British pop star Elvis Costello is defending his decision to continue singing songs blasting Margaret Thatcher, even three months after the former British prime minister's death. Costello, now 58 years old, shot to fame in the late 1970s just as the “Iron Lady” took power in Britain and enacted a series of spending cuts that made her a pariah to millions.
During last month’s Glastonbury Festival, Costello performed “Tramp the Dirt Down," a savage attack on Thatcher that was first released in 1989, and he has regularly played the song during his “Spectacular Spinning Songbook” UK tour. "The things [Thatcher] did to this country are still being done today," Costello said during the Glastonbury appearance. "It's not about burying someone underground; it's about burying an idea in the ground." The controversial performance was included in BBC’s live coverage of the festival.
The song in question explicitly attacks Thatcher and wishes for her death, including such lyrics as “I'd like to live long enough to savor, that when they finally put you in the ground, I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.” Costello also sings: “When England was the whore of the world, Margaret was her madam.”
In an interview with The Independent, Costello (born Declan McManus) said that the Thatcherite revolution “is looked at historically as a great cleansing moment, but it was not. A lot of things that belonged to us all communally were sold out from under us. They weren’t sold to private interests in England that enriched the country; they were sold to people in other countries. And it’s still the same bunch of slimes sitting there [in Westminster] running it all.”
Referring to Thatcher supporters who have called him out for poor taste in criticizing a deceased woman, Costello declared: “I felt I wanted to revisit the song regardless of the offence it gives to people who deify her. We sing the song from our point of view and other people have another view. Nobody shot anybody because of it. I don’t feel vindicated. I didn’t personally kill her.”
He also noted earlier that his father, musician Ross McManus, also suffered from dementia prior to his passing, just like Thatcher did. “I genuinely don’t wish that [dementia] on my worst enemy and that’s what I said every night when I introduced the song,” he added. Costello now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with his jazz-singer wife Diana Krall and their children.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.