#37 Elvis Costello – Shipbuilding

Costello’s angry, sad and thoughtful reaction to the Falklands War is simply one of the best songs ever composed. Originally written in 1982 for Robert Wyatt, whose politics and guileless vocals offered rawness and authenticity, it is in Costello’s own version the song’s true richness and complexity comes to the fore. ‘Shipbuilding’ punctures the jingoism which surrounded events at the time with realism and harsh, poetic truths. While the conflict breathed new life into shipyards in areas where unemployment was growing ever higher, many of those who died at sea came from the same communities which built the boats in which they died. At the same time, Costello marks the passing of the industrial age in Britain and its effect on the working class. Perhaps no song better sums up Thatcherism and, in retrospect, its legacy.

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