bbragg

One of the things I was most proud of at the old place was just how many folk were prepared to respond to my requests for guest postings.  I’m intending to dig out a number of these over the upcoming Christmas/New Year period as there were some really fabulous bits of writing and fantastic tales that should be shared again.  For now, I’m going back to February 2008 and a wonderful contribution from ctel who is best know for the blog Acid Ted.

His blog must be just about the best out there in terms of his knowledge of and passion for dance music and club sounds.  But his tastes in music are waaaaaay wider than he writes about on Acid Ted.  Here’s some evidence:-

TVV and I have a shared love of the Bard of Barking – Billy Bragg. If there were any justice on this world, Billy would be the UK’s Poet Laureate. But there isn’t, so he isn’t.

A favourite live track is his track A13 – an unlovely road running from East London to the Essex Coast. This is done in a combination of the music of Route 66 and the romanticism of early Bruce Springsteen. The V&A site even has an article from Billy about the A13. Worth reading in full.

But here is an extract:

One of the fondest memories of my childhood concerns the time my father let me drive his green Morris Oxford very, very slowly across the field that served as a car park behind the beach. It was my first ever driving lesson and it ended abruptly when I nervously stamped the brake pedal down to the floor and father banged his head on the windscreen.

I must have been about twelve years old yet I can still feel the leather of the driver’s seat warm on my bare back and hear the bonk as father, sitting half-sideways and caught unawares, hit the Triplex hard. What great days. Every visit we would buy a plastic football and lose it before we went home and sometimes, if the tide was out, my little brother and I would walk almost to Holland it seemed, watched over through parental binoculars as we jumped in the puddles all the way back.

Shoeburyness. That name brings back memories of days spent far away from the cares of home, when everything was fun except bedtime. The beaches are still there but the green Morris Oxford has gone the way of so many precious things and I shall never see it again. Me and my dad have joined the Saxons and the Peasants Revolt in history but the A13 is still there, rolling through a Springsteenesque landscape in which riverine Essex takes the place of the New Jersey shore, a tarmacadam trail to the Promised Land.

Billy is a witty performer and not above poking fun at his own earnest reputation. A favourite is Unisex Chipshop with Billy and Bill Bailey performing at Glastonbury 2004 what Billy clams is his son’s favourite track.

“I used to buy my chips from an oppressive chip shop regime.

The girl who worked there she seemed happy but I knew it was not what it seemed

“Do you want salt and vinegar?” was what they made her say

But in the language of the ghetto that means “Help! I’m a woman in chains”

I used to see her. In my dreams I would see her running naked through the woods round Rainham

If I had some tigers I’d train them.

To protect her. From the sexual fascism that was lurking…

round the gherkins!

I leaned across the counter and we would talk.

I carved her name – Debbie – on a little wooden fork

But into the shop came a skinhead gang

They snatched the fork from my hand

Debbie she looked at me

To assert my masculinity

I said “OI!”

They said “WHAT!”

I said “…nothing”

You can buy BB themed stuff from his website

mp3 : Billy Bragg – A13, Trunk Road To The Sea
mp3 : Bill Bailey & Billy Bragg – Unisex Chip Shop (live – Glastonbury 27 June 2004)

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I added my own PS to that post:-

ctelblog has just captured what I, and so many others love about BB.  If you don’t already own it, then The Progressive Patriot, his book about Englishness is essential reading, as is the hugely-readable and often enlightening BB bio by Andrew Collins.

And here’s a (formerly) hard to find version of the song ctelblog has brought to everyone’s attention:-

mp3 : Billy Bragg – A13, Trunk Road To The Sea (Peel Session, 27 July 1983)

Enjoy.