Last weekend (or was it the weekend before, I lose track so easily these days) I was at a friend’s 40th birthday. The DJ, a very lovely friend of mine, played Kirsty MacColl’s version of A New England. I was stood at the bar, awaiting service, when I became aware that a couple next to me were singing along to it, with pleasingly appropriate gusto.
It always fills my heart with joy, that. Not just to hear that record, but to witness others loving it as much as I do.
Prepare to have the wind sucked out of your sails.
The guy called to his spouse: “It’s a Billy Bragg song, but I’ve no idea who’s singing this.”
The woman shrugged.
I couldn’t help myself.
“Kirsty MacColl. It’s Kirsty MacColl. Famously, it’s Kirsty MacColl.” I spluttered/interjected.
“Is it?” the chap answered.
I braced myself for the follow-up “What’s she up to now?” question.
But instead, this, from his lady friend:
“He’s due a come-back, isn’t he, old Billy?”
I have rarely had to bite my tongue so hard.
“He’s never gone away….!” was all I could proffer.
And as proof, this week Billy has been given the Outstanding Contribution To British Music at this year’s Ivor Novello Awards.
Billy is a man who has stayed true to his principles whilst never losing the knack for bashing out a truly great tune.
I bloody love Billy.
Here’s one such great tune which features not only the dulcet tones of Ms. MacColl on backing vocals, but also one Johnny Marr, who plays guitar. Obviously.
Billy Bragg – Greeting to the New Brunette
And here’s a slightly reworked version, which crops up on his B-Side heavy compilation, Reaching to the Converted (and probably, therefore, on a B-side somewhere, but I can’t be arsed with finding out which one):
Billy Bragg – Shirley
“How can you lie there and think of England when you don’t even know who’s in the team?” What a lyric.
Congrats Billy, this is long overdue.