Roots! n.471 giugno 2022 Billy Bragg (Una retrospettiva? No, un parlare di musica per meglio comprendere questi tempi)

Billy Bragg

(Una retrospettiva? No, un parlare di musica per meglio comprendere questi tempi)

by Simone Rossetti 

Siamo sul finire degli anni ’70 (1979, mese di maggio), Regno Unito, elezioni politiche, da una parte i laburisti (allora al governo) dall’altra i conservatori, in realtà quel bivio che cambierà il corso della storia; in parole molto povere c’era da scegliere da che parte stare, o con “un vecchio mondo” (quello del partito laburista e corporazioni varie) fallimentare ed oramai in declino (disoccupazione, inflazione e tensioni sociali a livelli altissimi) o scegliere un nuovo che si rivelerà estremamente traumatico (e dal quale non se ne farà più ritorno) nel nome della conservatrice Margaret Thatcher. Come andrà a finire è stroria nota, quello che ne seguì  fu un cambiamento drammatico sia a livello sociale che personale (per un meglio comprendere e per correttezza vi rimandiamo a due bellissimi film, Billy Elliot (2000) di Lee Hall ma soprattutto Grazie, Signora Thatcher  del 1996 di Mark Herman, compensazioni a nostre mancanze), una trasformazione sociale/generazionale che non riguardò solo l’Inghilterra ma tutta l’Europa (di lì a poco anche quella dell’Est) compreso il nostro paese (qui forse in modo meno brusco e più dilatato nel tempo ma delle quali conseguenze ne subiamo ancora oggi tutti gli effetti e distorsioni). Billy Bragg (nato in quel di Barking, periferia di Londra, 1957) compositore, musicista ed attivista, una storia iniziata nel 1977 con i Riff Raff (band punk-rock dalla breve durata, si sciolsero nel 1981) per poi proseguire una carriera solista e personale che tanto di cappello, un moderno (ma non troppo) Woody Guthrie dei “nostri” tempi. “I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for a new England, I’m just looking for another girl, I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for a new England, I’m just looking for another girl” da A New England brano contenuto nel suo primo EP del 1983 (Life’s A Riot With Spay Vs Spy, Charisma Records) un folk-punk elettro-acustico che sarà il suo tratto distintivo, seguirà nel 1984 Brewing Up With Billy Bragg (Go! Discs Records, insieme a lui Johnny Marr degli Smiths), album fortemente “politico” (brutta parola, meglio dire “consapevole” di una lotta già destinata a perdere, quella dei minatori e portuali inglesi), il brano Island Of No Return fu a suo tempo (ma potrebbe esserlo ancora oggi) un manifesto, una presa di posizione, quel non mollare malgrado un tutto e tutti “Digging all day and digging all night, To keep my foxhole out of sight, Digging into dinner on a plate on my knees, The smell of damp webbing in the morning breeze, Fear in my stomach, fear in the sky, I eat my dinner with a weary eye, After all this it won’t be the same, Messing around on Salisbury Plain.. Damned from here to eternity”. Nel 1985 (anno cruciale e definitivo) seguirà l’EP Between The Wars (i proventi delle vendite saranno destinati al fondo dei minatori in sciopero) e nella titletrack tutto un mondo al suo crepuscolo “I was a miner, I was a docker, I was a railway man between the wars, I raised a family in times of austerity, With sweat at the foundry between the wars….Theirs is a land of hope and glory, Mine is the green field and the factory floor, Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers, And mine is the peace we knew between the wars… Go find the young men never to fight again, Bring up the banners from the days gone by, Sweet moderation, heart of this nation, Desert us not, we are between the wars”. Marzo 1985, una resa, definitiva e dalla quale non sarà più possibile tornare indietro, i sindacati dei minatori dopo quasi un anno di lotte (violente repressioni da parte dello stato ma soparttutto cicatrici a livello personale) firmeranno una resa, senza condizioni….da qui in poi sarà quel nuovo mondo; e siamo così al 1986, Billy Bragg pubblicherà quello destinato a diventare il suo album più conosciuto e venduto Talking With The Taxman About Poetry un lavoro sicuramente più “ricercato”, introspettivo (ascoltatevi la bellissima Greetings To The New Brunette) ma non per questo rinunciatario “When one voice rules the nation, Just because they’re top of the pile, Doesn’t mean their vision is the clearest, The voices of the people, Are falling on deaf ears, Our politicians all become careerists” ci ricorda in Ideology o nella malinconica ballata folk di There Is Power In A UnionThere is power in a factory, power in the land, Power in the hands of a worker, But it all amounts to nothing if together we don’t stand, There is power in a Union”, perchè c’è e ci sarà sempre qualcosa per cui varrà la pena lottare, “finita” (sconfitte comprese) non lo sarà mai ma….ed è un “ma” peso come un macigno, indietro non sarà possibile tornare, il nuovo (cruento ed inarrestabile) seguirà inevitabilmente un suo corso. E siamo ad un oggi, anno 2022, quello che sembra essere proprio un momento di passaggio ad un “nuovo altro”, un nuovo ancora tutto in divenire, non ancora decifrabile ma che sembra non promettere niente di buono e forse ancora più devastante del “nuovo-vecchio” al quale ci eravamo oramai abituati/conformati. Un nuovo bivio? Onestamente non lo sappiamo, lo possiamo solo percepire; ma se tutto cambia e si trasforma alla fine cosa resta? Resta (e non è poco) quella consapevolezza, ostinata ed ulltima che questo fottuto mondo possa essere diverso, migliore e non importa se le regole saranno scritte come sempre dai soliti altri, non importa se dalla parte “sbagliata”, non importa se ci arriveremo “già sconfitti” ma ci saremo perchè come ci ricorda Billy Bragg ne sarà valsa comunque la pena, per noi e per questo fottuto mondo. Da Roots! è tutto e come sempre buon ascolto (ci sono i link nei titoli degli album).

