Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy

4 Jun


From 1983, Billy Bragg‘s debut offering – just seven tracks long and with ‘Pay no more than £2.99′ emblazoned on the cover’! I bought it in Cambridge, from the the city’s finest record store – the market stall/shop known as Andy’s Records.

The production budget can’t have been excessive since it is just Billy, his strident, earnest English vocals and his electric guitar – but this focuses on the songs and, right from the start, he’s been a cracking songwriter. There are love songs (most notably ‘A New England’ which Kirsty McColl took into the charts), social commentary (‘The Busy Girl Buys Beauty’ and ‘Lovers Town Revisited’) and anger. The lyrics of  ‘To Have And Have Not’ especially have a depressingly contemporary ring thirty years later:

“Up in the morning and out to school
Mother says there’ll be no work next year
Qualifications once the Golden Rule
Are now just pieces of paper

Just because you’re better than me
Doesn’t mean I’m lazy
Just because you’re going forwards
Doesn’t mean I’m going backwards

If you look the part you’ll get the job
In last year’s trousers and your old school shoes
The truth is son, it’s a buyer’s market
They can afford to pick and choose”.

I actually have three versions of this album: the original vinyl on GoDiscs/Utility (which played at 45 rpm rather than the conventional 33 rpm for and LP)*; a CD reissue which adds the later four-song ‘Between the Wars’ collection; and a third extended edition included in the ‘Volume 1’ box set which adds eleven additional tracks from the same period to the original seven.

From this  you will gather that I really rate Billy Bragg – and have bought pretty much every major official release and a smattering of others) since 1983.

* LPs (Long Playing Records) I heard memorably described by guitarist Wilko Johnson on radio as “a bunch of downloads stuck to a bit of plastic”! They rotated at 33 and a third revolutions per minute on the turntable).


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