After the break-up of his first band Riff Raff in 1981, Billy Bragg spent three months in the British army before buying his way out and setting forth as a solo artist. Bragg’s mix of politics and romance – as heard on 1984’s Go! Discs debut Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs. Spy and Brewing Up With Billy Bragg (1984) – established an earnest image he found difficult to shuffle out of for much of the 80s. The 55-year-old – now performing in America – has also filmed a youtube video, for his YouTube channel at braggcentral, announcing the album. He suggests he may tour this year in the UK.

Billy Bragg
On one hand was original, subtle and heartfelt romanticism like ‘A New England’ (later a UK hit for Kirsty MacColl), ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’ (from 1986’s Talking With The Taxman About Poetry) and 1988’s Workers Playtime; on the other was his key role in the British labour Party’s ‘Red Wedge’ youth initiative, his outspoken views on Margaret Thatcher and striking miners and a less-than glamorous east London vocal bray (sometimes rendering even his most poignant work comical). Typical of this paradox was Bragg’s little-known UK No.1 charity single, a splendid version of The Beatles’ ‘She’s Leaving Home’, ignored by the media in favour of the insipid flipside, Wet Wet Wet’s cover of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’

You don’t wanna know
Just what I know
And you don’t wanna go
To where I tend to go
I know my way around
The oldest kid in town
Just watch me as I roam

But don’t try this stuff at home

After 1990’s The Internationale, Bragg broadened his appeal with the danceable ‘Won’t Talk About It’ – a hit for Norman Cook’s Beats International in 1990 – and Don’t Try This At Home (1991), a collection of perfect Pop ‘n’ politics which featured collaborations from ex-Smith Johnny Marr and REM’s Peter Buck and Michael Stipe, and yielded the hit ‘Sexuality’.

After a lengthy, family-raising sabbatical – punctuated only by a handful of live appearances ~ Bragg returned in 1996 with typical wit and bile on William Bloke.


Main article: Billy Bragg discography
Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy (1983)
Brewing Up with Billy Bragg (1984)
Talking with the Taxman about Poetry (1986)
Back to Basics (1987)
Workers Playtime (1988)
The Internationale (1990)
Don’t Try This at Home (1991)
William Bloke (1996)
Bloke on Bloke (1997)
Mermaid Avenue (1998) (with Wilco)
Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (2000) (with Wilco)
England, Half English (2002) (with the Blokes)
Mr Love & Justice (2008)
Fight Songs (2011)
Mermaid Avenue Vol. III (2012) (with Wilco)
Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions (2012) (with Wilco)
Tooth & Nail (2013)