Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I always tended to write Billy Bragg off on account of his stullifying earnestness, and I certainly don't recommend too much listening to his music. In isolation, however, some of his songs are stunning, and - all round - it's pretty hard to resist the general feeling of geniality towards him.

Went to Waterstones at lunch and read some of Michael Moore's new book, the brilliantly named 'Dude, Where's My Country' and noticed ruefully that the book is priced at £17.99. Whose side are you on Mike?! I can't remember Billy Bragg, an equally direct if rarely as funny kind of activist, ever pricing himself so out of the market. Indeed, his new triple CD (though a retrospective) is only eleven pounds. I know this because, after going to Waterstones (or the pub), going to MVC to see what dross is on their listening post is my wasting-my-lunch hour-method of choice. The choice is usually pretty crap, and the only good record on there recently (the new album from the intriguingly un-starry Siobhan Donaghy) I've already heard. But the Billy Bragg record was on there today and I thought I'd listen back to some of those early songs which, despite their earnestness, bear repeated listening (I suggest three years apart, or every time Tony Blair does something right, whichever comes soonest).

Between The Wars still raises hairs, crackling on the nape of my neck. But how naive it sounds now - and how far away his sentiments seem. It's the kind of song that makes you want to belong. But how? Can I really claim that my England is 'the green field and the factory floor'? Or hanker after England 'Between the Wars' And what do you when that history hasn't been passed down to you, or is as unfamiliar as an overheard conversation? You stand in MVC until your lunch hour ends and walk back to work wondering whether you can pay £17.99, or £11.99, for someone else's heritage - Flint, Michigan or Barking.

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