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Bob Dylan, Bertolt Brecht and "When the Ship Comes In"

Album cover

Album The Times They Are a-Changin’
Released January 13, 1964
Recorded October 23, 1963
Genre Folk
Length 3:18
Label Columbia
Writer Bob Dylan
Producer Tom Wilson

The “Folky” created the classic “When the Ship Comes In” back in 1963 for his third studio album The Times They Are a-Changin’, released in 1964.

Joan Baez stated in the documentary film No Direction Home that “When the Ship Comes In” was, to a great extent inspired by an actual event when a hotel clerk that refused to give the young Dylan a room due to his “unwashed” appearance – of course, Dylan was not a superstar, or even famous outside of the folk movement back in 63!

The song then grew into a sprawling epic allegory, about vanquishing the oppressive “powers that be”.

It soon became a folk classic, a standard that was covered by a slew of famous artists within the folk movement, and some artists without.

Dylan’s main inspiration for this song is said to be Pirate Jenny (1928) by Bertolt Brecht & Kurt Weill, both thematically and in lines such as;

You gentlemen can wipe off that smile off your face
Cause every building in town is a flat one
This whole frickin’ place will be down to the ground
Only this cheap hotel standing up safe and sound

Inspiration was also likely gleamed from My Ship (1941), written by Kurt Weill & Ira Gershwin wherein are found lines such as;

My ship’s aglow with a million pearls
And rubies fill each bin
The sun sits high in a sapphire sky
When my ship comes in

In Dylan’s magnificent 2004 memoir, “Chronicles: Volume One,” – a must have not only for Dylan fans, not only for music fans and not only for fans of great literature! – there is a fascinating section exploring how Bob Dylan went from being an ingenue unable to write or structure an original song, to being – in an incredibly short timeframe – someone with an almost preternatural expertise in the art of songwriting.,_Volume_1.jpgBob writes about how he took certain great songs from artists he worshiped and tried to break them down into kernel parts, so that he might attain some understanding of how their creators created them.

Among the slew of such artists he worshiped, as set out in “Chronicles”, prominent therein is Bertolt Brecht, who Bob writes had an enormous impact on his development as an artist.

As if describing a conversion on the road to Damascus, Dylan recalls in great detail “Brecht on Brecht,” a musical revue he saw in the Village in ’63. He only happened upon the show by chance while waiting for his girlfriend, , who was on the production staff.

“My little shack in the universe was about to expand into some glorious cathedral, at least in songwriting terms,” he writes, describing his reaction to the music. “They were like folk songs in nature, but unlike folk songs, too, because they were sophisticated.”

Bob was struck in particular by “Pirate Jenny” from “The Threepenny Opera.” This bracing song, with music by Kurt Weill, tells the story, from the point of view of a maid, of an ominous black ship coming into town.“Each phrase comes at you from a 10-foot drop, scuttles across the road and then another comes like a punch on the chin,” Bob writes in “Chronicles.”

“This piece left you flat on your back and it demanded to be taken seriously. It lingered. Woody had never written a song like that,” he says, referring to his folk hero Woody Guthrie. “It wasn’t a protest or topical song and there was no love for people in it.”

After seeing the show, he writes, he painstakingly took apart the song’s structure, lyrics and melody to figure out what made it work.

“It was the form, the free verse association, the structure and disregard for the known certainty of melodic patterns to make it seriously matter, give it its cutting edge. It also has the ideal chorus for the lyrics. I wanted to figure out how to manipulate and control this particular structure and form.”

He continues, “I could see that the type of songs I was leaning towards singing didn’t exist and I began playing with the form, trying to grasp it — trying to make a song that transcended the information in it, the character and plot.”

So, “totally influenced by ‘Pirate Jenny,’ ” Bob says he began experimenting with his own songwriting!

Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin’.
Like the stillness in the wind
‘Fore the hurricane begins,
The hour when the ship comes in.

Oh the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking.
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking.

Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they’ll be smiling.
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand,
The hour that the ship comes in.

And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken.
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean.

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline.
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck,
The hour that the ship comes in.

Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin’.
And the ship’s wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin’.

Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’.
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real,
The hour when the ship comes in.

Then they’ll raise their hands,
Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands,
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered.
And like Pharaoh’s tribe,
They’ll be drownded in the tide,
And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered.

Bob Dylan
Copyright ©1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

There’s an interesting piece on the origins of this song, which talks about Pirate Jenny (1928) by Bertolt Brecht & Kurt Weill, and My Ship (1941), music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, amongst others; as well including as a nice piece fromm Jason Zinoman, a few snippets of which we’ve borrowed above!

There’s a nice piece below about this great song from Jeff Nielsen at musicruinedmylife – a very fine blog!

musicruinedmylife? What a coincidence! Music ruined my life too! Well, music and alcohol. Actually, music and alcohol and drugs. Well, more accurately, music and nasty alcohol and nastier women!

Ahem … sorry …. A nice piece on Dylan, the protest song and some twenty two different versions of the classic “When the Ship Comes In“!

Great work mate!

Here’s the piece below …. Check out more stuff like this at musicruinedmylife motherfos!

God, I’m glad I’m not me.

Bob Dylan

The Ship Confused

by Jeff Nielsen (musicruinedmylife)

Recently, I told my father (a retired seventy-something philosophy professor and disavowed leftist) that I’d gone to see a Bob Dylan concert. He asked, “So are his songs about Iraq and Afghanistan now?”

In a knee-jerk response, I said, “Bob Dylan hasn’t written a protest song since 1964.”

Glib and a bit suspect. (“Au contraire, mon frere,” someone will comment, “what about “George Jackson”, “Hurricane” and …uh…“TV Talkin’ Song”?”) However, it is true that his Dylan, the old black and white, finger-pointin’ Dylan of ’63-’64, turned out to be just a fleeting facet of the man.

Everyone* has their own Dylan. Dylanologists (and, of course, Todd Haynes) have over the years, delineated these variegated Dylan archetypes (traditionalist, protest singer, rocker, country crooner, gypsy, Christian, hack, old cowboy etc.) which everyone is free to warp into their own one and only Dylan. Witness the depths that Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone and Sean Curnyn at Right Wing Bob will plumb to twist Dylan’s every twitch into a signal of allegiance to their own political vision. (As Joan Baez, in No Direction Home, informs those who ask if Bob will come and join their cause. “He never comes, you moron. When are you gonna get it?”)

My own Dylans are a hopeless mish-mash. At the age of ten “Gotta Serve Somebody” played alongside “You Don’t Bring me Flowers Anymore” and “I Will Survive” on my cheap transistor radio. At eleven, a cassette of Greatest Hits smeared together the earliest Dylans for an awkward pre-adolescent. Following a plunge into fundamentalist Christianity, I bought a used LP of Saved and topped it off with the, then-current, Knocked out Loaded. That duo – a gospel album and a hodgepodge – cooled me on Dylan for years. But, much later, I came back, and devoured his entire catalog – finding the wheat even in the chaff-ridden albums. I concluded that with each Dylan being rewarding (even if some are much less so) that picking a single favourite is an affront to the man’s work.

However, pushes turning to shoves, that stark, earnest, tune-pilfering Dylan of the early sixties is damn compelling for me. This is the Dylan of my father (a man who has ignored Bob for forty-some years yet can still recite whole verses of “The Times They Are A-Changin’”).

One crucial favourite of this era is “When the Ship Comes In” from The Times They-Are-A-Changin’. This hard-charging battle anthem seems to be about civil right but is in fact all about personal indignation. Joan Baez says after Bob, in all his scruffiness, was turned away from a hotel he wrote the song in a fury. It’s a short jump from the belligerence of this song’s, “Then they’ll raise their hands/Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands/But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered” to “Positively 4th Street’s”, “You got a lotta nerve/To say you got a helping hand to lend/You just want to be on/The side that’s winning”. That anger, open or hidden, is one of the many constants in all of Dylan’s guises.

In the end, each of the facets are of a piece; there is no Dylan but Dylan.

“There was a time in my life when I fervently wanted to be Bob Dylan. Then I realized that practically everyone else in the world wanted to be Bob Dylan, too, and that even if we all got our wish, being Bob Dylan would be so common that it would be completely meaningless to be Bob Dylan even for the actual original Bob Dylan and the world would end up exactly the same as it was before.”

Frank Portman, King Dork

* Hemispheric bias duly noted.

Here for your listening pleasure, possibly, are twenty two different versions of “When the Ship Comes In.”

Bob Dylan

In 1963 at Carnegie Hall Dylan gave one of those the rambling introductions (“There are crueller Goliaths…”) that would later get him in trouble and then tore into the song, throwing a punk snarl into the consonants. Video (March on Washington) here.

The Hillmen

The phoniness that oozes from the living corpse named David Crosby may taint the Byrds for some but Chris Hillman, on the other hand, has a history including once leading this sterling bluegrass band (alongside future country star Vern Gosdin) who in 1964 effortlessly thrust the song back to another time and geography.

Arlo Guthrie

This live version from 1994 , with Pete Seeger (supposedly), feels laboured as Arlo’s Dylanesque voice (which he possess for very good reason) clashes with an inflated lite-rock arrangement.Video here

The Silkie

Underwhelming vocals and half-hearted accompaniment on this 1965 version of the song make this band sound like a wa-a-a-y too polite version of the (already pretty damn polite) Seekers. Video here

Billy Bragg

Bragg’s recent version of the song gives it a slightly mournful take, akin to Dylan’s later-period sad readings of “The Times They-are-a Changin’”, which is a shame as the world could use a clanging solo-electric guitar version like Bragg did for that damn “Times….” song.

Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem

That hammy introduction (“You never thought you’d hear Dylan with an Irish accent did you?”) for this version of the song from 1992’s 30th Anniversary Concert reminds us that the Clancy’s are actors who bring a broad, theatrical feel to the song, perhaps bringing the song back to it’s roots in the song “Pirate Jenny” from Bertolt Brecht’s Three Penny Opera. Video here.

Carl Marcus Franklin

In his 2007 film, I’m Not There, director Todd Haynes cast Franklin to portray Dylan as a pre-teen African American named Woody and the young actor digs into the song’s gospel elements .Video here

Coal Porters

While this band, led by former Long Ryder and author Sid Griffin (who did justice to the Clash’s “Something About England on the Sandanista Project – previously) may not have created the lost Byrds version they aspire to this 2001 version still stands as a fitting tribute to Chris Hillman’s take on the song.

Hugues Aufray

Le Jour où le Bateau Viendra is a translation by French, (“French from France” as a good Franch-Canadian would specify) singer and Dylan pal, Aufray who gives the song a more heroic but still faithful read.


Idlewild go all sad n’ piano here for a version that will (for a lucky few) recall singer Roddy Woomble’s stunning solo album, My Secret is my Silence (which might better Idlewild’s tense but melodic sophomore 2000 album 1,000 Broken Windows from which this song is a b-side.)


It’s 1979 – the Clash have unleashed London Calling, Daniel Amos are preparing to break Christian rock free of the Eagles grasp with Horrendous Disc and somewhere there still existed this freeze-dried Mighty-Wind Christian folk band (not-to-be-missed album available here) full of banjo and church-choir break-it-down sections.

Mark Haines and Tom Leighton

In 2002 this East Coast Canadian folk duo did a fine accordion and tin whistle take on the song which has clearly become a Celtic standard thanks to the Clancy Brothers.

Totta & Wiehe

Totta Näslund, a veteran Swedish rocker, died of liver cancer in 2005 just before finishing an album of Dylan songs including this one of When the Ship Comes In (apparently a Euro-Dylan favourite) translated to Swedish (as När Vårt Skepp Slår Til) with Mikael Wiehe.

Peter, Paul, Mary

This trio was always disparaged for sanitizing Dylan (didn’t the Byrds do that too?) and this bouncy, yet sincere 1965 cover will not change anyone’s views on a group who are as static as Dylan is mercurial. Video here

The Pogues

Hampered a bit by trying so hard to sound like their earlier selves, this Shane McGownless-less, but Joe Strummer-fortified (previously), version of the Pogues circa 1996 do get the closest to doing a punk rock version of this song (albeit with heavy tin whistle).

