Episode 114: Billy Bragg – Singer, Songwriter, Activist…

When I first started this podcast, I created a wish-list of potential guests. You would too right?.
It’s fair to say that Billy Bragg was one of those early entries in my notebook.
A musician, author, broadcaster and left-wing activist who fronted the 1980s Red Wedge movement with, among others, Paul Weller.
He’a also pretty active as a gigging musician, touring the world, and so tying him down to a recording was always going to be pretty tricky.
Here’s the other thing that I should mention…
On the release of this podcast, Billy is actually the only guest to come on who I have actually interviewed in my former life as a radio presenter. It was one of my absolute career highlights when working at the BBC in the late nineties.
He’s a hugely talented singer and songwriter.
To Have and To Have Not, The Milkman of Human Kindness, Levi Stubbs’ Tears, Sexuality, A New England, You Woke Up My Neighbourhood, Between The Wars, We Laughed… I could go on…

Billy continues to surprise and delight with his music, to my ears he never seems to repeat himself and much like Paul, is looking to try new things and push himself into new ways of working and creating music.

We kick off our chat with his love of The Jam and the influence that the band and Paul’s lyrics had him as a young man.
You’ll hear about supporting The Style Council on an early Council Meeting tour to the Red Wedge project where you’ll hear huge amounts of warmth and gratitude for Paul’s input and collaboration throughout.
We’ll also chat about solo years connections from Go Discs label mates in the nineties to Jools Holland Later TV around A Kind Revolution for Paul and Billy’s book Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World.
Most of all throughout our hour-long conversation, you’ll hear a man who respects Paul – as a fellow singer / songwriter, as an innovator and as a huge musical talent with an incredible work ethic, vision and back catalogue.
Have a listen and then check out a Spotify playlist of my favourite 50 Billy Bragg songs below…m

Click your preferred podcast platform to listen…

EP114 – Billy Bragg – Singer, Songwriter, Activist, Red Wedge… ”You better listen now you’ve said your bit…” Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul

My Billy Bragg Spotify Playlist…

1986 – Red Wedge Documentary

2021 – The Million Things That Never Happened

We discuss Billy’s latest studio album (his tenth) on the podcast.
You can buy the album here.
The Million Things That Never Happened is the first pandemic blues album of our times but also a heartfelt paean to human resilience.
It’s a stunning album – right up there with his very best.
Don’t just take my word for it – the reviews have been pretty special too.
NME – “in an age of division, ‘the Million Things That Never Happened’ is a gentle embrace of what unites us all… a mellow and empathetic antidote to the chaos and confusion of modern life.”
AMERICAN SONGWRITER – “Moving…powerful…Bragg’s voice, carrying years of hard-earned wisdom, shares a message of hope, strength and healing.”

1998 – Mermaid Avenue / 2000 – Mermaid Avenue II (with Wilko)

So far, Billy is the only guest on the podcast who I have been lucky enough to interview in my former life as a radio presenter. Whilst at BBC Radio Bristol in the late 90s, I chatted with Billy about an outstanding musical project called Mermaid Avenue. The concept came about after Billy played a Woody Guthrie tribute concert in New York in the mid-90s. Woody’s daughter Nora then contacted him about writing music for a selection of completed lyrics that her father had left behind. We’re talking about over one thousand sets of complete lyrics written between 1939 and 1967. It’s a stunning idea, executed beautifully by Billy and the American alternative rock band – Wilko.
Just imagine discovering these words that had never been recorded by Woody (he hadn’t even written the music to go with them).
I encourage you to check out the 2012 box set which features both albums along with volume three as Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions.
Podcast guest 108 – Eliza Carthy also features on the songs California Stars, Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key and Joe DiMaggio Has Done It Again.

2017 – Guardian Interview

You’re turning 60 this year; inside, are you still the young kid who’s fired up from seeing the Clash?
In some ways. I just did Later… for the book, Paul Weller was playing and watching him it was like we were both 19 again. I was so charged to see him – he’s stayed true to what he believes – and it was just really nice. I mentioned to him that we’ve both still got the same haircuts, which for our age isn’t doing too bad.
Read more here

Some other Billy Bragg highlights…

Published by PaulWellerFanPodcast

The World’s first Paul Weller Fan Podcast - For the fans by the fans. A musical journey from In The City to Fat Pop (Vol 1). A radio broadcaster who gave up his career with one big regret. Never getting to interview the legendary British musician Paul Weller. This podcast exists purely to solve that issue. Welcome to Desperately Seeking Paul...

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: