Festival fans will be blown away as renowned folk/punk/protest singer Billy Bragg makes his Wickham debut. Known for his left-wing views and political activism, Billy’s lyrics deliver a punch as powerful as any of his speeches.
Songs such as Between the Wars and It Says Here seem as relevant today as they were when he recorded them but perhaps his best known tune is New England which was a top 10 hit for Kirsty MacColl. Since her premature death, he has always performed it with an extra verse in her honour.
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More tales from the attic. Among the stuff secreted up there was a tea chest full of gold and silver records, among them the very first I ever got - the silver record for Life's A Riot with Spy vs Spy.
You'll notice that it didn't go silver until 1985, two years after it was released. While it had done really well for an independent album, it was Kirsty MacColl having a hit with A New England in December 1984 that turned it silver and eventually gold.
As I accumulated a few more in the years that followed I never knew what to do with them so I gave them to my mum who used to have them arrayed on her living room wall. My brother told me that, when asked "what's your Stephen doing these days?", she'd say "He's making gold records".
There is however one gold album in the attic that I'd proudly give wall space to and that's the one given to my partner Juliet when she was the manager of The Selecter back in the days of 2 Tone.
Proper golden, that one. ... See MoreSee Less
No they’re not. I’ve been collecting them for 30 years. They are just professionally sprayed versions of the actual record. These ones are fantastic as they have the BPI logo on them. Without the logo they aren’t official.
I had no idea until recently that the opening two lines of New England were lifted straight out of a Simon and Garfunkel track.....
That mention of the fact that your actual first name is Stephen reminds me of something I have often wondered..... as most people know, Billy is a holdover from your original "punk name" of Billy Bonkers, but did that derive from your middle name of William or was it just a name you thought sounded cool......?
I've always wondered, & it's probably a stupid question, but are silver/gold/etc records actually playable? Do they have the actual grooves or is it just a generic thing?
Sandwiched between Soft Cell and Bolan my little bit of Billy I carry with me everyday.
I remember buying "Life's a riot" all these years ago, after seeing you on tour with The Style Council. What a gem of an LP that still is :-) #lovers town revisited
Waste them being in an attic. How much would it take to buy one of them! (Actually, thinking about it, that’s a question 😀)
I remember seeing the Selecter play at First Avenue in Minneapolis back in the late 80’s. I also remember going to more than one Billy Bragg show at First Avenue back in the day as well. Keep on keepin’ on, Stephen, we know that your mum is still very proud of her “Boy done good...”
I remember hearing a new england on a local college radio station in the 80's. That teen still remembers all the lyrics by heart (with accent of course!)
I saw you at the Garage on Nottingham just before the release of Life’s a Riot. Ace gig, probably never been beaten.
One of the many things I like about you Billy is that you don’t ‘Bragg’. But you should stick these on the wall!
Sounds like you need an extension just for your gold and silver records Billy! It would be a shame just to hide them away xx
Sell them and donate the proceeds to medical research. Counter those claims of you being a champagne socialist!
Billy, it is starting to look like your attic was either the size of the Hammersmith Palais or had the density of a dwarf star....
Jesus your attic and cellars got more stuff in than sport Billy's bag 😉😂
You have got to put out something under the name “Billy Bonkers”, a covers album maybe? 😀👍
Billy, off topic but how did you come up with the riff for Milkman of Human kindness? Did it just kind of 'fall out of your fingers' as it were, or was it one that needed to be worked on? I grew up with it blaring around the house. Probably the first sound I ever heard!
I listened to life’s a riot last night with a glass of whisky. Memories and good ones too
Those Two Tone days... When the world was just black and white 🙄😉 Love all of this, Billy!
Wondering the same thing. Do they just use the same pressing and just change the labels?
Where’s the woolly disc?
I like to smoke weed and dance to Too Much Pressure. “I love my Collie(not a dog)”
Love the comment from your Mum Bill about you making gold records.She must of been very proud of you mate.God bless her.
Selecter was one of my first vinyls over here in Canada. I cherish it
Well earned. Absolute classic & great historical account of the 80s.
While clearing out the attic with my stepson recently, I came across a box of album sleeve artwork created by Pauline Kennedy aka Caramel Crunch. She was responsible for the design of my album and single covers and my ad campaigns and t-shirts from 1984’s Brewing Up to Don’t Try This At Home in 1991.
Pauline was a long-term collaborator with Barney Bubbles, who designed the sleeve for Life’s A Riot with Spy vs Spy. The pair first worked together at Stiff Records in the mid-70s. For a while Pauline went off be the art director at the NME, but by the time I came knocking, they were working together again.
When Barney took his life in late 1983, Pauline picked up the torch and took over designing my artwork. In her first commission, the sleeve of the Brewing Up album, she utilised an illustration that Barney had done for my run of gigs at the Captain’s Cabin as the striking image on the front cover.
In the days before Photoshop, designing an album sleeve was as much about draughtsmanship as it was artistic verve. Pauline would create an artwork by hand, drawing with a rapidograph pen, utilising a bevelled edge protractor to prevent the ink from blotting, taking images of typeset lettering with a photo-mechanical transfer camera. She developed the pictures herself and then literally – with scissors and cow gum – cut and paste the letters onto a board.
This required a number of technical skills, not least estimating the number and size of letters that would fit into the space available. Sometimes, she would be required to produce a freehand drawing. The illustration on the cover of Levi Stubbs’ Tears was drawn by Pauline, as were all the figures on the front of Don’t Try This At Home.
When computers began to dominate design and the size of CDs covers gave little opportunity for artistic detail, Pauline decided to shut up shop and start a new life outside of London and the pressures of the record industry. She rang me one day to say she was throwing all her artwork out and if I wanted my originals, I should get round there sharpish to save them from the skip. Needless to say, I was over in a flash.
The artwork in my attic is a mixture of base mounts for sleeves and adverts, drawings, proofs and designs overlaid with her instructions to the printers. At a time when most people receive new music as a stream of ones and zeroes, with a single image the size of a postage stamp, this cache of Pauline’s work is a reminder of the skills involved in creating artwork in the vinyl age. Here are a few examples of her considerable talents. ... See MoreSee Less
Ah, lovely. I'm so glad you rescued them! Thank you for giving us a glimpse of the craft behind those sleeves we pored over in our youth...
Part of the magic of buying records /CDs/ tapes in a shop or market was the sleeve art, the imagery, photos of the band or singer, the sleeve notes and credits...all part of the music and its image and style...these look great, real sense of the time
These are incredible. Love seeing how these became the iconic sleeves we all know and love.
Funny that at this time I worked a job printing and I am very familiar with these types of boards. I can really appreciate the skill and artwork that went into creating those images. At the very same time I was enjoying the wonderful music as well. Tanks for sharing that!
These are some strong images that carry me through the years. Thanks for sharing these ❤️
For a minute there I thought these were headed to eBay... these are invaluable! I’ve done this sort of work and I have a real appreciation for it. It’s craftsmanship is lost on most. So grateful for this appreciation. Best to Pauline wherever she landed!
Her wonderful work graces all these records which meant and mean so much to me: they trigger strong emotions the instant I look at them...
They are flipping amazing pieces of art... As if they were going in a skip! What a talented lady, fantastic👏
I still have and still listen to my Billy Bragg vinyl so I love hearing of the story of the work that went into all the cover and sleeve art. ❤️
These are incredible. It’s great to be able to see the process behind a finished product.
I remember the captains cabin gigs promoted by Tam Kenny. The Blubbery Hellbellys duo were regulars. Wreckless Eric did a good set too. Sadly Tommy Cooper passed away on stage round the corner one night we were among the first to know
Takes me back to filing letraset as a junior, learning manual layout as a student and then working in a newspaper which still used manual cut and paste. 80s to early 90s. The growth of computers in many ways devalued graphic design. I understand why she stepped away. Great artwork. I miss the days of treasuring an album as a 'thing' as well as for the music.
