As promised yesterday.
I feel I have to mention that there’s nothing featuring later than 1996 but want to stress that this is not a reflection on the songs and music that has been released since then. It’s simply down to the fact that there is so much to choose from in that initial thirteen-year burst of activity when Billy Bragg was without any question the foremost singer-songwriter in the UK. I’d never seen anyone quite like him before.
And then there’s the live experience…whether just him and his guitar, or with a band, he never fails to entertain. His songs are great, but quite often the monologues are even better.
1. Greetings To The New Brunette
There is just now way I can allow an imaginary compilation not to open with something that features the talents of Johnny Marr and Kirsty MacColl so prominently. I was tempted to go with an alt version that is basically just Billy and Johnny but Kirsty’s typically wonderful backing vocals won me over.
2. Which Side Are You On?
This track was synonymous with his live shows in the early-mid 80s when the UK was in the middle of what felt like an unprecedented and prolonged period of politically motivated civil unrest. I was astonished to learn that the song was already 50 years old when Billy started performing it – evidence indeed that some things never change.
3. The Space Race Is Over
From angry ideologist to caring, sharing and loving dad in the blink of an eye. It’s a story which resonates with many of my closest friends and this one is dedicated to all of them.
4. The Saturday Boy (live)
If anyone ever mentions that they don’t like Billy cos he is a one-trick pony only capable of singing protest songs then this is my way of coming back at them. A stunning tale of love and rejection. And a reminder of what exactly la la la la la la la la la la means when used in a song (most of the time anyway).
This live version is taken from an official bootleg Live at the Barbican recorded in March 2004. And given the imaginary LP has gone into a live setting for the moment I think it would be appropriate to include a typically funny and entertaining monologue before the next song….and so, lifted from the same bootleg…
4a. Morrissey’s Rubber Sheet
5. Levi Stubbs’ Tears
Walter quoted some wonderful lyrics yesterday. This contains one of my favourites
“The sort a war takes away
And when there wasn’t a war he left anyway”
Everyone accepts that Billy isn’t the greatest singer in the world, but its the very basic, fragile and uncertain nature of his delivery that makes this so effective a song. See also, in a similar theme, the very moving Valentine’s Day Is Over from Worker’s Playtime or the Peel Sessions album.
1. Love Gets Dangerous
The first time I saw Billy was on the street during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the days when he had the amp strapped to back so that he could set up when and where he liked busker style. He played four or five tunes and attracted a huge audience. This was one of the tunes that day and I’ve gone for the Peel version as it comes closest to catching that particuluar performance that day. Falling in love is indeed very very scary.
2. The Short Answer
And as if to prove the above point, here it is writ large in all its ugly and painful way when things fail to work out.
“Between Marx and Marzipan in the dictionary
There was Mary”
It’s not just the sad love songs that prove he has an uncanny ability to tug at the heartstrings and in this instance he is ably assisted by the poignant mandolin playing of Peter Buck.
From angry ideoligist to caring, sharing and loving dad in the blink of an eye. It’s a story which resonates with many of my closest friends and this one is again dedicated to all of them.
5. Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards
If I was ever asked if there was one song in the world that I wished I had ever written, it would be this.
And here’s a wee confession….without fail it activates my tear ducts despite the fact that it’s not a sad song whatsoever. But it’s a song that makes me think about death for the simple fact is that I want it to be played at my funeral as the mourners depart the service…and I want them all to laugh out loud at the point Billy shouts ‘beam me up Scotty.” You’ll all be welcome to attend.
The best closing song to any album….ever.
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Greetings To The New Brunette
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Which Side Are You On?
mp3 : Billy Bragg – The Space Race Is Over
mp3 : Billy Bragg – The Saturday Boy (live)
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Morrissey’s Rubber Sheet
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Levi Stubbs’ Tears
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Love Gets Dangerous (Peel Session)
mp3 : Billy Bragg – The Short Answer
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Everywhere
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Brickbat
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards