Last week, I participated in an AV Club Inventory called “The Hits Keep Coming: 30 Songs Inspired by Domestic Abuse,” where, in addition to chiming in with a bit about Tracy Chapman’s harrowing “Behind the Wall,” I was proud to be able to throw in my two cents worth about a pair of tunes by Billy Bragg: “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” and “Valentine’s Day is Over.” As these things are wont to do, it served to remind me of the highly enjoyable conversation that I had with Mr. Bragg a few years back. In 1996, I’d been fortunate enough to see Billy on a double bill with Robyn Hitchcock at Detroit’s Majestic Theater, when the two teamed up to do a benefit gig for striking newspaper workers, but this interview came about because he was finally making his way to Norfolk, VA, for the first time in his long history of touring.
Three highlights to inspire you to click over:
1. “Whatever you guys might hear, I’ve always thought of myself as a soul singer…and for people with ears to hear, it’s always been there. Anywhere there’s a whiff of Hammond organ on my albums, I’m thinking I’m Smokey Robinson, I’m thinking I’m Marvin. And ‘Levi Stubb’s Tears’ is a clear pointer to that.”
2. “When I was co-writing ‘Sexuality’ with Johnny Marr, and then he took that off to Manchester and came back with such a beautiful, polished thing, me and my producer thought, ‘Okay, there’s the bar, he’s set it high, let’s see if we can make an album that fits that.’ And I think we did.”
3. “I did a miner show with (Kirsty MacColl) down in South Wales, and we had a great time down there, had a few beers on the way back, and got lost in the fog. And she entertained us by singing ‘Lydia the Tattooed Lady,’ which her dad had taught her. You’ve got this great image of her father, Ewan MacColl, a crusty old political Old-Testament seer prophet, and the idea of him and his daughter singing ‘Lydia the Tattooed Lady’ together is something that will stay with me for a long time.”
Now get clicking…but don’t forget to come back to comment!
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