Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Billy Bragg’s Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy

Billy Bragg‘s debut album, Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy, gets the anniversary re-issue treatment this month. Cooking Vinyl release a remastered version of the original album and live recordings from Bragg’s London Union Chapel show in June 2013. The album comes out as a CD, housed in a snazzy replica vinyl card sleeve, as well as a limited edition LP.

The original Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy, released by Charisma Records [home to Peter Gabriel and Genesis, but also Kirsty McColl] came out in a 45rpm format rather than the normal album 33rpm, as it contained just seven songs and clockedin at just under 16 minutes. The album’s casette release featured one blank side, with the recommendation to fans to bootleg one of Billy’s concerts on the other side.

It reached #30 in the album charts, and the following year saw proxy success when Kirsty McColl covered New England and got to #7 in the UK Singles charts.

The simple and direct recording has aged surprisingly well, and – as you’ll be able to vouch for yourself, songs like the Milkman of Human Kindness, New England, and To Have and Have Not sound uncannily relevant still; Thatcher may be gone, but the backdrop to Bragg’s songs have hardly changed in thirty years.