Friday, January 18, 2013
50 GREAT ALBUMS IN MY 50th YEAR (Part 4)
Of all the ones where I had to narrow it down to just the single selection by a band or singer, choosing my favourite Billy Bragg LP was by the far the most difficult.
All of his first four release - Life's A Riot With Spy vs Spy (1983), Brewing Up With Billy Bragg (1984), Talking With Taxman About Poetry (1986) and Worker's Playtime (1988) were VERY serious contenders. Each one of them holds a significance for an important part of my life....and there's so many stories I could use to illustrate just what I mean. In particular, Taxman was on the list, then off, the list, then back on again but in the end it slipped off at the 11th hour. It was the album of my first flat under my own steam now that I was earning a wage. It was the perfect mix of pop and politics that was my entire world at that time. And in Levi Stubbs' Tears it contains a song that is a genuine classic (it didn't make the 45 45s at 45 list for the simple reason that I didn't buy it as a single when it was released - it was a case of, for the most part, saving the hard-earned cash for LPs).
By 1991, I had made a few mistakes in life including a sham of a marriage and some daft angry reactions to things at work which setback any aspirations for a career. But as they say, every cloud.....and by 1991 I had also met and was now living with the now Mrs Villain and some great new friends and colleagues had come into my life, not least TVV contributors Jacques the Kipper (who taught me so much about late 80s music that had passed me by) and Mr John Greer (who taught me so much about the football team that was now taking up my time).
By 1991, Billy Bragg hadn't released an original LP in three years - it was only many years later on the publication of his biography did many of us learn that he had also been through something of a crisis in his personal life - and music and performing for once weren't all the high on his agenda.
Don't Try This At Home was in a sense the comeback album. And it was a stunning comeback.
16 tracks in total. It has songs about politics, love, war, religion, racism, sport and family life. It has songs that are performed in the style of punk, folk, indie, country and pop. It has hit singles and chart misses. It has songs that make me laugh and it has songs that make me cry. It has fantastic and memorable contributions from Johnny Marr, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Kirsty McColl (RIP). It has incredible contributions on keyboards and backing vocals from Cara Tivey. It has some of the best lyrics that the Bard of Barking has ever written and without question the most stunning and moving cover version he's ever recorded.
It's an album that Billy took out on tour with a fantastic live band - The Red Stars - and led to a fantastic live 'bootleg' CD that you could buy at gigs in future years (not to mention them re-recording one of the LP tracks for release as a single). A band that included the aforementioned Ms Tivey and Wiggy, Billy's old mucker from his youth and punk days.
It's an album that almost 22 years on still sounds vibrant and fresh thanks to really sharp production from Grant Showbiz (and occasionally Johnny Marr)
It's an album that sustained me on the daily slog between my Glasgow home and Edinburgh office, having been recorded onto cassette tape from the CD that, as the sticker on the front reminds me to this day, brought me 60 minutes of music for the price of a single album. It's an album that I also proudly own as a vinyl boxset consisting of 8 x 7" singles. It's an album I re-purchased as part of a Billy Bragg CD boxset so that I could get 14 bonus tracks.
I think I might have managed to convey that I am very very very fond of this album. Just as I am very very very fond of Billy's first four albums. But for class and consistency, Don't Try This at Home make the list.
mp3 : Billy Bragg - Accident Waiting To Happen
mp3 : Billy Bragg - Everywhere
mp3 : Billy Bragg - Sexuality
mp3 : Billy Bragg - Body Of Water
Johnny's guitar playing on and co-authorship of Sexuality was a painful reminder of how much his former partner in The Smiths was missing him. Everywhere is just a stunning song in so many ways. I didn't spot for at least ten years that it was a cover....I just assumed it was a Bragg original.....and then one day I looked closely at the CD and saw it was written by Greg Trooper/Sid Griffin. The former recorded it for a 1992 LP that is long out of print, but I've tracked a version of the song down:-