(A retrospective? No, a talk about music to better understand these times)

by Simone Rossetti

We are in the late 1970s (1979, May), United Kingdom, political elections, on the one hand the Labor (then in government) on the other the conservatives, in reality that crossroads that will change the course of history; in very simple terms there was to choose which side to be on, or with “an old world” (that of the Labor Party and various corporations) bankrupt and now in decline (unemployment, inflation and social tensions at very high levels) or choose a new one which will prove extremely traumatic (and from which it will never return) in the name of conservative Margaret Thatcher. How it will end is history, what followed was a dramatic change both on a social and personal level (for a better understanding and for correctness we refer you to two beautiful films, Billy Elliot (2000) by Lee Hall but above all Brassed Off 1996 by Mark Herman; compensations for our shortcomings), a social / generational transformation that did not concern only England but all of Europe (shortly thereafter also that of the East) including our country (here perhaps in a less abrupt and more dilated over time but of which consequences we still suffer today all the effects and distortions). Billy Bragg (born in Barking, a suburb of London, 1957) composer, musician and activist, a story that began in 1977 with Riff Raff (a short-lived punk-rock band, they disbanded in 1981) and then continued a solo career and personal that hats off, a modern (but not too much) Woody Guthrie of “our” times. “I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for a new England, I’m just looking for another girl, I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for a new England, I’m just looking for another girl” from A New England song from her first EP of 1983 (Life’s A Riot With Spay Vs Spy, Charisma Records) an electro-acoustic folk-punk that will be his distinctive trait, followed in 1984 by Brewing Up With Billy Bragg (Go! Discs Records, together with Johnny Marr of the Smiths), a strongly “political” album (bad word , better to say “aware” of a fight already destined to lose, that of the English miners and dockers), the song Island Of No Return was in its time (but could still be today) a manifesto, a stance, that not giving up despite everything and everyone “Digging all day and digging all night, To keep my foxhole out of sight, Digging into dinner on a plate on my knees, The smell of damp webbing in the morning breeze, Fear in my stomach, fear in the sky, I eat my dinner with a weary eye, After all this it won’t be the same, Messing around on Salisbury Plain .. Damned from here to eternity“. In 1985 (crucial and definitive year) the EP Between The Wars will follow (the proceeds from sales will go to the strike miners’ fund) and in the titletrack a whole world at its twilight “I was a miner, I was a docker, I was a railway man between the wars, I raised a family in times of austerity, With sweat at the foundry between the wars …. Theirs is a land of hope and glory, Mine is the green field and the factory floor, Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers, And mine is the peace we knew between the wars … Go find the young men never to fight again, Bring up the banners from the days gone by, Sweet moderation, heart of this nation, Desert us not, we are between the wars “. March 1985, a surrender, definitive and from which it will no longer be possible to go back, the miners’ unions after almost a year of struggles (violent repression by the state but above all scars on a personal level) will sign a surrender, without conditions … . from here on it will be that new world; and so we are in 1986, Billy Bragg will release the one destined to become his best-known and best-selling album Talking With The Taxman About Poetry, a work certainly more “sought after”, introspective (listen to the beautiful Greetings To The New Brunette) but not for this renouncing “When one voice rules the nation, Just because they’re top of the pile, Doesn’t mean their vision is the clearest, The voices of the people, Are falling on deaf ears, Our politicians all become careerists” reminds us in Ideology or in the melancholy folk ballad of There Is Power In A UnionThere is power in a factory, power in the land, Power in the hands of a worker, But it all amounts to nothing if together we don’t stand, There is power in a Union”, because there is and will always be something that will be worth fighting for, “over “(including defeats) it will never be but …. and it is a” but “weight like a boulder, back it will not be possible to return, the new (bloody and unstoppable) will inevitably follow nte its own course. And we are at today, the year 2022, what seems to be a moment of transition to a “new other”, a new one still in the making, unintelligible but which does not seem to promise anything good and perhaps even more devastating than the “new -old” to which we had become accustomed/conformed by now. A new crossroads? We honestly don’t know, we can only feel it; but if everything changes and transforms in the end what remains? There remains (and it is not a little) that awareness, obstinate and ulltima that this fucking world can be different, better and it does not matter if the rules will be written as always by the usual others, it does not matter if on the “wrong” side, it does not matter if we get there “already defeated” but we will be there because as Billy Bragg reminds us it will still be worth it, for us and for this fucking world. From Roots! it’s all and as always good listening (there are links in the album titles).

 
 
 

 

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