Ivor Gift for You

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-greetings-to-the-new-brunette-lineBilly 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):

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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.

More soon.

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Sunday Morning Coming Down

Let’s be honest, it was only a matter of time before I got round to posting this.

Bragg, Stipe and Buck having some fun:

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Billy Bragg – You Woke Up My Neighbourhood

I don’t usually post videos in this series, but I’m gonna this time for two reasons:

  1. The appearance of a rather young and svelte Phill Jupitus, who I assume also directed (as he did with Billy’s Sexuality video)
  2. The inclusion of those facts that The Chart Show used to wang up on screen. Y’know, just to make us all yearn for simpler times when people didn’t throw dead fish into the Thames to try and make a political point.

More soon.

A Mix-Tape Maker’s Best Friend

Been a while since I wrote one of these, but the news this week that there will no longer be a print version of the NME has spurred me into life.

I can’t really shed a tear for the NME moving to an online presence only; I haven’t read it for fifteen years or so, certainly haven’t bought it since Emo was a thing, and have never managed to pick up a free copy outside a tube station in London.

I did, however, purchase it semi-religiously from the late 1980s until the very late 1990s. Just like everyone has a Dr Who that is “theirs”, who resonates with their youth, so it is with the NME. I wish I could say that I bought it when Danny Baker et al were the scribes in residence, but my time involved the likes of Andrew Collins, Stuart Maconie, Stephen Dalton, Tom Hibbert, David Quantick, Barbara Ellen, Mary Anne Hobbs and Steve Lamacq. Looking at that list explains why I listen to BBC 6Music so much these days.

The NME was renowned for attaching the occasional cassette to the front cover; regrettably I was too late to grab a copy of the seminal C86 tape at the time, however I did go and purchase today’s selection, which was released in 1988 in conjunction with, and to raise funds for, Childline, a free 24-hour counselling service for children.

The Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father was released to mark the 21st anniversary of the original release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, and as I’m typing this, it seems just unbelievable that another thirty years have passed since then.

The idea was this: get current bands to record cover versions of every track on the album. And so it was that the tribute album was born.

As with many albums of this sort, it’s patchy to say the least. But here’s the tracks I like the most from it. And that one by Wet Wet Wet, which I include purely because it was released as a double ‘A’ side with Billy Bragg’s cover on the other side, which led to Simon Bates having to say on Top of the Pops, after the Wetx3s had mimed their smiley asses off, the following words: “That’s number one, and the other side is number one as well. Here’s Billy Bragg.”

Billy Bragg at #1 in the UK Charts. The stuff that dreams are made of.

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Wet Wet Wet – With A Little Help From My Friends

The Wedding Present with Amelia Fletcher – Getting Better

Billy Bragg with Cara Tivey – She’s Leaving Home

Frank Sidebottom – Being For Benefit Of Mr. Kite

Sonic Youth – Within You Without You

Michelle Shocked – Lovely Rita

The Triffids – Good Morning Good Morning

The Fall – A Day In The Life

A few years later, I was travelling somewhere (I forget where) with a friend who was a massive Beatles fan. He had asked me to put together a mix-tape for the journey, which for reasons that escape me now, I gave to him in advance of our trip to listen to. I included The Fall track, which he took exception to.

“Who the hell is that murdering A Day In The Life?”, he asked before I had clicked the seatbelt into place.

I looked at him, baffled, bemused.

“It’s The Fall. Obviously. It’s obviously The Fall. And they’ve not murdered it. They’ve Fall’ed it.”

I wonder if, after Mark E Smith’s death in January, he is claiming to have listened to The Fall since the late 80s. I know he occasionally reads this, so I’ll report back.

More soon.

“In the End, It Took Me a Dictionary to Find Out the Meaning of Unrequited” #2

If I were more organised, then:

a) this would have been the first post in the series, and

b) I would have posted it on a Saturday.

Such is life.

