It’s Wrong To Wish On Space Hardware

Billy Bragg’s A New England, thirty years old right now, is one of the great lyrics of the latter part of the Twentieth Century. I know, a ridiculous claim, but there you go. The first verse has that almost nonsensical opening couplet about being 21 when he wrote the song but 22 now and the girls he knew at school who have already outpaced him age-wise and growing up-wise followed by the one half-rhyming pedestal and the pill. After the chorus ‘I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for a new England, just looking for another girl’- there’s the brilliant verse combining the Cold War space race, shooting stars, wishing and unrequited love which is pure post-punk poetry…

I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them but they were only satellites
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care

The sparseness of Billy’s rapidly strummed electric guitar adds to the early 80s lonesomeness. It may not be his best song but I don’t think he’s ever written a better lyric. He may have matched it but he’s not bettered it.

Kirsty MacColl’s cover version, below, is different- not better, not worse, different. Fuller, with a biggish pop production by husband Steve Lillywhite and two additional verses written for her by Billy. Number 7 in the pop charts in 1984.

A New England

10 Responses

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  2. I still miss Kirsty.She was stolen from us.

  3. In this house we agree that This is an Interesting Blog. Apart from teeth, what else do you have in common with Dentist Clapham Junction,etc? You're right about the lyric, it has a great resonance for us middle-aged men.

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  5. Hard to believe it is 30 years ago. Still vividly recall buying the vinyl after hearing him for the first time on Peel.

  6. The cassette of Life's A Riot was blank on one side so you could 'bootleg the Bragg'.

  7. Just the flippin best Many thanks xx

  8. It reminds me of Nick Cave's:"I went to bed last night and my moral code got jammed / I woke up this morning with a Frappuccino in my hand "Also this blog very interesting and yes, teeth. Is it OK to lie through your teeth, if they are really dentures?

  9. Wasn't the opening line 'borrowed' from Simon & Garfunkel' 'Leaves That Are Green'?And the melody from Thin Lizzy?That's proper eclectic magpieism. (As we say at the Rock Musicologist Centre in Newcastle Under Lyme).

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