Plus guest Duke Special
It was thirty years ago when the Saturday boy from Essex who would become the UK’s foremost political singer-songwriter released his first record, Life’s a Riot With Spy Vs Spy. It contained seven songs, honed live, bashed out on a punk rock electric guitar, and wrapped in a utilitarian, single-colour sleeve. It charted at number 30 in the national charts. Billy Bragg had arrived. His first record company bio stated that he had ‘risen from obscurity to semi-obscurity.’
Orator, entertainer, rabble-rouser, negotiator, pamphleteer, the fabled ‘big-nosed bard from Barking’, Billy Bragg is many things. A regular contributor to the national debate as TV pundit and newspaper columnist, he continues to sharpen his pen as a writer, and his first book, the considered, wide-ranging treatise on English identity The Progressive Patriot, opened up a whole new vista of possibility for a man who never stops engaging with all the trouble in the world. Whether it’s unionized workers, constitutional reform, bankers’ bonuses, illegal wars or the undemocratic commandeering of a portable toilet backstage at a festival, Billy Bragg will help fight your corner.
To quote his enduring live favourite ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’: the world falls apart, but some things stay in place. That optimism lives on in ‘Tomorrow’s Going To Be A Better Day’ from Tooth and Nail: “Take it from someone who knows the glass is half-full, tomorrow’s going to be a better day, no matter what the siren voices say … we’re going to make it that way.”