I can’t really go any further in this thread without posting the song that the thread title is lifted from. I wish I’d chosen something else, for two reasons:

  1. I’ve posted this song before, and
  2. As the title of the series, it takes ages to type out every time.

But here you go: the greatest song ever about unrequited love. A song we can all identify with, I think, set as it is in school years, when we all had a crush which wasn’t reciprocated.

Didn’t we…? Can’t just have been me, surely?

Mine was with a girl called Fiona. Adored her from the moment I clapped eyes on her. But she really wasn’t in the least bit interested.

And then, one day in double English, I was messing about and as a punishment was made to sit on “the girls’ table” for the rest of the term. Right in between Fiona and the equally admired Tammy.

This was no punishment, thought I (and several other boys in my class). This was an opportunity.

Twice a week, I got to show her that I was not just really quite good at English, but also that I was the funniest, most charming bloke they could ever meet. A catch!

It seemed to work for a while. I distinctly recall her relaying a joke that I had made to some of the other girls. A joke about carrots. And not even a rude joke about carrots.

Hey! Don’t judge me! Root vegetables was the subject matter I was handed, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I ran with it.

Alas, Fiona remained impervious to my charms, and shortly afterwards her family moved away, shifting her to a different school.

I like to think me moving seats and her moving school weren’t linked in anyway, but you never know. It’s possible.

It wasn’t even a particularly good joke about carrots, if I’m honest.

It’s all downhill from here.

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Billy Bragg – The Saturday Boy

If ever I think someone needs some Billy in their life, that’s the song I go for. 100% conversion rate so far. If you’ve always steered clear of Billy because you don’t like his politics, pop that prejudice away for a moment and give that a listen.

More soon.

There’s Just One More Thing…

I mentioned last week that my old mate Rich was coming along to The Wedding Present gig last night, on his birthday.

Rich, as I’m sure I mentioned before, is the chap who properly got me into what we now rather endearingly call “indie” music; my brother had laid the foundations, but it was Rich who built on them.

I will never forget the time he played me The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”…

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The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

…closely followed by Billy Bragg’s “The Man In The Iron Mask”

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Billy Bragg – The Man in the Iron Mask

…and then I think something by The Chesterfields, probably this:

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The Chesterfields – Nose Out of Joint

…followed up by Microdisney…

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Microdisney – Town to Town

…by which point I was smitten.

Last night, The Wedding Present played none of those songs, for what I hope are fairly obvious reasons, but they did play this, which I made sure Rich and I had a hug to on the line “You’re not like anyone I ever met”.

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The Wedding Present – A Million Miles

Now we’re all grown up and responsible, professionally, Rich is a teacher. To me, he’s always been one.

Happy (day after) Birthday mate. Love ya.

More soon.

The Election Section V2.9

A change of plan, a Dubious Taste U-Turn if you like.

Instead of presenting “an overview of what the main parties are offering” – what’s the point? You all know what I’m going to say – just a few songs which sum things up for me:

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The Housemartins – Sheep

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Billy Bragg – Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

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The Redskins – Keep on Keepin’ On!

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The Style Council – Walls Come Tumbling Down

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Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine – The Impossible Dream

Oh and this:

More soon.

The Election Section V2.3

I mentioned last week how the Tories had hoovered up most of UKIP’s policies.

Turns out it wasn’t just theirs.

In the 2015 election, Ed Miliband, then leader of the Labour Party, announced his proposals to cap the amount that energy companies could charge for their product. Here’s how it was reported in the national press:

IMG_20170510_001713In 2017, Theresa May announced her plans to cap the amount that energy companies could charge for their product. Here’s how it was reported in the national press:

IMG_20170510_001717So, to be clear: Labour propose something, it’s a backwards step, to be vilified and ridiculed. Conservatives propose exactly the same thing, then it’s a great idea, to be celebrated and promoted.

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In 1986, The Housemartins released “London 0 Hull 4”, an album which concluded with this:

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The Housemartins – Freedom

31 years later, nothing much has changed.

I suppose I can’t get through the next month without posting anything at all by Billy Bragg, so here’s something by The Bard of Barking on the same subject:

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Billy Bragg – It Says Here

More soon.