The thing is, if this song had been in existence a few years earlier, my life would have been a lot easier:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg – Greetings to the New Brunette

Falling in love with a feminist at university in 1984 wasn’t the cleverest thing I ever did. Of course I was attracted to her because she was good-looking, but I wouldn’t dare tell her that was what it was all about. She was smart, articulate and incredibly aware and sure of her politics, and I did learn an awful lot from her. But I was, at heart, a boy who loved his football, his music, his dancing and, yes, the company of mates who were prone to boorish and occasionally offensive behaviour.

I tried my best, but I couldn’t be perfect and the relationship really was doomed from the outset.

Greetings to the New Brunette came up on a podcast thing I was listening to a few days ago, and it was probably the first time in three or four years I had heard it right through. I had forgotten how wonderful a tune and song it is (with a tip of the hat to Kirsty MacColl and Johnny Marr) and I got a little bit misty-eyed with the nostalgia of it all, with the realisation that I was fortunate to grow up in the era I did, not just for the great music I was exposed to, but the opportunities that life has afforded me, from not having to take a job on leaving school to meeting incredible people at every stage of my life.

I’ve got this on 12″ vinyl. Here’s your b-sides:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg – Deportees
mp3 : Billy Bragg – The Tatler
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Jeane
mp3 : Billy Bragg – There Is Power In A Union (instrumental)

The first of these is a cover of a Woody Guthrie song, inspired by a tragic incident of which I had no inkling until writing this post. Click here.  Billy is very ably assisted on this one by Hank Wangford.

The second is a cover of a track that is best-known from its version by Ry Cooder but which in fact dates back to the 1930s as the work of Washington Phillips, an American gospel and gospel blues singer who, in an oversight, doesn’t get any credit on Billy’s release on this single.

The third, as has been mentioned before on this blog, is a stunning version of an early Smiths b-side, while the last track is exactly as it says on the tin, an instrumental take on one of Billy’s best-known political songs.



  1. “I’m more impressionable when my cement is wet.” Damn, I wish I wrote that line.
    His best song?

  2. Chock full of fantastic lyrics – how can you lie there …, these are our summer years. But my fav “the people from your church agree it’s not much of a career, trying the handles of parked cars , whoops there goes another year whoops there goes another pint of beer”

  3. Mr Bragg is an exceptional lyricist as 3 of these songs attest – replacing the instumental for vocal of track 4. I have never been a fan and I don’t know why. I have skirted around his orbit enough to be able to enjoy some of his output. Gosh, Hank Wangford he seemed to involved with a good deal of artists at that time and was often referred to, in my childish way of the time, as Wank Hangford. Tsk!

    Slightly off-topic: a very long time ago – possibly 10 years – a friend allowed me to hear a cover version of Jeane. Jeane is a song I adore. It has often been cited as my favourite Smiths songs on a long list of all my favourite Smiths songs. The cover version, by The Kamerads, floored me. The vocals were exquisite and the overall simplicity infectious.

  4. Great post, JC.

    I’ll probably get into all sorts of trouble here
    by stating my slight preference for the version of
    ‘Greetings… ‘which, I believe, is simply titled ‘Shirley’.

    FlimFlam: indeed. A lovely cover from a long time ago.

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