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Billy Bragg – Everybody Loves You Babe (90s – 63)

August 28, 2013

Before Mermaid Avenue launched Billy Bragg to my generation, there was William Bloke. His first album in five years, this the first Bragg album I heard, on the radio, just as I arrived at University, but before I met a number of Billy Bragg enthusiasts.

Everybody Loves You Babe is perhaps the daggiest song I know. It’s nastiness without conviction, or maybe it’s the internal thought processes of someone without the energy to speak. It was the antithesis of every love song clogging up the charts at the time.

Love songs could be grouped into the following categories: I love you; you love me; I want you to love me; I want to have sex with you; I have had sex with you. There are also a complimentary number of break up songs: I don’t love you anymore; You don’t love me any more; I’m glad you don’t love me any more; I’ll never get to have sex with you again; I never want to have sex with you again; I don’t love you any more but I’m having sex with someone else so there; and I don’t love you anymore but I still want sex with you.

All of this is pretty rubbish.

Everybody Loves You Babe is perhaps closer to the truth, shacked up by habit, pressured by conformity, dreaming of something else but unable or ultimately unwilling to do anything about it. It’s the standout on the album. (Big kudos as well to Northern Industrial town, a more typical Bragg social awareness song and also brilliant.)

Overall my relationship with Billy Bragg’s oeuvre is a strange one. Despite meeting Billy Bragg fanatics, and having borrowed his earlier and later albums, I can’t remember a thing about them bar the obvious standout singles most people may have heard.

But I can listen to Bragg speak for hours, even if I don’t agree 100% with what he says. And I’ve seen him live twice – the best place to hear his music. Which is perhaps how I most think of Bragg, a living character to enjoy in real time, not pressed onto disc or compressed onto mp3. And this is why the first song I heard is my favourite even though I’m sure he’s recorded better.

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