|Billy Bragg photo courtest of CD Presents|
• Life’s A Riot with Spy vs Spy (Go! Discs UK/Utility Records, 1983)
• Brewing Up with Billy Bragg (Go! Discs UK/CD Presents, 1984)
• Talking With the Taxman About Poetry (Go! Discs UK/Elektra Records, 1986)
• The Peel Sessions EP (Strange Fruit Records UK, 1987)
• Worker’s Playtime (Go! Discs UK/Elektra Records, 1988)
• The Internationale (Utility Records UK/Elektra Records, 1990)
• Don’t Try This At Home (Go! Discs UK/Elektra Records, 1991)
• The Peel Sessions Album (Strange Fruit Records UK, 1991)
• Live Bootleg [with the Red Stars] (self-released CD, 1995)
• William Bloke (Cooking Vinyl UK/Elektra Records, 1996)
• Bloke On Bloke (Cooking Vinyl UK, 1997)
• Mermaid Avenue [with Wilco] (Elektra Records, 1998)
• Mermaid Avenue Tour [with the Blokes] (self-released CD, 1999)
• Reaching To the Converted (Cooking Vinyl UK/Rhino Records, 1999)
• Mermaid Avenue, Volume II [with Wilco] (Nonesuch Records, 2000)
• England, Half-English [with the Blokes] (Cooking Vinyl UK/Elektra Records, 2002)
• Bill’s Bargains [live] (self-released CD, 2002)
• Riff Raff: The Singles 1977-1980 (self-released CD, 2002)
• Must I Paint You A Picture? The Essential Billy Bragg (Cooking Vinyl UK/Elektra Records, 2003)
• Live At the Barbican (self-released CD, 2002)
• Mr. Love & Justice (Cooking Vinyl UK/ANTI-, 2008)
• Fight Songs (self-released CD, 2011)
• Mermaid Avenue, Volume III [with Wilco] (Nonesuch Records, 2012)
• Tooth & Nail (Cooking Vinyl UK/Dine Alone, 2013)
• Shine A Light: Field Recordings From the Great American Railroad [with Joe Henry] (Cooking Vinyl UK, 2016)
• Bridges Not Walls (Cooking Vinyl UK, 2017)
• Best of Billy Bragg at the BBC 1983-2019 (Cooking Vinyl UK, 2019)
|Photo by Philip Wigg, courtesy Yep Roc Records|
Find Billy Bragg albums on Amazon.com
Billy Bragg Mini-Bio
British singer/songwriter Billy Bragg is best for his folk-rock protest songs and social activism and although he’s been able to find more than a cult American audience, he’s enjoyed modest commercial success in the U.K. Too often dismissed by critics as an unrepentant lefty, Bragg’s songs display a much deeper intellect and humanity than mere shouted rhetoric, his material often infused with melody and lyrically traveling to the edge of art where romance and politics intersect.
Bragg developed an interest in poetry while in school and first picked up the guitar as a teen, often practicing with his neighbor and future bandmate Philip Wigg (“Wiggy”). Bragg’s initial musical influences were the Rolling Stones and the Faces, while Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel would influence his early songwriting efforts. At 20 years old, Bragg saw the Clash play in London on the band’s ‘White Riot Tour’ and again at a ‘Rock Against Racism’ concert a year later, events that would have a strong impact on his career and political philosophy.
Bragg formed the punk band Riff Raff with his friend Wiggy in 1977, recording a series of D.I.Y. singles and performing live for a couple of years until breaking up in 1980. Bragg wandered through a series of jobs, including working at a record shop, and even joined the British Army. After finishing up several months of basic training, however, he decided that the military wasn’t his sort of career and, for the sum of £175, he bought himself out of the service and returned home. Bleaching his hair, Bragg began performing his punk-inspired folk songs as a solo artist, opening shows for other artists and busking around London under the name ‘Spy vs Spy’, a choice inspired by the comic created Cuban expatriate Antonio Prohías for Mad Magazine.
Go! Records would be the home for Bragg’s sophomore effort, 1984’s Brewing Up with Billy Bragg, which peaked at #16 on the UK albums chart on the strength of songs like the satirical “It Says Here,” the romantic “Love Gets Dangerous,” and the anti-war screed “Island of No Return.” England’s New Music Express magazine ranked the album at #6 on its “Albums of the Year” list for 1984. During this time, Bragg became known as a left-wing activist, performing benefit shows and attending political rallies. He helped form “Red Wedge,” a socialist musician’s collective that included the Jam’s Paul Weller. Bragg’s Between the Wars, a four-song EP, was released in 1985 and peaked at #15 on the UK singles chart. Inspired by the UK miners’ strike, the EP was explicitly political, and proceeds from its sale were donated to the striking miners’ fund.
Bragg’s fourth album, Worker’s Playtime, was released in 1988. Produced by the legendary Joe Boyd, who had previously worked with artists like Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Pink Floyd, and R.E.M. the album also included backing musicians like Bragg’s friend Wiggy on guitar, guitarist Martin Belmont (Graham Parker & the Rumour), and journeyman drummer Micky Waller (Jeff Beck, John Mayall). The mini-LP The Internationale followed in 1990; released by his manager Jenner’s short-lived Utility Records label, it was recorded in protest to Go! Records’ signing of a distribution deal with multi-national giant PolyGram.
After taking a five-year hiatus to help his partner raise their son, Bragg signed with the artist-friendly UK indie Cooking Vinyl for the release of 1996’s William Bloke, which was the artist’s fifth Top 20 charting album. A year later he released Bloke On Bloke, a collection of outtakes and remixes from his previous album that only rose to #78 on the UK chart. Bragg was about to undertake a major career move, however…Nora Guthrie, the daughter of American folk legend Woody Guthrie, asked if Bragg would put some of her father’s unrecorded lyrics to music. The result led to Mermaid Avenue, a critically-acclaimed 1998 album recorded with Americana band Wilco and singer Natalie Merchant (of 10,000 Maniacs) that would earn a Grammy® nomination.
In 2007, on the fifth anniversary of Joe Strummer’s death, Bragg founded the non-profit Jail Guitar Doors organization. Taking its name from a Clash song, the organization supplies musical instruments to prisons and encourages prisoners to face their problems in non-confrontational ways. An American chapter of Jail Guitar Doors was launched in 2009 by the MC5’s Wayne Kramer. Also named for a book by MacInnes, Mr. Love & Justice was recorded with the Blokes and released in 2008, peaking at #33 on the UK albums chart. Bragg began branching out beyond music, playing a small role in the 2008 film A13: Road Movie and later wrote new lyrics for “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony which was later performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Bragg was involved with the 2010 play Pressure Drop at the Wellcome Collection museum and library, providing new songs and performing with his band. That year he was also asked to curate the Leftfield state at the Glastonbury Festival, which he has continued in subsequent years.
Bragg published his second book in 2016; a history of the British skiffle movement titled Roots, Radicals and Rockers, the book traces the genre from its beginnings in the 1950s back to American folk, blues, and jazz music. A year later, Bragg released the six-song EP Bridges Not Walls with the new political song “Full English Brexit.” Record Collector magazine described the EP as “a solid gold collection of an always inspiring singer-songwriter finding inspiration in the actions of others.” In 2019, Bragg released the two-disc, 19-song collection The Best of Billy Bragg at the BBC 1983-2019 which offers a career-spanning retrospective of the singer-songwriter’s on-air performances. Bragg also published his third book, The Three Dimensions of Freedom, in 2019, a political collection that posits that accountability is the antidote to authoritarianism.