello's catalogue to its original form on CD, meaning that Armed Forces lost all additional material other than "What's So Funny." In 2010, the June 4, 1978 Hollywood High show received its first standalone release on CD with 20 total songs.
After the disappointing string of early releases in the wake of the superlative Rhino/Edsel series, UMe has thrown down the gauntlet with this presentation of Armed Forces. The set has been personally curated by Costello. It's housed in a slipcase bearing the Barney Bubbles "splattered paint" artwork and in effect expands on the 2002 Rhino/Edsel deluxe edition in the vinyl format. It contains:
- New remaster by Bob Ludwig and EC of Armed Forces from the original tapes, "with the sonic fidelity matching the original 1979 U.K. pressing";
- Sketches for Emotional Fascism 10-inch, with four previously issued bonus tracks;
- Riot at the Regent: Live in Sydney '78 10-inch, with six previously unreleased live tracks;
- Europe '79: Live at Pinkpop 12-inch, with 13 previously unreleased live tracks;
- Christmas in the Dominion: Live 24th December '78 10-inch, with four previously unreleased live tracks;
- Live at Hollywood High and Elsewhere 12-inch, with the 10 live tracks included on the 2002 Rhino/Edsel deluxe edition of Armed Forces;
- "Oliver's Army" b/w "Big Boys (Demo)" 7-inch single;
- "Accidents Will Happen" b/w "Busy Bodies (Alternate)" 7-inch single;
- "American Squirm" b/w "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" - Nick Lowe & His Sound 7-inch single.
In addition to the nine vinyl platters, the box also includes seven notebooks including updated liner notes by Elvis (nearly 10,000 words in length) and his handwritten lyrics, plus a replica of the "grenade and gun" poster and original postcards of Elvis and the Attractions: keyboard maestro Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas, and bassist Bruce Thomas.
Streaming services currently are previewing the set with a three-song EP featuring previously unreleased live versions of "(What's So Funny) 'Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding," "Goon Squad," and "Pump It Up," all of which showcase Elvis and the Attractions' sheer, primal power. Armed Forces: Super Deluxe Edition will be released on November 6 from UMe on vinyl exclusively at uDiscoverMusic (in black or color variants). While no CD iteration has been announced, the set will also be available digitally, and it's quite possible that a future standalone CD could "mop up" the 23 live tracks not yet released in that format without double (or triple!) dipping on the remaining tracks.
You can check out the track listing with discography and pre-order at the links below! (Amazon links are TBD.)
Elvis Costello, Armed Forces: Super Deluxe Edition (UMe, 2020)
Armed Forces 12" LP (originally Radar RAD 14, 1979 (U.K.) / Columbia JC 35709, 1979)
A1. Accidents Will Happen
A2. Senior Service
A3. Oliver's Army
A4. Big Boys
A5. Green Shirt
A6. Party Girl
B1. Goon Squad
B2. Busy Bodies
B3. Sunday's Best
B4. Moods For Moderns
B5. Chemistry Class
B6. Two Little Hitlers
B7. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?
Sketches for Emotional Fascism 10" LP
A1. Clean Money (first issued on Taking Liberties (Columbia JC 36839, 1980 (U.S.) ) /Ten Bloody Marys and Ten How's Your Fathers (F Beat XX6, 1980 (U.K.) )
A2. Talking In The Dark (Radar single RG 1, 1978)
A3. Wednesday Week (Radar single RG 1, 1978)
A4. Tiny Steps (B-side of "Radio Radio," Radar single ADA 24, 1978)
B1. Crawling To The U.S.A. (from Americathon, Lorimar LP JS 36174, 1979)
B2. Big Boys (Alternate Version) (first issued on Armed Forces, Edsel MANUS 103 (U.K.), 2002/Rhino R2 78190, 2002 (U.S.))
B3. Green Shirt (Demo Version) (first issued on This Year's Model, Demon DPAM 102, 1993 (U.K.) / Rykodisc RCD 10272, 1993 (U.S.))
B4. My Funny Valentine (B-side of "Oliver's Army," Radar single ADA 31, 1979)
Riot At The Regent - Live In Sydney '78 10" LP (previously unreleased)
A1. Oliver's Army
A2. Waiting For The End Of The World
A3. Big Boys
B1. This Year's Girl
B2. You Belong To Me
B3. Pump It Up
Europe '79 - Live At Pinkpop 12" LP (previously unreleased)
A1. Goon Squad
A3. Green Shirt
A4. (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea
A6. So Young
A7. High Fidelity
B1. Lipstick Vogue
B2. Watching The Detectives
B3. Big Boys
B4. Pump It Up
B5. You Belong To Me
B6. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?
Christmas In The Dominion - Live 24th December '78 10" LP (previously unreleased)
A1. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
A2. No Dancing
B1. I Stand Accused
B2. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?
Live at Hollywood High & Elsewhere 1978 12" LP
A1. Accidents Will Happen
A2. Mystery Dance
A3. Goon Squad
A4. Party Girl
A5. Stranger In The House
B2. Lipstick Vogue
B3. Watching The Detectives
B4. You Belong To Me
B5. Chemistry Class (Live at The Warner Theatre, Washington D.C.)
A1, B1 and B3 from Live at Hollywood High EP included with original Armed Forces LP
All others first issued on Armed Forces, Edsel MANUS 103 (U.K.), 2002/Rhino R2 78190, 2002 (U.S.)
"Oliver's Army" 7"
A1. Oliver's Army
B1. Big Boys (Demo) (first issued on This Year's Model, Demon DPAM 102, 1993 (U.K.) / Rykodisc RCD 10272, 1993 (U.S.))
"Accidents Will Happen" 7"
A1. Accidents Will Happen
B1. Busy Bodies (Alternate) (first issued on Armed Forces, Edsel MANUS 103 (U.K.), 2002/Rhino R2 78190, 2002 (U.S.))
Nick Lowe & His Sound - "American Squirm" 7" (Radar single ADA 26, 1978)
A1. American Squirm - Nick Lowe
B1. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding? - Nick Lowe & His Sound