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.
The evening of December 1st 1976 began much like any other, but by the time the evening rolled into night time, television history had been made. With Queen unable to make their interview slot on the Today magazine programme, punk band Sex Pistols were drafted in as a last minute filler. It was an event that started with a wobble and ended with guitarist Steve Jones calling the ill at ease presenter Bill Grundy a “fucking rotter”. Up until this point, punk had been a truly underground phenomenon, only really of concern to a few bands, their friends and young people who’d decided they now wanted to be in bands. It hadn’t really spread beyond parts of Manchester, London and the boring suburbia of Bromley, yet here it was beaming itself into the living rooms of unsuspecting viewers.
Within hours, the press claimed outrage at the “filth and fury” of it all which only meant that punk was now in the consciousness of an entire nation, fueling the fires of excitement within teenagers up and down the UK, making it all the more appealing. In 1977, punk made its way into the mainstream with the Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and The Stranglers all releasing classic debut albums and scoring a few hit singles in the process.
In 2017, Tom Robinson celebrated forty years of his hit single ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’. He announced a show at London’s legendary 100 Club to mark the occasion. The show would feature the ‘Power In The Darkness’ album played in its entirety, joined by associated singles. That gig sold out in under an hour. A second show was announced and that sold out in a day. A third achieved the same feat.
In 2018, ‘Power In The Darkness’ also turned forty. An Autumn show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire was scheduled to replicate those 100 Club shows for a bigger crowd.