Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Must I Paint You a Picture

A bit of a whirl of guitar and then the Hammond C3 kicks in with a long confessional note.
"It's bad timing and me.
We find a lot of things out this way.
And there's you,
A little black cloud in a dress.
The temptation
To take the precious things we have apart
To see how they work
Must be resisted for they never fit together again."


Things are not going to go well here. You're prepping for the fall. Analysis of the magic could only lead to Billy Bragg's crying out,
"If this is rain let it fall on me and drown me.
If these are tears, let them fall"
in his "Must I Paint You a Picture" from "Worker's Playtime".

Billy Bragg's a taste of choice, a musical revelation and love or a simple disdain. Folks I've proselytized (or at least tried to) about Bragg are immediate in their response; they listen or they flee. The ones that don't care for him find his songs too hard or too preachy. "His voice is too heavily accented", they also note. Well, you can lead a horse to water...
I love his voice, his heavy unpolished British accent(listen to his pronunciation of "drown", you feel the water coming over top of you), with a romantic lilt to it that comes off with an exhausted humph of the shoulders as he struggles through his love songs, knowing that his heart will be crushed at the end. But, even if a person doesn't care for his voice, one has to give him kudos for his songwriting skills. In this song, one of the best pieces of a sad romance written in the last 20 years appears. With an exasperated plea, Bragg sings to his "little black cloud in a dress", that:
"Most important decisions in life
Are made between two people in bed.
I found that out at my expense
And wehn I see you,
You just turn around and walk away like we never met.
Oh, we used to be so brave!
I dreamt the world stopped turning as we climbed the hill
I dreamt impossible dreams that we were lovers still."


A true romantic in these days of coarseness and cheap emotional swill.

(This is #6 of Ten Heartbreakers as memed by Whisky Prajer)

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Comments:
Billy Bragg - talk about coming from (ahem) left field! And yet it works. Marvelous.
 
Damn if he doesn't look like a young George C. Scott.
 
Sorry DV - I always detested Billy Bragg. And his whole "Working Class Hero" schtick.

But then, I always detested Morrisey too. My fault, then - not theirs.
 
A very loud SIGH out here on the East Coast, FBC...
First, Jazz (of most forms) kicks the dust. Now, Billy B.
Is there not a warm cockle in your soul even for some of his love songs?
Just one, I'm asking?
 
I think the lyric would be improved immeasurably if it were "a little black cloud in a little black dress" - but that's just me, and I've nevr been one to wander the streets of Tin Pan Alley.
Word verification is 'Xystz,' which MUST be a town in Slovaka, no?
 
I've been meaning to comment on this post for some time.

Your use of the word 'proselytize' struck a chord with me, because if there's ever been a musician for whom I bend people's ears, it's Billy Bragg.

You nailed this song.

For me, another heartbreaker of sorts of his is "The Saturday Boy". I've seen him live a number of times, and when he played it in Atlanta in 1991 he prefaced it by saying, "Most of my songs are semi-fictional. In this one, every word is true."

With that in mind, go put it on.

Thanks for writing about Billy.
 
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