Billy Bragg took to his Facebook page today to share the news that it's the 40th anniversary of the recording of his debut album "Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy." He said:
40 years ago today I carried my trusty Arbiter guitar and Roland Cube 60 amp into the demo studio at the offices of Chappell Music near Marble Arch in London and over three intense days recorded my debut album Life's A Riot with Spy vs Spy.
Gearing up for some 40th anniversary fun and games over the next 12 months, so stay tuned for details.
That album was life changing for me. It was just Billy, and his guitar, and it was my entry into a world where love and politics are always already entangled. I fell deeply in love with Billy Bragg and his music, and still count him as my favorite musical artist. I've been lucky enough to see him many times live over the years, and hope to continue doing so.
One of the standout songs on the album is, of course "A New England." The Guardian recently published Billy Bragg's terrific piece explaining the origin story of that song. Bragg writes:
I wrote the song in 1979 when I was 21, living in Northamptonshire and playing in the punk band Riff Raff. I was coming back from the pub one night and saw two satellites in the sky. I thought they were a great metaphor for a relationship, so when I got home I wrote down: "I saw two shooting stars last night / I wished on them but they were only satellites." When I came back to the song the following year to finish it, I realised I could truthfully open it with the line, "I was 21 years when I wrote this song / I'm 22 now but I won't be for long", just like Simon and Garfunkel's Leaves That Are Green.
By 1980, Margaret Thatcher had been elected, the band had broken up and punk had dissipated into synthesiser groups, so A New England was my way of saying that I needed a hug as well as a new ideology. The line "the girls I loved in school are already pushing prams" was about my cohort. We'd all left school at 16 and were looking for different ways to become adults.
Read the rest of the origin story here, and enjoy this video of Billy Bragg playing A New England at the Dominion Theatre in London, 1988. In the words of someone who commented on the video on YouTube: "This could be the best song ever written <3" – I couldn't agree more!