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BILLY BRAGG: Still Suitable For Miners
By Andrew Collins
Published By Virgin Books, Third Edition (2007)
Reviewed by Cardinal Cox


Billy Bragg: Still Suitable For Miners available at

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Write Dope on Pnuk part 28

Billy Bragg, practically a synonym for the protest singer, an Essex born Dylan, known for his involvement with such movements as the Miners’ Strike of the early nineteen-eighties, he has since grown into a major British songwriter.

The book covers his youth in Essex and early love of the Rolling Stones. Following an attendance at a gig by the Clash (they’d actually gone to see support band the Jam) he and friends re-thought their band into Riff Raff. Importantly, they then moved to Oundle and so gigged around Peterborough/Northamptonshire as well as London. The band split, Billy spends a short time in the Army and emerges to become a lone musician. As “the one-man Clash” he established a reputation for himself for being able to turn up and play anywhere, supporting anyone. In this period he played the Glasshouse in Peterborough and I remember seeing him shortly after he’d been on 'The Tube'.

This is the era of a thousand benefit gigs, Rock Against Racism, Save the GLC, CND, Miners’ Strike, which all eventually coalesced into the part he played in Red Wedge. This was a broad Left Wing grouping of musicians, comedians and other artists that, while not afraid to voice criticism of the Labour Party, saw them as the best bet against Thatcher’s Conservative Party. Labour lost itself the election and the Wedge never got much beyond the thin end. By then Bragg had started to release records and his radical side expanded to include Central/South America and Eastern Europe/Russia.

The book follows him through personal crisis and critical success, as he expanded to include a backing band and even adapting previously unused lyrics by the great Woody Guthrie, the radical American singer/guitarist of the ’forties and ’fifties. This book has obviously been re-released to coincide with the success of his own book that looks at ‘Englishness’, as his current concerns include opposing the growth of the BNP, reform of the House of Lords into a representative second chamber, and a Bill of Rights for Britain.

Presumably he has spare time some time.

This book, then, looks at (through the focus on one person) how punk radicalised the youth of Britain and what happened next.


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