Billy Bragg-athon

In 1985, a friend lent me a 4-song, 7-inch EP song by Billy Bragg. The name didn't ring a bell. But a couple of years earlier I'd read Christopher Hill's book about the underground groups that had emerged during the English Civil War (the Diggers, the Ranters, the Fifth Monarchy Men) some of which were putting forward a revolutionary socialist vision in religious language -- and here was Bragg bringing that tradition into the present day....

A year or so later came the first album (in the States anyway), proving that agitprop was just one aspect of what he could do.

I got to see Bragg perform in Austin in 1988, just before the election. After the show, he hung around with the audience to talk about politics -- not an ounce of pretense or "star" bullshit, and far less dogmatic than (ahem) some of us, at the time.

Somehow I lost track of Bragg around the time he released the song "Sexuality." Very catchy....

More recently, this....I love the mock indignation of "You Carpenters fans are just being ironic!"

Finally -- for anyone who's gotten this far -- here is Billy Bragg performing Bill Bailey's parody of a Billy Bragg song, "Unisex Chip Shop":

May 7, 2008 3:22 PM | | Comments (7)



Thanks for the Bragg-a-rama. A friend and I got suspended for playing "Sexuality" in an in-school talent show. We hesitated to submit all the lyrics beforehand, but not to sing them, leaving them the option to detain us for dishonesty rather than imprudence. Protest in our defense was present, but muted; a kid named Moose walked back and forth in front of the in-school suspension chanting Free The Bragg Two!

Living in an era where Lawrence Summers commands that every "honest Democrat" must "admit that we are now all Friedmanites" and does not become a punchline, we could use more agitprop denying that private property and freedom are synonyms. Billy Bragg, to his masterful credit, makes it look easy.

Well, I'm a sucker for the first song, ever since I heard Leon Rosselson do it. I'll have to listen to the rest later: I've heard of Bragg for years, but somehow never actually got around to listening to him....

Hey Scott,

Good call on the Bragg stuff. You know, a band that started as a post-punk band but who have drifted in and out of this kind of political folk-ish genre -- and whose singer sometimes reminds me of Bragg for some reason -- is New Model Army.

That's "51st State," a song about England basically being the "51st state of America." Sometimes their songs are more aggressive, sometimes less so, and more folksy. They recently toured the US and spent much time doing their folkier numbers.

More on the political post-punk side, "Spirit of the Falklands":

Anyway, their output is overall uneven, but some of it reminds me a lot of Bragg, and some is slightly more aggro, but never approaches anything like thrash or anything.



Also, here is a video a friend of mine recorded of New Model Army in March, 2008, during their recent US tour. There is just something unplaceably Bragg-y about them:


They were denied visas for a US tour in 2006 or 2005 because of, they suspect, their name (it has the word "Army" in it), their political beliefs, maybe some members have some convictions (I dunno), and it's post 9-11. That has happened more than folks think.


Thanks for the Bragg-a-rama. Between listening to your selections and looking up Bragg on Wikipedia, I learned more about his socialism. I'm going to tweak my brother-in-law, who is also a Bragg fan, on that point. Why? My brother-in-law is a high-priced consultant for businesses going into bankruptcy. ;\ - TL

Thanks for this stuff, it's good to hear some old Bragg tracks.

His latest release is very good and soulful - Mr Love and Justice - where he succeeds very well in combining the personal with the political.


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