I enjoyed the last listen so much that I’m following it up this afternoon with another classic Billy Bragg album, ‘Worker’s Playtime‘.
‘Workers Playtime’ was released originally on the Go! Discs label; it is his 4th release but 3rd full length album. The album may have reached #18 in the UK albums chart but it certainly reached #1 in Michelle‘s (my friend from high school) heart which, ultimately, is how I came to be a Billy Bragg fan myself (as well as the Pogues). In fact, I think I borrowed it at least 3 dozen times before I bit the bullet and bought my own copy. At the time, it was a kind of secret shame because I was also heavily into my darker Doom n Gloom Goth albums. I have since embraced it with open arms and it has been played enough now that I have even had to replace the current copy in my collection at least twice.
By the time Bragg began working on and recording this album in the fall of 1987, he’d gone from a rabble-rousing leftist songwriter and D.I.Y. one-man punk band to a bona fide pop star in the U.K., and had won a sizable cult following (and a major-label recording contract) in the United States.
‘Workers Playtime‘ finds Bragg building actual arrangements around his tunes as he struggled to balance a broader and more eclectic musical approach with the small-p politics that were his stock in trade. This struggle is practically audible on this album, and this time out Bragg’s songs about the ups and downs of relationships outnumber (and are more satisfying than) his polemics, and he seems torn between the comfort of the spartan simplicity of numbers like ‘The Only One‘, ‘Valentine’s Day Is Over‘, and ‘Must I Paint You a Picture‘ and the more expansive approach of the rollicking ‘Life with the Lions‘ and the appropriately mysterious ‘She’s Got a New Spell‘. The highlight however is the splendid final number, ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards‘ which still remains one of my favorite Bragg songs, like, ever. Oh, and it also has a hilariously kick ass video (click HERE).