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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Billy Braggs “Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy” September 1, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

Billy Braggs “Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy” was the second album I ever bought way back in the mid 80s (‘Jailbreak’ by Thin Lizzy was the first). It was one of those albums that I could recite every song from start to finish. It just had Braggs voice and an electric guitar. Like many others it and later Bragg releases were part of influencing my thinking, my politics and how I viewed life and society.
It came out at the height of Thatcherism a few years after the Falklands War (“Island of No Return” on his second album “Brewing up With Billy Bragg” was about the Falklands War) and when she was in her second term as Prime Minister. It would have been during the Miners strike that I probably bought the album and it was this that inspired one of his best tunes “Between The Wars” (included below).
The album (and other Go Discs records) had “pay no more than £2.99” written on the cover, of course over in Ireland that meant paying £3.99.
There were songs about Class like “To Have and to Have Not” , Love “The Man in the Iron Mask” and other then unusual themes throughout.
The only problem was that it was so short.
The Track Listing..
“The Milkman of Human Kindness”
“To Have and to Have Not”
“A New England”
“The Man in the Iron Mask”
“The Busy Girl Buys Beauty”
“Lovers Town Revisited”

bonus of ‘Between the Wars’


1. WorldbyStorm - September 1, 2012

Hah, that brings back the memories. Great pick. And that’s really true about the “pay no more” line. That used to bug me no end.


LeftAtTheCross - September 1, 2012

Abbada abbada exchange rate…

Speaking of which, another annoyance was the conductor on the 46A who accepted sterling payment for bus fare (during visits home at christmas) but pocketed the note to make a few pence on the rate. Hard times. Wouldn’t mind but that same bus had an Eamon Gilmore sticker WP on the back of the drivers partition.

Anyhow, great choice IEL. Love that song “Between the wars”. The world could do with more Bragg-a-likes around.


2. Brian Hanley - September 1, 2012

Always loved the way Steve Wright tried to be serious when he introduced this on Top of the Pops


Shay Guevara - September 1, 2012

From Andrew Collins’s biography of Bragg, “Still Suitable for Miners”:

“He was introduced by hey-wow, moustachioed Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright, who’d approached Billy beforehand and asked him to explain the whole song, which he duly did. He then came up afterwards and asked him again.”


3. Joe - September 1, 2012

Great pick. Delighted that there’s a This Weekend I’ll be listening to… that I can relate to after all the other out there stuff. Bragg is known for his politics but I love his boy/girl songs too. Saw him in the TV club around the time this came out. Brilliant. Saw him the last time he was in town and I’ve gotten old and he’s gotten old. Prob won’t go the next time.


4. Roasted Snow - September 2, 2012

A new Billy Bragg sound from Thomas Allan. Billy likes him, I believe.


5. eamonncork - September 2, 2012

That was great. Don’t think he ever did a better album than the first one, short and all as it is. And I always thought his boy/girl songs were better than his political ones, The Man In The Iron Mask and The Milkman of Human Kindness being the standouts for me on this one though I suppose the latter is political in a small p kind of way.
These were great too. And heartbreaking. At his best he was much, much more subtle both lyrically and musically than he got credit for.

And I always loved this jeu d’esprit with, I think,Johnny Marr playing acoustic guitar. BB could also be very funny.


WorldbyStorm - September 2, 2012

Stuff with Wilco based on Guthries lyrics was pretty damn good as well.


6. eamonncork - September 2, 2012

By the way, just reading afantastic book How Soon Is Now by Richard King, a history of independent record labels in England from punk to present. Very well written with tons of interesting anecdotes I’d imagine it would be of interest to anyone who likes this thread.


7. eamonncork - September 2, 2012

It all began with this.


8. EamonnCork - September 3, 2012

RIP Hal David who wrote the lyrics to these among others.


9. This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Billy Bragg | The Cedar Lounge Revolution - July 27, 2019

[…] It’s probably Tuesday that I’m looking forward to most, “Lifes a Riot with spy versus spy” (I’ve previously done a TWIBMLT for that album) ,“Brewing Up With Billy Bragg” and “Talking with the taxman about poetry” are all really […]


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