When Danny Kelly thrust Billy Bragg’s book in to my hands on his radio show a few weeks ago I was only too happy to accept it. After all I’d managed to blag something without even having to do so much as ask. Add to that the fact Danny used to sell second hand cars and that he’s a bloody nice bloke to boot and I couldn’t really say no. Once I got home however I soon realised I know absolutely nothing about Billy Bragg or his legacy….
Rather than put the book to one side I decided to soldier on and learn about this legendary music great, after all where better a place to start reading up on a man than with his very own book. One hundred pages in and I felt like I knew more about Bragg’s grandfather than he himself. Then again, whilst I had learnt very little about the man himself or the music he produces, I had learnt a wealth of facts and knowledge on Great Britain and what it means to be British.
For many of Bragg’s fans this will seem like a natural point for him to address and at times he uses the book to link songs to events that have occurred throughout his life and indeed through our lives over the last 20-40 years. For some this will seem a little too much like a sociology or history lesson but for those who stick with it there are some interesting facts to be learnt.
Beyond that there’s an even bigger chunk of history which Bragg dives in to including Romans, Celtics, Rudyard Kipling, and even a paragraph on the guano trade. It’s all terribly well written and it’s clear there’s been a wealth of research put behind this book. The fact sources are listed at the end further shows the dedication Bragg must have had to finding every last piece of British history.
When we hit the modern day the book hits it stride with talks about Britains new found obsession with flags on cars and the effects of the July bombings. The strongest tones however are hit over the British National Party (BNP) who come under attack from start to finish. Still when the official BNP website makes statements such as “abolishing multiculturalism” as if it’s a good thing then it’s easy to take the side of Bragg.
Although less than 300 pages it’s clear the topics talked about could be discussed for thousands more. But perhaps that’s just what Bragg wants? To finally get us talking about what makes us British and the forces that try to take that away from us.
The Progressive Patriot is out in shops now and you can buy it here
Or for more Billy Bragg items see the box below: