84. Billy Bragg – “Workers Playtime”

I’m pretty sure this was the first Bragg album I purchased. I’ve thus always had a softer spot for it than perhaps it warrants.

billy-bragg-album-cover-workers-playtimeIt contains some of his strongest tracks, mostly of the lovelorn oeuvre.  Valentine’s Day is Over is biting and devastating. Must I Paint you Picture revisits an unrequited love of sorts. And The Short Answer sees Billy’s tongue firmly in his cheek, and contains one of the best opening couplets ever (“Between Marx and Marzipan in the dictionary there was Mary…”).

I could go on and on discussing the thrust of each tune, but ultimately almost all are about love gone a bit sour (other than the political Rotting on Remand).  The CD almost falls into the concept album box. Bragg does a grand job of presenting each tune as different take on the overarching theme.  It does, of course, beg the question why the album secured such a non-indicative title (just as the moniker also begs the “no apostrophe?” question). Perhaps the closing Waiting for Great Leap Forward answers this, as he (perhaps) parodies his working class ranting.

This is a very strong album.  Its biggest weakness lies in the continuing diminution of the thrashy folk guitar.

File under: A recess to rejoice upon


4 responses to “84. Billy Bragg – “Workers Playtime”

  1. And why does he have some wacky dictionary with proper nouns in it ?

  2. between the deep blue sea / and the devil / there was me…

    i’ll always have a soft spot for this album as well. my favorite song: “the only one”

  3. Ah, how can you say that TAXMAN trails off in the second half? It contains the song “The Warmest Room,” which holds a place in my very exclusive Pantheon of favorite-ever songs and contains this memorable line…

    “The wife has three great attributes…
    Intelligence, a Swiss Army Knife and charm.”

    And on WORKERS PLAYTIME, I submit
    “The Short Answer” for best song.

    “All my friends from school,
    introduce me, to their spouses.
    While I’m left standing here,
    with my hands down,
    the front of my trousers…

    And the sound of happy couples,
    coupling happily in the dark
    While you and I sat down to tea,
    I remember you said to me,
    That no amount of poetry
    would mend this broken heart,
    But you can put the Hoover ’round,
    If you want to make a start!”

    How can you not marvel at couplets like that?

    Still though, I’m a bigger fan of Bragg’s first two records, compiled on the BACK TO BASICS album. The days when Bragg had no backup musicians. Just his voice and his electric guitar. No drums, no bass, no baloney. It was punky and loud, but it was *** folk music ***

  4. I had a girl once write me the lyrics of “Must I Paint You a Picture” on a floral piece of paper and make it into an origami crane.

    I’ll never forget the girl, nor the song.

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