Three Imaginary Girls

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Billy Bragg is possibly my all-time favorite musician. His early albums, when it was just Bragg and his green electric guitar are some of the best punk-folk-protest albums ever written, Workers Playtime, from his full band years, is a brilliant mix of love and politics and he puts on one of the best live shows you'll ever see. Needless to say, I'm excited to read that he will be releasing his next album, Mr. Love & Justice, early in 2008. If you're unfamiliar with Billy, I say get with it! Here's a 10 song primer on Billy Bragg:

  • "A New England" from Back to Basics (at least it is the easiest place to find it) – Bragg at his earliest and his best.
  • "Greetings from the New Brunette" from Talking to the Taxman About Poetry – This song has one of my all-time favorite lyrics: "I'm celebrating my love for you with a pint of beer and a new tattoo/andif you haven't noticed yet,I'm more impressionable when my cement is wet."
  • "Sexuality" from Don't Try This at Home – Billy Bragg getting liberal about sex … good times!
  • "Help Save the Youth of America" (Live in Moscow) from Help Save of the Youth of America – Billy is famous for being socialist, but he sees both sides as full of contradictions and problems, as seen here in a great performance in the USSR.
  • "To Have and Have Not" from Back to Basics – Great little stripped down punk song.
  • "She's Got a New Spell" from Workers Playtime – it is hard for me to limit my choices from Workers Playtime, one of the best albums I own, but "She's Got a New Spell" is a wonderful little pop song.
  • "Lovers' Town" from Peel Sessions – Sadly, almost impossible to find, Bragg's Peel Session is amazing, and this Peel Session-only song is one of the best he's done.
  • "Walk Away Renee (Version)" from Reaching to the Converted – Fun little stream of consciousness song that Bragg changes every time he performs it. (And has another favorite lyric: "Oh, love is strange/and you have to learn to take the crunchy with the smooth I suppose.").
  • "Brickbat" from William Bloke – This album is obviously a transistion, now that Billy has a family. It took me a while to get into it (years, actually), but songs like "Brickbat" are beautiful.
  • "Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards" from Workers Playtime – This song is, quite possibly, my favorite song ever written. It is gorgeous, political, smart and ridiculously catchy. I can listen to this song over and over and never get sick of it. Heck, I have like 5 different live versions of the song on my iPod – and they're all brilliant. If you listen to any one Billy Bragg song, make it this one.

I even added a link to the kind of campy video of "Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards", ripped from the late, great 120 Minutes along with a great live performance he did on the Henry Rollins Show.

Live 2007 (Note the almost completely changed lyrics – but still fabulous).

Truly, one of the great songwriters of our generation …