Costello says that he wrote the song “after seeing the despicable Oswald Mosley being interviewed on BBC television. The former leader of the British Union of Fascists seemed unrepentant about his poisonous actions of the 1930s.”
When he performed the song in the United States, Costello sometimes changed the lyrics so that the song would be about Lee Harvey Oswald; he assumed Americans had never heard of Oswald Mosely.
One of the defining moments in Elvis Costello’s career happened on December 17, 1977, when he appeared on Saturday Night Live. Costello was 23 years old. His debut album, My Aim Is True, had just come out in America a month earlier. When the Sex Pistols were unable to appear on the show as planned Costello and his recently formed band, the Attractions, got their big break.
They were supposed to play his single “Less Than Zero,” a catchy tune about a loathsome politician in England. But only a few bars into the song, Costello put a stop to it. “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “but there’s no reason to do this song here.”
At that point he and the band launched into “Radio Radio,” a song that takes a jab at corporate-controlled broadcasting. Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels was furious. According to some reports, he raised his middle finger at Costello and kept it up until the unapproved song was over. Costello was banned from the show for nearly 12 years.