On Black Friday, Red Wedge founder Billy Bragg played highlights from the "first pandemic Blues album of our times" and much, much more as he delighted the audience at The Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone. On the penultimate date of his UK tour, Bragg returned to the Kent coast, where years earlier he recalled performing "in a basement or a cellar", to play to a capacity crowd, all of whom were seated. Billy quipped that back in the day he'd played on a stage no bigger than two feet tall to a crowd that he "lost control over" where as nowadays the crowd "can't control themselves...that's why there's an interval".
Bragg's first visit to Folkestone was with Andy Kershaw in the days of "Bragg mania" when he described his technique as "bash 'em out Bragg". Nearly four decades later and Billy Bragg has mellowed out a little, grown older and wiser and learnt how to sing. He did at one point apologise for his "slightly gruff voice" but went on to say, "anyone who heard me back in the day, it's not that different", going on to say that, "I did Life's A Riot as an encore once, nearly killed me." Someone once said to his manager, "Oh man, I feel as I've seen Bill back in the day, as he really was" and his manager replied, "Oh, no, no, no, he couldn't play those songs for s**t back in those days, he's so much better now". Billy Bragg has certainly lost none of his charisma, his ability to captivate a crowd or his passion for the opinions that he holds dear.
Continue reading: Billy Bragg - Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone
Jamie and Leanne are the best of friends and the two girls find themselves constantly being caught up in trouble including the London riots which saw hundreds of police try and stop the chaos happening in the city. Neither have anyone to rely on and their lives have offered them little in the way of love and affection all these things makes their bond of friendship that much stronger.
Both the teenage girls live in a group home called Alpha House which homes some of society's most at risk kids. Jamie finds herself taken on by a new case worker who's called Kate; the in-house worker has a caring heart and reads about how Jamie lost her mother to a heroin overdose.
One day as Kate's walking the halls, she heard Jamie singing to herself in her bedroom, Kate encourages Jamie by telling her about her good vocal skills but the conversation is soon cut short of Leanne and her continually snappy demeanor.
Continue: Urban Hymn Trailer
Corbyn will join Billy Bragg on his Left Field stage at the festival this summer.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accepted an invitation to speak at this year’s Glastonbury Festival from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Mr Corbyn will speak out against plans to renew the controversial Trident programme and call on the government to ban the bomb in front of the crowd of 135,000 music fans.
Jeremy Corbyn will appear at this year’s Glastonbury festival.
A Glastonbury source told The Mirror: “Jeremy has accepted the invitation from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to speak. It’s a fabulous coup for them.” Corbyn will appear alongside festival regular and political activist Billy Bragg on his Left Field stage.
Taylor Swift has denied signing a lucrative deal with Google.
Taylor Swift's representatives have been forced to deny that the superstar pulled her music from Spotify after signing a megabucks deal with Google. Swift removed her entire back catalogue from the streaming service earlier this month, arguing that musicians should not "undervalue their art", however, speculation suggest there may have been darker forces at play.
Taylor Swift has reportedly signed a deal with Google Music - though her spokespeople deny it
The British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has criticized the decision as "corporate power play" and claimed Swift's new songs will soon be available on Google's new service.
Continue reading: Has Taylor Swift Been Given A Sack Full Of Cash From Sergey Brin?
Steel guitar strings are available once again to British prison inmates
Musical campaigners have successfully reversed a ban that had prevented inmates of British prisons from being able to use steel strings on guitars.
Billy Bragg had led the campaign to reverse the steel guitar string ban in British prisons
The ban had meant that the only strings available to inmates were nylon ones, used primarily for classical and Spanish styles and largely unsuitable for steel-strung acoustic guitars due to the way that they’re attached. But now steel strings will be available again, to be paid for out of prisoners’ wages and earned on a privileges basis at the discretion of individual governors.
Continue reading: Musicians Succeed In Reversing Prison Guitar String Ban
Bragg may have ruffled Serge's feathers. We'll see if anything comes of it at Glastonbury 2014.
Kasabian were the subject of derision when they chose to divulge the lyrics, "Horsemeat in the burgers, people commit murders, everyone’s on bugle, we’re being watched by Google" early. They eventually revised those lyrics for their current single, ‘Eez-eh’, but Billy Brag still thinks they’re the Spinal Tap of modern music.
