Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day - Billy Bragg and The Smiths

Billy Bragg and The Smiths, Newcastle, England, January 31, 1986:

Billy Bragg, "This Charming Man intro/A Lover Sings"

Billy Bragg, "Back To The Old House"

Billy Bragg, "This May Be The Last Time"

The Smiths, "Shakespeare's Sister"

The Smiths, "I Want The One I Can't Have"

The Smiths, "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side"

The Smiths, "Bigmouth Strikes Again"

Here's a little Labor Day surprise for everyone, a live recording from one of the concerts during the Red Wedge tour of 1986, organized by Pound for Pound favorite and leftist Billy Bragg. First, the music comes from an audience recording, and to be honest, I'm not sure if the person was actually a part of the audience for this show. It's that low-quality. Repeat, this is a terrible recording, especially for the Bragg songs at the beginning. With that warning, it's still a great document of a fascinating time in music, when the British working class found its voice, when the Right began to take control and the ideas of privatization, xenophobia and bigotry became the mainstream. Bragg organized this tour to energize the youth of Britain and assail the Thatcher government.

I've always been ambiguous about politics and music; actually, I've always been very hesitant about it, finding explicit political music uninteresting and preachy. Bragg, especially, and Dylan before him have escaped this criticism by singing not just of Politics with a capital P, but also the everyday politics of men and women, sex, love, failure, singing as often about uncertainty and loss as anything. I think that this comes the closest to my political makeup, which always feels hesitant about adding more suffering to the world.

Today should not be a day of confusion though; it should be a chance to honor the memory of all the workers of this country who stood on picket lines, who fought their bosses for better wages, better conditions and a better future. It's for Joe Hill, Samuel Gompers, Mary "Mother" Jones, Walter Reuther, all the leaders over the years, all the nameless men and women who died for something better. Here's a nice timeline of important labor moments, emphasizing the death and intimidation that today's labor movement stands on. Here's another history, which few know today. Finally, look at this diary at Dailykos explaining why unions are so important.

-How am I celebrating Labor Day? Obviously by watching the Plastic Surgery: Before and After marathon on Discovery Health! What else?

-Today is ostensibly the last day of summer, a normally sad day when school and cold weather looms. For me, it's the end of a lousy summer and the chance to put that all behind me. Starting tomorrow, we're gonna stop with the emo shit, stop myspace stalking, stop feeling bad for myself. There are lots of changes in store for me personally, some tweaks here and there at this site. I'm as excited as I've been in awhile, looking forward to getting some distance and moving forward now. Yeah yeah yeah!


Crash Calloway said...

Lovely post, thank you. It's interesting to hear Billy Bragg on his most recent tour - he was saying that as he listened again to his old songs whilst putting a boxset together he kind of felt it should have been called 'a lover sings', and that he was making an effort to reinvent himself as 'mr loverman'. There's also a billy bragg / johnny marr lil'project that I'll try and post later today if you come looking for it.

eo said...

sounds hopeful. i likey.

Anonymous said...

It seems the links are down. Any chance of re-posting them?