billy bragg

Quick intro if you don’t mind.

I’m away for a short holiday this coming Friday….heading over to Toronto for 10 nights to meet up with old friends. I’ll be taking in a bit of baseball as the Blue Jays edge closer to a first divisional title since the heady days of grunge as well as some golf and hopefully maybe even a bit of live music if I get the time.

I’m having to plan the next few weeks worth of postings so what is going to happen this week is that the four Imaginary Albums I have in the can will appear back to back; this coming Saturday will see the ‘new’ feature kick off in my absence and then there will be a period of random stuff back-to-back including the return of SWC and the numbers pick. Apologies in advance if anyone sends over e-mails that aren’t acknowledged….I will get round to everything back to normal in due course. In the meantime, here’s a delightful contribution from Walter over in Germany whose own blog A Few Good Times In My Life provides much enjoyment.


As spoken a few days ago and inspired by your fantastic series I made me up to compile 10 songs by Billy Bragg. Knowing that is a hard task as well I selected these songs first because they accompanied during the last decades and second because they show the facets of his musical output. On one side he made a lot of songs with a political background reflecting what’s going on in these days. On the other side he is one of the last poets making very personal songs about his life, love and family. So it’s nearby that this compilation is divided in a political and a personal side.

A. Political Side

1. Northern Industrial Town

This song appeared in 1996 on ‘William Bloke’ and not played very often. For me it’s a perfect description of a town and the people somewhere in England. And at the end you’re surprised that it’s Belfast – not far away as politics might think.

2. World Turned Upside Down

This is Billy’s version of a song by Leon Rosselson about a 17th century group known as the Diggers in Surrey. They simply wanted a share of the land. Unfortunately, Oliver Cromwell didn’t share their ideas and used the army to put down the Diggers, as he wanted to protect the ruling elites’ position within society.

3. Deportees

Woody Guthrie wrote this song in 1948 when he read about an airplane crash in Los Gatos. The crash resulted in the dead of 32 people, 4 Americans and 28 migrant farm workers who were being deported from California back to Mexico. It is a song that was very close to ‘Grapes of Wrath’ and is a standard interpreted by Billy Bragg on ‘Talking With the Taxman about Poetry`.

4. Take Down The Union Jack

This is his song where he protests against the British monarchy and it’s time for something different/new.

Take down the Union Jack, it clashes with the sunset
And pile all those history books, but don’t throw them away
They just might have some clues about what it really means
To be an Anglo hyphen Saxon in England. Co. Uk

5. Between The Wars

With no backing band but his own electric guitar, Billy Bragg sang ‘Between the Wars’ as a first-person narrative of a miner hoping his hard work would be rewarded by care from the government his efforts helped support. Another song about the miners in the 80s and maybe one of his most emotional ones.

B. Personal Side

6. A New England (Peel)

Maybe this is the song that made him famous. What I find really poignant about this song is how cold and brutally honest he is. “I don’t feel bad about letting you go I just feel sad about letting you know” – he knows it’s going to be painful but he feels no guilt. And also the “I’m just looking for another girl”. Imagine saying that to someone when you broke up!

7. St. Swithin’s Day

Another song about an engagement that couldn’t last longer. There are seldom songs that express so much what happened between two people like the ones by Billy Bragg.

The Polaroids that hold us together
Will surely fade away
Like the love that we spoke of forever
On St Swithin’s Day

8. Tank Park Salute

The Tank Park is the Bovington Tank Museum near Wareham in Dorset, UK, and I believe the title of the song refers to a visit Billy and his dad made there. It is a moving song, especially if you have lost your dad, and moves me to tears, But of course, Mr Bragg is near genius in touching home truths.

9. Cold And Bitter Tears

Not typical in instrumentation and arrangement but worth to listen often. Harmony singing on a little Caribbean rhythm he give us another song of love gone by.

10. Walk Away Renee

It’s a song about first unfulfilled love ever. Maybe lots of you know how this guy must feel when his love and dreams don’t come true. And probably the best last words in a song:

And then one day it happened
She cut her hair and I stopped loving her

So that’s it JC. I suppose there will be comments missing some songs. But if we limit this compilation I had to decide which one it will be.


mp3 : Billy Bragg – Northern Industrial Town
mp3 : Billy Bragg – World Turned Upside Down
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Deportees
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Take Down The Union Jack
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Between The Wars
mp3 : Billy Bragg – A New England (Peel Session)
mp3 : Billy Bragg – St Swithin’s Day
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Tank Park Salute
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Cold and Bitter Tears
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Walk Away Renee

JC adds:-

I’ve been toying with the idea of a BB compilation for some time and indeed have had four prototype versions that in the end I felt didn’t quite work.  But, inspired by Walter, I’ve had another go with the proviso that none of his ten excellent choices appear in mine.  It’s coming your way tomorrow.



  1. I suppose it was only a matter of time before The Great Bard appeared here. So so glad Tank Park Salute made the list. It really is Bill’s most touching song.
    Appropriate too that we get a Billy Bragg double-bill (pun not intended, btw) in the week Labour gets a Socialist leader once again.

  2. Likewise re Tank Park Salute – gets me every time at the “i offer up to you this tribute” bit , Also good to see Walk Away and that killer role.

    Some great choices I’ve always loved th e personal Billy rather than the political (Great Leap Forwards the exception but even that feels more personal”)

    So mine would be
    New Spell
    Walk Away
    Short answer

    The Only one
    If you ever leave
    Warmest Room
    Waiting for the great leap

  3. An almost impossible task which Walter has put himself up for and he has made a terrific job.I would have gone for It Says Here on side 1 and The Saturday Boy on side 2 but what to leave out.Looking forward to JC’s list.I suspect 5 or 6 could be produced and we would still be highlighting tracks left out

  4. What a damn fine compilation Walter! I’m looking forward to seeing what tunes JC chooses tomorrow. It’s an incredibly tough call (as most of these imaginary compilations are), but these are the first 10 that came to my mind:-

    A New England
    Between the Wars
    Greetings to the New Brunette
    Must I Paint You a Picture?
    Tank Park Salute

    Accident Waiting to Happen
    The Space Race Is Over
    Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key
    Handyman Blues
    Waiting for the Great Leap Forward

  5. Also looking forward to the JC version but as long as ‘New Brunette’ appears somewhere in the 20 I’m satisfied. Great job, Walter!

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