Steve Gibbons



The Hollies

Not only did the Hollies do a Dylan covers album as late as 1968 (it’s wretchedness causing Graham Nash to quit and inflict Crosby, Stills and Nash upon an unsuspecting world) but the syrupy arrangement here makes the Slkie sound like the Stooges. Video here

Roky Erickson (13the Floor Elevators.)

Like many Roky semi-bootlegs, this rough demo of uncertain date sounds like someone paid a derelict a mickey to sing into an old boombox. Yet, in his madness, Roky gets an apocalyptic death grip on the song that both Brecht and the Dylan of ’64 would understand.

Bruce T. Holmes

Ineffectually nice.

Barry McGuire and Terry Talbot

Y’know, Barry gets a lot of grief for Green, Green, Eve of Destruction and a batch of tepid Christian folk albums (including this one from 1995) but that gritty voice is a biting instrument that can give strength to even his, almost invariably, weak material.

The Golden Gate Strings

Their web-site says, “Come and hear the Golden Gate Strings and see how this exciting ensemble can add incomparable elegance Muzak to receptions, fundraisers, weddings and corporate events.

Bob Dylan (with Ron Wood and Keith Richards)

Here, in all its shambolic glory is the Live Aid version from 1985 with the rambling, heretical, introduction that kept Dylan on the outs with the cultural cognoscenti for a decade. In all fairness, Bob Geldof had it coming, as does anyone else who thinks that Dylan meet will meet their expectations. Video here.

If you truly believe you can withstand twenty-two versions in a row of the same song here is the compilation in its entirety (for preview purposes only to be deleted from your computer in 24 hours etc. etc.)

The Black Freighter panel above is from the Watchmen graphic novel from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons –
the first chapter of which is titled “At Midnight, All the Agents…” after the line in “Desolation Row” plus chapter
ten is called “Two Riders Were Approaching” after the final line of “All Along the Watchtower”.

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October 7, 2008 Posted by | Billy Bragg, Music_Folk, The Pogues, _BOB DYLAN, _MUSIC, _POETRY | Leave a comment



A stunning find this, from the great isupplythecountrywithbutter

A very rare, out of print collection of great Peel tracks from more great bands than you could shake Sarah Palin at!

I mean it’s even got the wonderful cult Irish group Microdisney for fucks sake!

And it’s got one of my favourite songs of all time, The Only Ones’ sublime punk pop classic Another Girl Another Planet!

I officially am in love with this amazing album!

isupplythecountrywithbutter says;

Absolutely and ridiculously great collection of nearly every important Post-Punk band you can think of, live at Maida Vale studios. Yep, all of these recordings were radio sessions for the late, great DJ, John Peel. To name just a few of the artists featured, how about Buzzcocks, The Skids, The Ruts, The Birthday Party, Young Marble Giants, The Redskins, Associates, The Chameleons and many, many more. As you already know, John Peel wanted each artist to feel comfortable and to experiment. Bands tended to stretch out a bit, relax and have fun. These sessions prove this to be the case. 25 tracks, all of them Fan-Fucking-Tastic.


I ripped this from the original and very out-of-print CD at 192.


The Stranglers – Something Better Change
Siouxsie And The Banshees – Love In A Void
The Adverts – Gary Gilmore’s Eyes
The Slits – Shoplifting
Buzzcocks – Fast Cars
Rich Kids – Rich Kids
Skids – Of One Skin
Adam And The Ants – It Doesn’t Matter
The Only Ones – Another Girl Another Planet
Stiff Little Fingers – Suspect Device
The Fall – Mess Of My
The Damned – Stretcher Case
King – Anti Pope
Echo And The Bunnymen – Read It In Books
The Ruts – Sus
Young Marble Giants – Brand New Life
The Nightingales – Start From Scratch
The Birthday Party – Big Jesus Trash Can
Associates – A Matter Of Gender
The Chameleons – The Fan And The Bellows
The Very Things – Wall Of Fir
The Wild Swans – Enchanted
Microdisney – Sun
The Redskins – Kick Over The Statues
Billy Bragg – A New England

Here be real music!

