Billy Bragg – Life’s A Riot With Spy vs Spy
Another from 1983 (I always thought ’72 was The year but maybe ’83 was pretty good too) and what was this appearing like a quiet explosion on the music scene? The title was strange and the cover, imitating a Penguin paperback with a single industrial light was perplexing. But even more surprising – the original vinyl played at 45rpm and lasted just 7 songs and under 16 minutes of voice and abrasive electric guitar. But what a debut – biting words and biting chords and a ‘post punk’ feel. The cassette even had just one side recorded with the other left blank for you to put what you liked on it. I think it also had a sticker telling customers to only pay £1.99 for it. Bragg was, and remains staunchly left-wing, and his songs speak in an authentic voice of unemployment and the bitterness of poverty ‘To Have And Have Not’– but also of hope ‘A New England’ and love ‘The Milkman Of Human Kindness’. Every song is superb and Billy’s playing is strangely beautiful in it’s simplicity and his voice, sung in plain English, is great. He is still plying his trade and has a loyal following – but although his voice and songs have softened over the years, nothing can quite match the shock and amazement of his first debut album.