Billy Bragg

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Billy Bragg playlist



Contributor: Mat Baker

I am a romantic at heart. And so is Billy Bragg, but if you had written him off as a whingey leftie with a foghorn of a voice, you might not realise this.

The selection above is, for the most part, apolitical. Being Billy Bragg, he can’t help but invoke politics, so a couple in this selection do go down that route – partially – but for the most part, this list is about love and what it does to us.

I made a decision to keep other people’s songs out of the mix, because it seems a little insulting to me to view a rich, thirty year body of work and choose someone else’s work as an example of a finest moment – which ruled out his Wilco/Guthrie work. To be honest, laudable as that project was – and one could say the same about his last three albums or so – I can appreciate the craft and work that has gone into it but I hardly ever feel like listening to it.

I’ve concentrated on the songs that have made an emotional impact on me (every song in this selection has a distinct set of memories with it) and, sadly, his latter work hasn’t.

His lyrics are often achingly beautiful, even if his voice isn’t. Listen to Tank Park Salute (see clip), written about the death of his father, and if you don’t feel his pain then you are probably a Celine Dion fan.


Billy Bragg official website

Billy Bragg biography (Apple Music)

Thanks Mat. Anyone want to let us have a ‘political’ best of BB? I’m sure there’ll be some voices raised for the Mermaid Avenue sessions (see comments below!) so let’s get some more goodies firmly lodged in the Music Bank of Bragg.

TopperPost #65


  1. Rob Crilly
    Sep 8, 2013

    Great list and I, for one, have always thought Billy Bragg’s songwriting skills went much further than the shouty, political ones. I can maybe understand leaving out Between The Wars if you were trying to keep it apolitical, but surely New England has to be on there?

    • Mat Baker
      Sep 8, 2013

      It being one of BB’s more celebrated moments, I did consider it, but the line:
      “Is it wrong to wish on space hardware,
      I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care”

      … has always grinded a bit on me. And he nicked the opening line from Paul Simon, too!

  2. Peter Viney
    Sep 8, 2013

    I was never a fan of Billy Bragg, then I saw him with The Imagined Village and the version of the “Hard Times of Old England Retold” was the centrepoint of the evening with him singing lead. The other memory I will treasure is Billy Bragg and Martin Carthy with electric guitars suddenly going into a full back-to-back Status Quo move. I was converted. So “Hard Times of Old England Retold” is my addition. “… marching to bloody Blair’s nose …” indeed.

    • Mat Baker
      Sep 9, 2013

      I might file that under laudable but don’t fancy listening to it very often.

      I can understand why you might have been changed your view on Bragg having seen him live. He is an entertainer first and foremost, and is always a joy to see.

  3. Martin Palmer
    Oct 16, 2013

    I bloody love Billy Bragg, and this is a good selection. His political stance is very much part of the deal for me, but I totally get the romantic thing, too. I would have had ‘New England’, nicked first line or not (although it was fully acknowledged, he’s a big Paul Simon fan). I think the line about space hardware is a winner, typical Bragg. And I would have had ‘Between the Wars’ in there, and something off Mermaid Avenue too – collaboration it may be, but it’s a fine piece of work and one of my favourite albums by any artist.

    • Mat Baker
      Oct 17, 2013

      To be honest Martin, I have had post-choice angst about this, because his political songs were the first ones that spoke to me. I think I was trying to represent a side to Bragg that the casual observer might not be aware of, and I do love every song here. But perhaps I was too concrete with my criteria because “Between the Wars” and songs like “Days Like These” really should be in a BB top ten. I heard “Everywhere” the other day, and it still sent shivers down my spine, but I ruled out covers, too.

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