Rapidshare Download

All thanks to isupplythecountrywithbutter

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October 1, 2008 Posted by | Billy Bragg, Microdisney, Music_Alternative, Music_PostPunk, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Adverts, The Birthday Party, The Buzzcocks, The Chameleons, the Fall, The Only Ones, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

Billy Bragg: Volume 2 (8discs, 320kbs)

Billy Bragg: Volume 2
8 discs
Mp3 @ 320kbs

We already posted Volume 1 of marvellous music in this series of Bragg box-sets. Grab it HERE!

Here’s Volume 2! Four more studio albums dating from between 1988 and 2003, together with a wealth of rare and unreleased tracks!

Eight CDs in all – plus a luxury 48-page booklet.

1. Workers Playtime. Billy’s fourth album, originally released in 1988, plus a bonus CD featuring 12 extra tracks.
2. Don’t Try This At Home. The original 1991 album plus bonus CD of 14 extra tracks.
3. William Bloke. The 1996 album with 11 extra tracks on a bonus CD.
4. England, Half English. Billy’s 2002 album with a bonus CD of 13 extra tracks.


Disc: 1

1. She’s Got a New Spell
2. Must I Paint You a Picture?
3. Tender Comrade
4. Price I Pay
5. Little Time Bomb
6. Rotting on Remand
7. Valentine’s Day Is Over
8. Life with the Lions
9. Only One
10. Short Answer
11. Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

Disc: 2

1. Only One [#][*][Demo Version]
2. Price I Pay [#][*][Demo Version]
3. Love Has No Pride [#][*]
4. That’s Entertainment [#][*]
5. She’s Got a New Spell [#][*][Demo Version]
6. Short Answer [#][*][Demo Version]
7. Little Time Bomb [#][*][Demo Version]
8. Bad Penny [#][*][Demo Version]
9. Reason to Believe [Live][*]
10. Must I Paint You a Picture? [Extended Version][*]
11. Raglan Road [Live][*]

Disc: 3

1. Accident Waiting to Happen
2. Moving the Goalposts
3. Everywhere
4. Cindy of a Thousand Lives
5. You Woke Up My Neighbourhood
6. Trust
7. God’s Footballer
8. Few
9. Sexuality
10. Mother of the Bride
11. Tank Park Salute
12. Dolphins
13. North Sea Bubble
14. Rumours of War
15. Wish You Were Her
16. Body of Water

Disc: 4

1. Party of God [*]
2. North Sea Bubble [#][*][Demo Version]
3. Sexuality [#][*][Demo Version]
4. Just One Victory [Alternative Mix][*]
5. Everywhere [Alternative Version][#][*]
6. Trust [#][*][Demo Version]
7. Bread & Circuses [*]
8. Cindy of a Thousand Lives [*][Demo Version]
9. Few [*][Demo Version]
10. Revolution [*]
11. Tighten Up Your Wig [*] – The Athenians, Billy Bragg,
12. MBH [#][*]
13. Gulf Between Us [#][*]
14. Piccadilly Rambler [#][*]

Disc: 5

1. From Red to Blue
2. Upfield
3. Everybody Loves You Babe
4. Sugardaddy
5. Pict Song
6. Brickbat
7. Space Race Is Over
8. Northern Industrial Town
9. Fourteenth of February
10. King James Version
11. Goalhanger

Disc: 6

1. As Long as You Hold Me [#][*][Demo Version]
2. Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet? [#][*][Demo Version]
3. Sugar Daddy [#][*][Demo Version]
4. Space Race Is Over [#][*][Demo Version]
5. Goalhanger [#][*][Demo Version]
6. Upfield [#][*][Demo Version]
7. Fourteenth of February [#][*][Demo Version]
8. Qualifications [*]
9. Never Had No One Ever [*]
10. Thatcherites [*]
11. All Fall Down [#][*]

