Elvis Costello & The Attractions – (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding —Powerpop Friday

Great song and great performance by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. The song was written by Nick Lowe and first released in 1974 by the band he was in called Brinsley Schwarz named after their guitar player.

The American and Canadian release of Elvis’s album Armed Forces contained this song. The album peaked at #10 on the Billboard 100 in 1979.

Nick Lowe on writing the song: “I wrote the song in 1973, and the hippie thing was going out, and everyone was starting to take harder drugs and rediscover drink. Alcohol was coming back, and everyone sort of slipped out of the hippie dream and into a more cynical and more unpleasant frame of mind. And this song was supposed to be an old hippie, laughed at by the new thinking, saying to these new smarty-pants types, ‘Look, you think you got it all going on. You can laugh at me, but all I’m saying is, ‘What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?’ And that was the idea of the song. But I think as I started writing it, something told me it was too good idea to make it into a joke. It was originally supposed to be a joke song, but something told me there was a little grain of wisdom in this thing, and not to mess it up.”

From Songfacts

This was written by Nick Lowe and originally recorded by his band Brinsley Schwarz in 1974. Despite a wealth of talent and great deal of promotional support, Brinsley Schwarz never managed a hit, but were very influential to artists like The Clash and Elvis Costello. Nick Lowe became a very successful producer and scored a hit as a solo artist with “Cruel To Be Kind.”

Costello and Lowe were both signed to Stiff Records, and Costello’s version, credited as “Nick Lowe & His Sound” was first released as the B-side of Lowe’s 1978 single “American Squirm.” Costello’s version was more energetic and had more Pop appeal. It was included on American editions of Costello’s 1979 album Armed Forces. With its simple message of unity and love in a troubled world, the song became an anthem for peace and tolerance, and was recorded by many artists, including A Perfect Circle, Lucy Kaplansky, The Flaming Lips and The Wallflowers.

This lifts from the Judee Sill song, “Jesus Was A Cross Maker,” Lowe told The A.V. Club: “I always would ‘fess up that there is one lick in the tune I did steal from Judee Sill. She had a song called ‘Jesus Was A Cross Maker’ at about that time that I really thought was a super song. I haven’t heard that song for many years, but I always think I took a little lick from Judee’s song.”

In 1992, this was covered by Curtis Stigers for the Whitney Houston film, The Bodyguard. The film’s soundtrack album went on to sell 44 million copies worldwide, landing Lowe a large royalty check that financed his less commercial music. Lowe told The Telegraph: “It was a tremendous piece of good fortune. I made an astonishing amount of money from that.”

This appears in the 2003 movie Lost in Translation, where Bill Murray sings a karaoke version.

This was sung by Stephen Colbert, John Legend, Elvis Costello (in a bear suit), Feist, Toby Keith, and Willie Nelson on the TV special A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! after John Legend told Stephen that he (Stephen) didn’t understand Christmas.

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding

As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself

Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I want to know:

What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?
And as I walked on
Through troubled times

My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?

Sweet harmony.
‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away, just makes me want to cry.
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away, just makes me want to cry.
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?