Serge Pizzorno performing at Hard Rock Calling in 2013
"They have an important role to play: they are there to remind us how true Spinal Tap was. I'm not a fan, but if you read their interviews as if it was dialogue from Spinal Tap, it's very entertaining," says Bragg. Only trouble is, high-maintenance lead-singer Serge isn’t really going for satire; he’s genuinely making what he believes to be a comment on the socio-political state of the United Kingdom.
More: British Rockers Hit Out At Prison Guitar Ban
Continue reading: Billy Bragg Likens Kasabian's Swagger To Spinal Tap's Satire
2013 was another successful year for Camp Bestival with performances from the likes of The Proclaimers, Richard Hawley, Grandmaster Flash and Billy Bragg.
Richard Hawley plays one of his many splendid guitars.
Camp Bestival 2013 took over the weekend (August 2nd - 4th) at Lulworth Castle in Dorset last week, with some superb live headline and DJ sets each day.
It was an eclectic line-up of artists both legendary and newly emerging and ranging from the underground cult favourites to the more chartworthy pop stars. Richard Hawley, formerly of Britpop band Longpigs and Pulp, played an awesome headline set on day one with an array of different electric guitars. He shared the stage with 'I'm Gonne Be (500 Miles)' hitmakers The Proclaimers as well as reggae veteran Max Romeo, Manchester trio I Am Kloot and folk punk activist Billy Bragg.
First album from the political songwriter in five years... with a difference
One of the biggest politically-minded voices left in music has announced a move away from his previous statement-laden songs to focus more on personal relationships. Billy Bragg has been outspoken about political and societal ills for 30 years now as a performer, but he told Reuters that new album Tooth & Nail – his first in five years – will be more of a relationship-based record.
"This album became a way of moving to the next thing, of moving on," Bragg he said to the news service. He said that he felt he had something to prove by returning with a new release, saying "I felt if I didn't come back to the recording industry I would be surrendering, saying I am too old, too political."
However, he did say that the politics of the time are so hard to gauge now, and that the defined Left and Right side of politics in his heyday allowed him to make his own firm decision on where he stood. "Today I have no idea where (Prime Minister) David Cameron stands," he said. "On one hand he is cutting money for disabled people but at the same time he is arguing for equal marriage. If I am confused then imagine how a 20-year-old feels today."
Mr Love and Justice
Something of a dual celebration is marked by this release, coinciding as it does with Bragg's fiftieth birthday and him reaching the milestone of twenty-five years as a performer. That's some feat in today's currency - for many different reasons, I can't imagine many of today's pop heroes achieving that kind of longevity. Once again Billy Bragg is joined by his band The Blokes, and perhaps that's where this album falls short. Bragg's always been a decent songwriter, but I've always had the nagging doubt that sometimes he doesn't do his own songs justice - look at Kirsty MacColl's treatment of âA New Englandâ or Dubstar's reworking of âSt Swithin's Dayâ, for example. Both versions (in my mind at least) take the starkness of the originals and build and develop them into something quite beautiful.
With The Blokes in tow, however, it's a bit of a different story. There's something essentially coffee-table about the music on this record. It's very unchallenging. I don't know whether it quite descends into the realms of the cheesy, but it is very formulaic, country-esque soul that feels a bit lazy. There are lyrical highlights, of course - we'd expect that, wouldn't we? He takes on tobacco companies on âThe Johnny Carcinogenic Showâ and New Labour's frightening attacks on civil liberties on âO Freedomâ, and âM For Meâ is certainly clever lyrically (even if it has an unforgiveable trombone solo).
Sadly, not even a guest appearance from Robert Wyatt (a kindred spirit in many ways, but a significantly more inventive one) or producing duties from frequent Fall knob-twiddler Grant Showbiz can rescue this record, I'm afraid. Now more than ever - since young people have entirely lost interest in politics and the very idea of political music seems risible to them - we need people like Billy Bragg to be making better records than this. He's still got a lot to say and a great deal contribute, but this album will convert no-one and excite no-one. There is, apparently, a bonus second disc (which wasn't included in the promo copy I was sent), on which Bragg performs the same set of songs acoustically. To contradict entirely what I wrote in the first paragraph, that might in some ways be a better listen: certainly the songs on display here might benefit from a more stripped-down treatment.
Date of birth
20th December, 1957