He’ll the first to admit that he’s never really been one for trying to set the singles chart alight, but Billy Bragg must look back over his career and wonder why so many great 45s flopped in the most spectacular of manners.
He went Top 20 very early on with the Between The Wars EP, and other than a charity double-sided single with Wet Wet Wet that went to #1 in 1988, only three more of his singles ever made the Top 40, two of which came from the 1991 LP, Don’t This At Home.
One of those was Sexuality, and the other was a different version of another song originally made available on the album:-
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Accident Waiting To Happen (Redstar Version)
This reached #33 in early 1992, thanks in part to the record label going for the multi-format approach with a 7″, 12″ plus two CDs being released. You’ll have to make do with the three tracks that came with the 12″:-
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Sulk
mp3 : Billy Bragg – The Warmest Room (live)
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Revolution
Yup, it’s a cover of a Beatles song, although at less than 2mins in length it’s a bit of a trash-through than anything else. Sulk is a great ‘lost’ song of Billy Bragg – one that would have not been out of place at all on the LP. Not sure where exactly the live track is taken from – there’s no information on the back of the sleeve or on the label, but it’s from the period when Billy first toured with a band – The Redstars. I know it was an extensive and ambitious tour, and the gig I was lucky enough to see at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh was hugely enjoyable, although I recall thinking at the time that Billy seemed to often forgot that he had a band onstage with him as he delivered his ever-entertaining monologues for up to 5 minutes at a time that had the other musicians looking around for something to do in the meantime. It’s not the greatest version as Billy’s vocal limitations are very much on display as he struggles to reach some of the high notes…..
The other hit single was Take Down The Union Jack, which reached #22 in June 2002. It was recorded by Billy Bragg & The Blokes, originally found on the album England, Half-English. Its success could also be put down to multi-formatting, with 3xCD singles, all released at the same time and available to be packaged up at a discounted price, in the week that Billy wanted to try and get an anti-establishment song into the charts in the week the UK was celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the reigning monarch.
As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Raith Rovers Football Club and the past week has been, without any question, the darkest period in our long history. It’s been all over the media if you want to learn more. The chorus of Accident Waiting To Happen is dedicated to those at the club who took the decision.