Results for Billy Bragg

interviews

Billy Bragg

Roots, Radicals and Rockers In the 1950s, a surprising, short-lived musical craze swept across the UK: skiffle, a raw version of African-American blues and folk performed by white British youth. Folk-punk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has written about skiffle in his new book Roots, Radicals and Rockers. This week, he sits down with producer Evan Chung to make the case for skiffle as the origin of English guitar pop and the first sign of the DIY sensibility of punk.

Skiffle emerged out of the trad jazz scene – an early New Orleans jazz revivalist movement in the UK. In the middle of their sets, the trad jazz musicians would put down their horns and pick up acoustic guitars, washboards, and upright basses to play the songs of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. Skiffle hit the top of the pop charts in both the UK and the US when Lonnie Donegan released his version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." Bragg argues that this was a revolutionary moment that taught British youth that anyone could play the guitar – and led to skyrocketing guitar sales. As a result, members of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, David Bowie, and even ABBA got their start in DIY skiffle groups. According to Bragg, if you want to understand everything that came after in the UK – from the British Invasion to the English folk revival to R&B to punk – you have to look at the impact that skiffle had on the emerging British teenage culture.

Go to episode 613

Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr is something of a serial collaborator. First, there's his most famous partnership: with Morrissey in The Smiths. Then there's Bernard Sumner, Billy Bragg, Bert Jansch, The Cribs and Modest Mouse. So perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that it took three decades for him to go solo. On The Messenger Marr isn't afraid to harken back to his Smiths sound. Mostly, he explains to Jimand Greg, he thought about all the fans he meets at shows (all but one fan). He admits that some of the lyrical content isn't that far from the songs he wrote as a lad, but lucky for us he was weened on great guitar pop from T. Rex. Greg asks Marr about the almost insane decision to quit The Smiths at the height of their fame. But he insists that the band wouldn‘t have lasted another two weeks; musically, they achieved everything they could. That’s not to diminish the band. He also credits them with inventing "indie."

Go to episode 399
reviews
Lost On the River (Deluxe Version)Lost on the River available on iTunes

The New Basement Tapes Lost on the River

Who knew that one summer in a basement in upstate New York in 1967 would become such a big deal? But fans of Bob Dylan and The Band are still poring over the material that came out of those musicians‘ one-take, slapdash recording sessions, decades later. It’s amazing considering that those Basement Tapes weren't even supposed to go public. Now, more lyrics from that time have surfaced and have been turned into new music produced by T. Bone Burnett and performed by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello and Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons. The result is Lost on the River by The New Basement Tapes. Greg particularly admires the bluesy, pre-rock sound contributed by Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. But, for the most part, he doesn't hear any of the magic of The Basement Tapes. And that's not surprising considering it was a contrived project with the manufactured setting of the basement of Capitol Records in L.A., not rural New York. He can only say Try It. Jim thinks Greg is being kind. He doesn‘t think you can separate Dylan’s lyrics and poetry from Dylan's music and voice. This collaboration is nothing like the successful Wilco/Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie project Mermaid Avenue. He says Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 468
We Shall Overcome (The Seeger Sessions) [American Land Edition]We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions available on iTunes

Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

Sound Opinions listeners know they can always count on a heated conversation when it comes to The Boss. Bruce Springsteen came out with a new album this week (the 18th of his career), We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. This time around, the singer pays tribute to folk artist Pete Seeger, and Jim and Greg completely disagree on whether or not it is worth your time. Greg became a Springsteen fan early on, but has been disappointed in his rock hero in recent years. However, he asserts that We Shall Overcome is Springsteen's best album since Nebraska. He appreciates the more down-to-earth production style and political messages of the songs. He gives it a Buy It rating. Jim, on the other hand, states that this record literally makes him sick to his stomach. He has never been a Springsteen fan, but has occasionally given a favorable review to albums like Devils in Dust. He finds this Seeger tribute musically and lyrically conservative, and basically just completely pathetic. He does not want to hear Springsteen do folk songs ("Froggie Went a Courtin'," anyone?) and wishes that Springsteen followed in the path of Billy Bragg and Wilco, who paid homage to another folk hero, Woody Guthrie. Unlike that album, this one gets a Trash It from Mr. DeRogatis.

JimGreg
Go to episode 22
lists

Unrequited Love Songs

What would rock ‘n’ roll be if not for the thousands of songs about love and heartbreak? Jim and Greg explore this legacy for this week's Valentine's Day episode featuring the best Unrequited Love Songs:

Go to episode 272

Funeral Songs

The complete top five funeral songs, according to the Register:

  • James Blunt, "Goodbye My Lover"
  • Robbie Williams, "Angels"
  • Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley, "I've Had the Time of My Life"
  • Bette Midler, "Wind Beneath My Wings"
  • "Pie Jesu"

We asked our Sound Opinions listeners this same, morbid question. Here are some of the“swan songs”you told us about via email or message board:

  • Santo and Johnny, "Sleepwalk"
  • The Buzzcocks, "Everybody's Happy Nowadays"
  • Curtis Mayfield, "Freddie's Dead"
  • Jeff Buckley, "Corpus Christi Texas"
  • R.E.M., "Try Not to Breathe"
  • Jeff Buckley, "Satisfied Mind"
  • Tom Waits, "Come On Up To The House"
  • Peter Gabriel, "I Grieve"
  • Joy Division, "In a Lonely Place"
  • The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows"
  • Alice Cooper, "I Love the Dead"
  • Talking Heads, "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)"
  • Billy Bragg and Wilco, "Remember the Mountain Bed"

Greg

Jim and Greg were forced to think about their final day as well. Greg goes first (since Jim predicts he actually will). He decides he wants Sound Opinions guest John Cale's cover of "Hallelujah" to be played at his funeral. He calls it the 20th century version of "Amazing Grace". Although Cale's version strays from Leonard Cohen's original, Greg thinks the message remains intact: "I made a lot of mistakes, but it was all worthwhile."

Jim

Jim predicts that even at his funeral he won't be able to resist one last chance to be sarcastic. He chooses an irreverent version of Frank Sinatra's classic "My Way." Jim shares Hoboken roots with“Ol' Blue Eyes,”but he feels he shares a lot more with Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious. So all of you Sound Opinions listeners who plan to come out to mourn on that fateful day will get to enjoy this punk cover.

Go to episode 47

Songs About First Impressions

Whether or not you believe in love at first sight, there's something exciting about laying eyes on someone special for the first time. Jim and Greg share their favorite songs about first impressions.

Go to episode 585
news

Music News

The music industry's transition into a digital economy has not been the smoothest. But, in England, artists are banding together to make sure their voices will be heard in this revolution. British musicians including Radiohead, Billy Bragg and Robbie Williams have formed the Featured Artists' Coalition to insure that they can maintain the rights to their music and have more say about distribution in the future. Artists have traditionally been“abused”by big music corporations, and Jim and Greg think the changing landscape of music gives musicians the perfect opportunity to get more rights. Hopefully musicians in the States can follow suit.

Filmgoers are eagerly anticipating the release of the next James Bond film. For now they'll have to settle for the new opening theme recorded by Jack White and Alicia Keys. Traditionally each Bond movie is accompanied by an original song, making it one of the biggest song franchises in history. Some were hits, and others were big misses. Neither Jim nor Greg think that the White/Keys collaboration ranks up there with great Bond tracks like "Goldfinger", "Nobody Does it Better", or "You Only Live Twice". They'd put it in the“misses”category with "The Living Daylights".

Go to episode 150