Thursday, August 19, 2010

For a Song: Any King’s Shilling

Elvis Costello: Any King‘s Shilling


Elvis Costello is an artist who has recorded music in more different styles than anyone else I can think of, and most of it works. Even by his standards though, Spike was an unusual album for Costello. There are two collaborations with Paul McCartney, six numbers with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and even a couple of Irish numbers. Musically, Any King’s Shilling is one of the latter. The album was unusual enough that Musician Magazine got Costello to write an article for them, discussing the album and its songs. Costello explained that taking the Kings shilling was a euphemism for signing up to the army, and went on to say this about the song:

My grandfather was a first-generation immigrant from Ireland and when his father was murdered-that's another story-he ended up in an orphanage and then the army, He was a trumpet player, a bandsman. He got badly wounded in the First World War and then got stationed in Dublin, ironically. His story was, just before the Irish uprising of 1916, his friends warned him to keep out of the way.