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

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Perfect Day

This is not a New Order post- Stephen’s t-shirt is the only link. Bernard looks like someone’s pissed him off though (or he’s suffering from gastric after-effects of that curry at lunchtime).

I’ve been listening to some Lou Reed recently- yes, because he died. I played New York all the way through, an album I don’t think I’ve listened to in twenty years. I was surprised by how much of it was familiar which shows how much i must have listened to it in 1988-9. I saw him when he played London in the summer of ’89, at Wembley Arena I think. The university year had just finished and I went straight down to stay with my friend Mr AN of Ealing and we trooped off to see Lou. He was good (which is surprising as I get the feeling he was pretty hit and miss live depending on his mood and level of contempt for the audience). He played New York in the first half and then some greatest hits in the second- I don’t remember which greatest hits other than Sweet Jane and Rock And Roll, and he played them as they should be played rather than the butchered versions I’ve seen on TV at times. At one point he muttered something about all the sounds being played by ‘real musicians no synthesisers or samplers’ which narked me a bit because I was quite into both as you might have gathered by now, but other than that, a good gig and night out.

I found my cd re-issue of Transformer as well recently, an album I also know inside out but haven’t listened to for ages. Bowie and Mick Ronson’s work on it is superb and the songs sound great, in terms of arrangements and production. The lyrics are top stuff too, putting that gay, 70s New York vibe right out in front. Tacked on the end of the cd are two extras. This is the demo of Perfect Day, just Lou and acoustic guitar, slightly different lyrics and phrasing but interesting to hear. After a few seconds silence there is then a radio advert for transformer. Worth a d/l I think. And miles better than that BBC ad which got irritating quite quickly.

Perfect Day (Demo)

And I found this too- Kirsty MacColl and Evan Dando’s cover of the same song

Perfect Day

And I’m Telling You Now

I read a big piece in one of the weekend newspapers about Kirsty MacColl, who died ten years this December. All her albums are being re-released. I haven’t got any of them, only the odd song I picked up here and there. There aren’t many cover versions of Smiths songs I like- Morrissey and Marr stamped their own characters all over them so much that almost any cover version comes up short. But this one by Kirsty is as good, if not better, than the original.

You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby

As I’m typing this the internet is reckoning that The Smiths are about to reform. My hairdresser says he heard that they were going to do it last summer but The Stone Roses re-union scuppered it and stole the thunder.