Wednesday, 19 December 2007

I wasn't a miner....but I know a man who was

Advent Calendar day 20

It’s Billy Bragg's 50th birthday today

On the sad news of Tony Wilson’s death a few months ago I mentioned that I have several foot of records he inspired, well the other artist with a high footage is Billy Bragg.

It’s Bills birthday today the DEC 20th and he’s 50, which means I’ve been a fan for 25th years (there are too many high numbers in this last sentence).

This machine kills Fascists
Much like Factory I’m not sure where to start; as I’ve said before BB was the first proper concert I went to see along with New Order. It was anti-apartheid gig in Sheff and it was great.
Next day I wore my “Soweto Don’t Mourn Mobilise” t-shirt to 6th form, I was stopped by a old gaffer in the street, who pointed out “tha alreet wearin’ that arand ‘ere, flower”. He may have had a point, but that sort of protest was in the air, recently a small band of us had listened to a frozen South African trade unionist round the back of the old court house and then had marched on Barclays. Just a few weeks earlier The Miners strike had just come to it’s bitter end, older friends at Uni were joining the peace camps at Greenham common. This is where Billy came in (and where for good or ill some people still place him) his first ep’s where a great mix of Punk and working peoples songs; I played his first single to death with its picture on the front of kids eating their jam tomorrow.

Have Guitar will travel
However what the media etc don’t mention having only taken a snap shot of BB is what he’s like live. In the 20 plus times I’ve seen him I’ve never seen a bad gig, often he’s the best thing on the bill (sorry!). The word raconteur gets over used but that’s what BB is, he’s perfectly aware he’s there to entertain and tells stories and jokes between songs, takes the piss out of other bands but mainly himself. He’ll tease his audience and point out the humorous side of the sometimes po-faced Union/socialist axis. He will also make serious points, normally about some forgotten local issue or sticky national campaign and because he’s won us over, what would be a lecture in the hands of Bono or what’s his name James Martin from Coldplay is just a serious and thoughtful counter point to the jokes about Blur eating kebabs.

Young and wild and warm and free
It’s almost a cliché to point out that he also writes loves songs, but it’s true some of his best work is about the day to day joys and lows of living from the redemptive power of soul music (Levi Stubbs Tears) to bereavement.

Here in no particular order are some of his highlights:

Best song about not having a snog at the school Christmas disco:
Saturday Boy.

Best song about losing your dad:
Tanks park salute.

Best song about a British road
A13_trunk road to the sea.

Best song to mention a cheese pavilion
Waiting for the great leap forward

Best song about astronauts
The space race is over

One of the best versions of Jerusalem

So Bill happy birthday and thanks for everything.

I was going to post a song but didn’t know where to start so here’s a jolly clip from a couple of Glastonbury’s ago. Sadly I think I went to see Mozzer instead (to whom Bill alludes) but here BB shows that socialists aren’t all worthy yoghurt weavers enjoy!

La Lucha Continua!

Here's a mad fan mash up


al_uk said...

hmmmmmm I wonder what started this Billy retrospective?
here's hoping!!!!

John said...

Best song about liking a girl just as much as you like football: The Boy Done Good. Smashing.

The BB CD boxed set is great value if you've not got too much of it already.

BLTP said...

John: I'm torn do I spend the time and rip my vinyl BB tracks to use on my mp3 phone or just buy the box set?

John said...

Send me a mail to john dot hartnup at gmail dot com and I'm sure we can sort something out that satisfies your moral right to play the music you've already bought.

You can give some money to the Anti Nazi League if you like...

Mind you you'd miss out on some nice sleeve notes and booklets.

BLTP said...

My anti-consumerist aspirations do fall foul when tempted by booklets and rare unreleashed session tracks! : )

Anonymous said...

Thanks for introducing me to Billy, big man, and for allowing me to be forever famous for having one arm and half his face appear in bb concert footage for a nanosecond nearly 20 years ago...