Disc: 7

1. St. Monday – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
2. Jane Allen – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
3. Distant Shore – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
4. England, Half English – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
5. NPWA – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
6. Some Days I See the Point – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
7. Baby Faroukh – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
8. Take Down the Union Jack – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
9. Another Kind of Judy – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
10. He’ll Go Down – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
11. Dreadbelly – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
12. Tears of My Tracks – Billy Bragg & the Blokes

Disc: 8

1. Billericay Dickie [*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
2. Mansion on the Hill [*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
3. Glad and Sorry [#][*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
4. He’ll Go Down [#][*][Demo Version] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
5. Yarra Song [*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
6. You Pulled the Carpet Out [*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
7. Mystery Shoes [*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
8. Tears of My Tracks [#][*][Demo Version] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
9. Take Down the Union Jack [Band Version][*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
10. England, Half English [7″ Remix][*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
11. 1 2 3 4 [*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
12. Dry Bed [Band Version][*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
13. Danny Rose [*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes
14. She Smiled Sweetly [*] – Billy Bragg & the Blokes

Big thanks to Thanks to Chopper for this great stuff!

July 20, 2008 Posted by | Billy Bragg, Music_Pop, Music_Punk, _MUSIC | 4 Comments

Billy Bragg: Volume 1 (7 discs, 320kbs)

Billy Bragg: Volume 1
7 discs
Mp3 @ 320kbs

I used to be a huge Bragg fan way back in the day. Some of his early release were pure pop songwriting masterclasses. Not only magic punk-pop, but music with a message too. Songs full of humour, intelligence, passion, anger and wit.

Later on though, the Bard of Barking’ seemed to lose his way and the albums seemed to lose their quality. Soon I totally lost interest in Bragg.

But it’s great to be able to catch up again with some marvellous music in this series of Bragg box-sets.

Here’s loadsa info;

Billy Bragg Volume 1 – a boxed set featuring seven CDs and two DVDs with a wealth of rare and previously unreleased tracks. All four albums will be also available as individual releases on the same day. All are released on the Cooking Vinyl label in the UK.

The boxed set consists of:
1. ‘Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy’ – Billy’s 1983 debut recording together with a bonus CD featuring 11 extra tracks. ‘Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy’ is also separately released as a two-CD set.

2. ‘Brewing Up with Billy Bragg’ – the original 1984 album and a bonus CD with 11 additional tracks. The album is also separately available as a two-CD set.

3. ‘Talking with the Taxman About Poetry’ – Billy’s 1986 album plus 10 extra tracks on a bonus CD. ‘Talking with the Taxman About Poetry’ is also separately released as a two-CD set.

4. ‘The Internationale’ – Billy’s 1990 release, now combined with his ‘Live & Dubious’ EP and five bonus tracks.

‘Billy Bragg Volume 1’ chronicles Bragg’s extraordinary contribution to the political and cultural ferment of the Eighties. Balancing his earthy love songs with the enduring tradition of such leftist troubadours as Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie, Bragg – armed only with a cheap electric guitar – emerged as a completely compelling and totally convincing one-man punk-folk activist.

Bragg was born in December 1957. He was 19-years-old when, in 1977, punk made its indelible contribution to English popular culture. Billy’s own particular contribution was to form a band called Riff Raff. True cultural significance, however, was to escape Riff Raff, who eventually split in 1981.

Perhaps remarkably, given Billy’s punk antecedents, he briefly joined a tank regiment of the British Army before buying his way out with what he later described as the most wisely spent £175 of his life.

Between time working in a record store, and absorbing his newfound love of blues and politically inspired folk music, Bragg launched himself on a solo musical career. Armed with a guitar, amplifier and voice, he undertook a maverick tour of the concert halls and clubs of Britain, ready at a moment’s notice to fill in as support for almost any act.

His songs were full of passion, anger and wit, a ‘one man Clash’. This was not, however, what the major record companies wanted at the time – the punk attitudes of the late-Seventies had long since given way to the escapist rise of the New Romantics. Bragg, however, finally managed to grab some studio time, courtesy of the Charisma label’s indie subsidiary, Utility. The result was ‘Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs. Spy’ (1983) which, when eventually reissued as the first album on the new Go! Discs label, hit the UK Top 30 in early 1984.

Billy’s stark musical backdrop – for the most part a roughly strummed electric guitar – and even starker vocals belied a keen sense of melody and passionate, deeply humane lyrics. The album’s opening track, ‘The Milkman of Human Kindness’, for instance, was a love song of the most compassionate variety, illustrating the very real humanist approach that informs his music. It was an early indicator that Bragg’s work would be infused with genuine insight and humour, as well as a sustained and personal commitment to political and humanitarian issues.

After seeing how the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher was changing the fabric of British society, particularly with the decimation of the mining communities, Bragg’s songs became more overtly political. He became a fixture at political rallies and benefits, particularly during the 1984 Miners Strike. Indeed, his second album, ‘Brewing Up with Billy Bragg'(1984), opened with the fierce ‘It Says Here’, a strident song of political solidarity.

The album went Top 20 in the UK. Bragg was on something of a roll and even had a Top 20 hit with the ‘Between the Wars’ EP (included as bonus tracks on ‘Volume 1’), the title track of which he played live on BBC’s Top of the Pops – something virtually unprecedented in those days of miming on television.

Billy also toured extensively abroad, becoming one of the very few Western artists to play in such countries as East Germany, Lithuania in the then-USSR and Nicaragua – historic concerts that are highlighted on the DVDs included in the ‘Volume 1’ boxed set.

At home in the UK, much of Bragg’s time was occupied with Red Wedge – an initiative to persuade young people to vote Labour in the 1987 British General Election – for which he toured with such luminaries as The Style Council, Madness, The Communards and Morrissey. His credentials as a songwriter, however, were confirmed when Kirsty MacColl released her classic version of Bragg’s ‘A New England’ (a song he originally recorded on ‘Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs. Spy’), which became a UK Top 10 hit in 1985.

Billy’s third album, ‘Talking with the Taxman About Poetry’, was released in September 1986. It was his most successful and accomplished release to date – a Top 10 UK album spawning a hit single, ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’, as well as ‘Greetings to the New Brunette’, a collaboration with The Smiths’ guitarist, Johnny Marr.

Bragg entered the Nineties with his most political work to date. ‘The Internationale’, released in May 1990, included such tracks as ‘The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions’, ‘Nicaragua Nicaraguita’ and Bragg’s very personal rendition of the William Blake poem, ‘Jerusalem’ as well as the Socialist anthems, ‘The Red Flag’ and the title track, ‘The Internationale’.

Long since unavailable, ‘The Internationale’ is now restored and reissued on ‘Volume 1’ where the album’s seven original tracks are now complemented by the strident politics of Bragg’s ‘Live & Dubious’ EP and his versions of such songs as the Woody Guthrie epic, ‘This Land is Your Land’, Phil Ochs’ ‘Joe Hill’ and the Sam Cooke soul classic, ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’.


Disc: 1

1. Milkman of Human Kindness
2. To Have and to Have Not
3. Richard
4. New England
5. Man in the Iron Mask
6. Busy Girl Buys Beauty
7. Lovers Town Revisited

Disc: 2

1. Strange Things Happen [Alternative Version][Alternate Take][#]
2. Cloth (1) [Bonus CD][#]
3. Love Lives Here [Bonus CD][#]
4. Speedway Hero [Bonus CD][#]
5. Loving You Too Long [Bonus CD][#]
6. This Guitar Says Sorry [Alternative Version][Alternate Take][#]
7. Love Gets Dangerous [Alternative Version][Alternate Take][#]
8. Cloth (2) [Bonus CD][#]
9. Man in the Iron Mask [Alternative Version][Alternate Take]
10. A13, Trunk Road to the Sea [Bonus CD]
11. Fear Is a Man’s Best Friend [Bonus CD]

Disc: 3

1. It Says Here
2. Love Gets Dangerous
3. Myth of Trust
4. From a Vauxhall Velox
5. Saturday Boy
6. Island of No Return
7. St. Swithin’s Day
8. Like Solidiers Do
9. This Guitar Says Sorry
10. Strange Things Happen
11. Lover Sings

