The album title ‘William Bloke’ just about sums Bragg up. There he is, take him or leave him, just Bill, just an ordinary guy. It’s an attitude that’s made for some extraordinary songs – open, honest and often heartbreaking. As an everyman his art has frequently been revelatory ; his life doesn’t however make for fascinating biography material.
In a funny sort of way, the lack of spectacular becomes one of the strengths of Collin’s book. There’s little rock ‘n’ roll glamour or excess here,Bragg just got in the motor and got on with it. His story is pretty typical of anyone that came of age in the Eighties and grew and made the inevitable changes and compromises as the next two decades passed. It’s probably the story the story of someone pretty much like yourself, but then you wouldn’t want to read a biography of you, would you? (And especially one that’s frequently punctuated by excruciating puns.)
Collins does capture the atmosphere of the Class struggle in the 1980s well., and he’s particularly good at rescuing Bragg’s public image from that of orthodox left-wing firebrand. Billy didn’t spend the decade spouting Marxist certainties; indeed he stood on the barricades, armed only with a genuine compassion, sense of doubt and an inquiring mind.
“I don’t want to change the world / I’m not looking for a new England / I’m just looking for another girl”, Bragg wrote in 1982. You’ll be pleased to know he found her, which is probably just as well, as England and the rest of the United Kingdom, has changed pretty significantly since Bragg’s formative years. Still ‘Still Suitable For Miners’ will leave you enlightened to the changes in the political situation and tell you probably more more than you need to know about the changes in Bragg over the years.But reading the damn thing is more of a chore than a pleasure. 7.8/10