So amazing to see..a clearing of your attic unearths some great memories for you ..and so many others. Thank you for sharing.
As a photographer of enough vintage to have had a foot in the older film world, and now in the digital one, I too lament the disappearance of tactile skills in the creative process. Glad you could get the archive...great work.
My parents used to be editors of a few magazines in the 70s and 80s. This is how they did their layouts of each page. Typesetting, hand drawn art, cut out and stuck onto proof pages with wax rollers. Nice to see behinds the scenes Billy.
Billy Bragg Wow thank you for a walk down memory lane, of your music and covers; and the extraordinary work graphic designers use to do by hand pre computers. I lived with a graphic artist in the 80’s and this has rushed back a lot of rich memories. Glad you’ve got this work and thank you for taking the time to share it and explain the process; and for acknowledging your fellow artists. Covers on vinyls had a big impact on sales but most of the artists would go unknown. 🙏
Those were the days. Began my career in graphic design creating manual artwork until 6 months later our first Apple Mac arrived and then it all went downhill a bit! Great to see these hand done originals.
What a fascinating story, this artwork is positively iconic to me as a fan & it's great you now have the original art
Fantastic background story! The cover of Levi Stubbs’ tears is absolutely brilliant!
Fantastic! Brings back lots of great memories of discovering and listening to your music. Still love it 😊
Talking with the Taxman About Poetry is a brilliant album with my favourite Billy Bragg song Levi Stubbs' Tears.That greedy monster on the cover is still stuffing his guts!👍
I love it that 'cut and paste' used to mean that you actually had to literally cut and paste. Remember it well ...
Thanks for sharing the I ages and a terrific back story. I’m so glad they didn’t get lost to a skip or bin.
I was lucky enough to be Pauline’s design assistant for a brief period nearly 30 years ago and was working for her when she was doing all the “Don’t Try This At Home’ artwork, a lot of work went into it.
Brilliant Billy. But what are you going to do with them? Some sort of exhibition would be great. Like the recent The Jam one. I’m sure there’s be enough interest.
I'm saddened to hear that we have lost Justin Townes Earle and at such a young age. We did some shows together last year and I found him to be a compelling songwriter and a generous soul. My thoughts go out to his family and friends at this time. ... See MoreSee Less
An immense talent. Saw him perform around a dozen times and just assumed I’d see him at least a dozen more. Such heartbreaking news.
So very sad , such a great talent , love his music and heartfelt lyrics , and was lucky enough to see him perform a few intimate shows in Adelaide ..RIP dear Justin
A wonderful, gifted artist who we had the absolute pleasure of seeing here in Melbourne, Australia a number of times. JTE was hypnotising to watch and thoroughly entertaining. Just the most heartbreaking news today 💔
So very sad. He was a great performer.
Such a great loss. My heart goes out to everyone who loved him.
Amazing talent, so so sad to lose him.
Oh man, that's awful - I only found my way to his music a few years ago but he became a favourite very quickly. Wishing him peace and a safe journey to the next gig. :-(
A great loss. May He rest in peace.
I’m absolutely gutted. Such a talented musician. Feel for his dad and his family.
He was amazing artist. I had a breakdown in tears yesterday when I read the news. Such a huge loss. 😔
Loved watching and listening to him tell the tale. It was pure . It was wonderful. 😪
Absolutely crushing. Like Billy Bragg, as great as his recorded music is, seeing and hearing him live brought a whole new dimension. I can’t believe we’ll never again see him shuffle around a stage and lean into a microphone.
A sad loss. A great songwriter.
Great artist. Another good one gone too soon.
Enjoyed his music, very sad. X
Was only listening to him yesterday. So sad.
may he rest in the peace he sought
His music hits you right in the heart .
Horrible news I met him once a quiet shy guy .
Very sad news.
Gutted - loved his work.
Sad to hear the news. RIP
So very Sad