Disc: 4

1. It Must Be a River [Bonus CD][#]
2. I Won’t Talk About It [Bonus CD][#]
3. Talking Wag Club Blues [Bonus CD][#]
4. You Got the Power [Bonus CD][#]
5. Last Time [Bonus CD][#]
6. Back to the Old House [Bonus CD][#]
7. Lover Sings [Alternative Version][Alternate Take][#]
8. Which Side Are You On? [Bonus CD]
9. It Says Here [Alternative Version][Alternate Take]
10. Between the Wars [Bonus CD]
11. World Turned Upside Down [Bonus CD]

Disc: 5

1. Greetings to the New Brunette
2. Train Train
3. Marriage
4. Ideology
5. Levi Stubbs’ Tears
6. Honey I’m a Big Boy Now
7. There Is Power in a Union
8. Help Save the Youth of America
9. Wishing the Days Away
10. Passion
11. Warmest Room
12. Home Front

Disc: 6

1. Sin City [Bonus CD]
2. Deportees [Bonus CD]
3. There Is Power in a Union [Bonus CD][Instrumental]
4. Tracks of My Tears [Bonus CD][#]
5. Wishing the Days Away [Alternative Version][Alternate Take][#]
6. Clashing of Ideologies [Alternative Version][Alternate Take][#]
7. Greetings to the New Brunette [Bonus CD][#][Demo Version]
8. Nurse’s Life Is Full of Woe [Bonus CD][#]
9. Only Bad Signs [Bonus CD][#]
10. Hold the Fort [Bonus CD]

Disc: 7

1. Internationale
2. I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night
3. Marching Song of the Covert Battalions
4. Blake’s Jerusalem
5. Nicaragua, Nicaragüita
6. Red Flag
7. My Youngest Son Came Home Today
8. Introduction [Live]
9. Help Save the Youth of America [Live]
10. Think Again [Live]
11. Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto [Live]
12. Days Like These [DC Remix]
13. To Have and to Have Not [Live]
14. There Is Power in a Union – Billy Bragg, The Pattersons
15. Joe Hill [*]
16. This Land Is Your Land [*]
17. Never Cross a Picket Line [*]
18. Change Is Gonna Come [#][*]
19. Miner’s Life [#][*]……part1.rar……part2.rar

pw – bringmetheheads

Billy Bragg Volume 2 can be found here !

Big thanks to Thanks to cosmos for the original upload and Chopper for this updated one!

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July 20, 2008 Posted by | Billy Bragg, Music_Pop, Music_Punk, _MUSIC | 10 Comments

Billy Bragg – Back to Basics (1987)


Billy Bragg – Back to Basics (1987)

I remember a time when I was really into the Bard of Barking. That was a long time ago!

In truth, his early albums had some great nuggets of songwriting. At his best, he brought great word-smithery, humour, darkness and irony to his songs together with a left-wing, socialist, political perspective.

Here we get some classics in that mould especially The Milkman Of Human Kindness, A New England, and The Man In The Iron Mask.

Back to Basics is a 1987 collection of his first three releases: Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs. Spy, Brewing Up with Billy Bragg, and the EP Between The Wars.

This is a wonderful collection. Bragg’s best songs are here.

I keep wondering what happened to Billy after this – aside from the two excellent “Mermaid Avenue” releases with Wilco of songs with unpublished Woody Guthrie lyrics. Where did the talent go?


1. The Milkman Of Human Kindness
2. To Have And To Have Not
3. Richard
4. Lovers Town Revisited
5. A New England
6. The Man In The Iron Mask
7. The Busy Girl Buys Beauty
8. It Says Here
9. Lve Gets Dangerous
10. From A Vauxhall Velox
11. The Myth Of Trust
12. The Saturday Boy
13. Island Of No Return
14. This Guitar Says Sorry
15. Like Soliers Do
16. St. Swithin’s Day
17. Strange Things Happen
18. A Lover Sings
19. Between The Wars
20. The World Turned Upside Down
21. Which Side Are You On

Here be Billy:


Thanks to the original poster

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April 19, 2008 Posted by | Billy Bragg, Music_Alternative, _MUSIC | Leave a comment