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This is a scathing attack on Oswald Mosley, a politician who was popular in England at the time. Mosley was the leader of the British Union of Fascists. He died in 1980.
This was Costello's first single. At the time, he had a day job working on a computer at Elizabeth Arden cosmetics.
There is a popular book and a movie with the same title, but this song has nothing to do with it.
American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis named his first novel, the nihilistic, drug-fuelled Less Than Zero after this song. He told the NME August 7, 2010: "Why did I name my first book after an Elvis Costello song? Who knows? I was working on this project starting when I was 16 and it was the Less Than Zero project. I was like most white, upper-class educated boys: I was obsessed with Elvis Costello. That was his main audience in the US. That title seemed very evocative to me. It had various other titles, but Less Than Zero ultimately seemed like the best title for the book, even though I had this much older professor who really loved the book but tried to dissuade me from using that title because he thought it was lame. He suggested Winter Vacation. Elvis Costello became the man for me for very many years. And then he didn't. Which happens, it happens to a lot of people, it's just the nature of things. Very few people sustain massive careers for a long time."
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