heard on the wire

I’ve got a socialism of the heart

Billy Bragg Hammersmith

What is it with people who pay upwards of £20 for a ticket and then talk all the way through a gig?

At the recent and otherwise fantastic Billy Bragg show at the Hammersmith Odeon, I had to be restrained by SuziRovers to prevent me having several unaffectionate words with serial offenders regarding their selfishness, bad manners and bare-faced twattishness.

So while Billy and his band (not to mention guests including Phil Jupitus, Frank Turner, Wiggy and the genius Dave Woodhead) were magnificent, albeit while not quite touching the heights they reached in Brussels late last year, the inane chatter left a sour taste.

So by way of cleansing such sourness from my soul, here’s a song that can only gladden the heart. It’s no longer a staple of Billy’s live shows, which is a pity since unlike his beautiful ballads this rollicking, joyous testament to loving and sharing can only be played loud enough to drown out the ignorant.

William Bloke was released in 1996 and this song was on almost constant rotation for weeks on the smithsockstereo. It cheers me up every time I hear it and at this time of my life, it feels more relevant than ever: I am going upfield.

I’m going upfield
Way up on the hillside
I’m going higher
Than I’ve ever been before
That’s where you’ll find me
Over the horizon
Wading in the river
Reaching for that other shore

Billy Bragg :: Upfield

Audio MP3


Upfield would have been the best song on the LP, were it not for another example of why Billy is arguably the greatest writer of love songs that Britain has ever produced.

I stayed in bed
Alone uncertain
Then I met you
You drew the curtains
The sun came up
The trees began to sing
And light shone in on everything
I love you
The sun cam up
The trees began to sing
And Light shone in on everything
I love you

Billy Bragg :: Brickbat

Audio MP3


Much as I love the Bragg record, it stood out in 1996, which, I think it’s safe to say, wasn’t a vintage year, as the large quantity of largely forgettable mediocrity at the top of the NME’s end of year list clearly shows (look at number 50, FFS). The Festive Fifty was a bit better, topped by a stellar number one, but it left Peel so disenchanted that he couldn’t be bothered to broadcast it in its entirety.

Lost amid the Becks, Kula Shakers and Manic Street Preachers were Spare Snare. Still going strong, the Dundee five-piece’s hearts were beating heavily in ’96. This is music stripped down to its raw, brilliant, compelling essentials.

She says my heart goes…

Spare Snare :: Boom Boom Boom ⬇ [free]

Audio MP3


The best debut LP of the year was Super Furry Animals’ Fuzzy Logic, though the Welsh experimentalists biggest achievement of the year was to give nationwide exposure to a former Cardiff City and Reading footballer, who, if you believe fans of the two clubs, was George Best, Pele and man who doesn’t give a fuck all rolled into one.

His habit of unsettling opponents through physical intimidation contributed to a heavily tarnished disciplinary record. Friday was also known off the field for his heavy smoking, drinking, womanising and drug-taking.

Following a number of incidents, on and off the field—including kicking Mark Lawrenson in the face mid-game—Friday retired from football in December 1977, aged 25. He died in Acton in 1990, aged 38, after suffering a heart attack.

Sounds like a right charmer; but at least he’s not Wayne Rooney.

According to the band, who formed in Cardiff, the song wasn’t about Friday. Although they stuck his picture on the cover of the single, singer Gruff Rhys has described it as:

a ‘multi-compass protest anthem’…that…does not refer to a particular issue but is about the ‘mistreatment that we’ve had at the hands of politicians for years’. …a ‘protest song for our time’ which can be used against ‘any organisation which you feel is terrorising you as an individual, anyone who’s cramping your style’. Wikipedia

Super Furry Animals :: The Man Don’t Give a Fuck

Audio MP3


And now, as they say, for something completely different, a record from Oxford post-rockers whose combination of spoken word and relentless, insistent refrain leaves you begging for more while desperate for to end.

‘Please keep in touch…’

I couldn’t see the point.

Meanwhile Back in Communist Russia :: Morning After Pill ⬇ [free]

Audio MP3


And that stellar number one? It was by Newcastle’s Kenickie, back when Lauren Laverne still had her accent.

Kenickie :: Come Out 2 Nite

Audio MP3


Original photo: Billy!; some rights reserved.

Related posts: And the bells were ringing out.

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One Response

  1. John says:

    Well said! Talking at gigs makes my blood boil. I got into a row with some Australian girls who were talking during a Grinderman gig at the Forum. And I saw Seasick Steve stop playing and tell some people to shut up and stop being disrespectful.

    I agree that most of that Top 50 list is fairly dull, but Endtroducing by DJ Shadow, Drum & Bass for Papa by Plug, Trailer Park by Beth Orton and Second Toughest in the Infants by Underworld (their most underrated album) are all albums which I go back to again and again.

    Oh, and lumping Beck in with Kula Shaker and the Manics is a little unfair. I’m not a particular fan of Odelay but he’s released some amazing LPs in the past and his current album is really good!



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