Few people could argue against 1984 being one of history’s finest years for pop music. Above all else, the mighty Frankie Goes To Hollywood came and gave pop a hefty kick up the arse with a combination of great tunes and greater controversy. They were the first band since the 60s to score three #1 hits in a row, but each one – ‘Relax’, ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘The Power of Love’ were deserving of their success. Each one sounds as good as ever and in the case of ‘Two Tribes’, there’s still a real edginess you’d think would be long gone.
Looking back, it’s easy to see that 1983 was a massive year. It represents the point where a few of its stars were making huge steps to being the decade’s megastars. Five years into his career, Prince had finally succeeded in gaining worldwide success with his ‘1999’ album (a double platter of much filthiness); with their ‘War’ album, U2 made the leap from successful rock band to being an act with much bigger potential and Madonna showed early signs of being more exciting than your average pop performer.
Always a fixture on the live circuit throughout the 80s and 90s, Billy Bragg was also no stranger to radio sessions. Between 1983 and 2000, he was the subject of eleven Peel Sessions. Only a few artists recorded a higher number of sessions for the legendary DJ’s show. Highlights of some of those earlier sets were compiled on a now hard to find 1991 ‘Peel Sessions’ release on Strange Fruit Records.
A new compilation ‘Best of BB at The BBC 1983-2019’ brings together 38 radio session tracks, many of which are being released on CD and vinyl for the first time.
6 time BBC award-winning singer songwriter Karine Polwart releases her eighth album this coming August. ‘Scottish Songbook’ does what it says on the tin, with Karine re-interpreting various pieces of Scottish pop spanning the last six decades. Fans will experience her putting her own stamp on classics by Deacon Blue and The Waterboys, as well as revisiting Strawberry Switchblades huge 1985 hit ‘Since Yesterday’.
You can find out more in the press release below, which contains a link to the new single, a cover of Ivor Cutler’s ‘Women of The World’.
Billy Bragg has never been shy of voicing a political opinion. However, the collection of songs that makes up the 2017 EP ‘Bridges Not Walls’ might just find the singer-songwriter at his most consistently outspoken since 1988’s ‘Worker’s Playtime’. His overtly political stance isn’t without good reason, of course; following his album and tour with US folk musician Joe Henry, the world took a huge turn for the worse. In June 2016, the UK held a referendum on our position within the European Union. With the result favouring those who wanted to leave, the outcome seemed to be the ultimate gesture in cutting off the country’s nose to save face. A few months later, America voted in a new President – a man with absolutely no prior political experience – and the country slowly and painfully began to disintegrate. Both of these subjects colour these five songs to a great extent, and with Billy – often the voice of a questioning contempt – it’s a very interesting listen.