Back in 1983, Billy Bragg released the very wonderful Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy, seven tracks of love and politics, all just Billy and his trusty electric guitar.
In October 2013, it got the 30th Anniversary remaster and re-release treatment. As a bonus, it included the EP being played in it’s entirety, recorded live at London’s Union Chapel earlier that year.
And in between these two dates, sometime in either late 1986 or early 1987, I was introduced to the charms of Billy by my mate Richard.
Other than my father and my brother, and much later Llŷr, Rich was possibly the greatest influence on my musical taste. It was he who first played me The Smiths (of whom I was aware, but generally indifferent to), and, on the same evening, it was he who first played Billy Bragg to me (ditto).
And today, it’s Richard’s 50th birthday.
So here are those live tracks from that 30th Anniversary reissue, in the order he played them (which isn’t the order they appeared on the original release – he jiggles around with it to ensure A New England, complete with bonus verse “for Kirsty”, rounds things off nicely), complete with an explanatory introduction from Billy himself, which is just as well as he absolutely rips through the rest of the set:
Happy 50th birthday, my old fruit.
And thank you.