Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Sunday 08 May 2011

33 Revolutions Per Minute: Billy Bragg Guests As A History of Politics In Pop Came Under Discussion

As far back as works by the jazz singer Billie Holiday, the American folk of Woody Guthrie, through to Elvis, and Bob Dylan, protest songs have connected with worldwide audiences.
Poly Styrene Remembered

This subject was tackled during day two of Brighton Festival 2011, at the Pavilion Theatre as part of the Books and Debate programme.

Introduced by Luke Bainbridge, Associate Editor of Observer Music Monthly, and joined by Dorian Lynskey, author of new book 33 Revolutions per Minute, as well as everyone"s favourite alternative rock musician and political activist, Billy Bragg.

From the off the debate was insightful and based around Lynskey's book; to which many references and anecdotes were made during the hour-long debate.

Especially interesting were Bragg's musical influences - which helped shape his songwriting - The Clash, Ramones, Dr Feelgood and The Jam all played their part.

Bragg related his experiences dealing with his involvement in the punk movement of the 1970s, his attendance at the Rock against Racism gigs in London – which were in response to the rise in racial conflict and growth in groups such as the National Front.

Later in his career, he was deeply involved in the Miners' Strike gigs and Red Wedge political collective, which included like-minded musicians such as Paul Weller and Jimmy Somerville.

The author went on to highlight an array of good and not so great musical protest songwriting; including diverse artists such as U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday through to M.I.A, Green Day and even the Pet Shop Boys.

Songs highlighted as bad examples of protest song included Live Aid's Feed The World and Michael Jackson's Earth Song.

It was argued that pop music is a 'flimsy vehicle' in which to convey political and social comment, but an important one, and also the lack of political comment in modern music.

Many artists write about political issues; however few are willing to debate issues when given the opportunity.

Questions were opened-up to the audience; someone asked about why the current urban music scene made more political references than the current indie and rock music scene - to which Bragg related back to the West London punk scene from the 1970s where rock music fused with reggae and events such as the Notting Hill Carnival were born.

The debate concluded with an audience member commenting on the lack of female artists in the protest arena, with Bragg quick to mention and pay respects to X-Ray Spex singer Poly Styrene, who died recently.

Dorian Lynskey and Billy Bragg were available afterwards to sign copies of 33 Revolutions per Minute.

The Brighton Festival continues until Sunday 29th May. See for more info.

by: Andy Sturmey


While flowing from the same, molten core of melody, songwriting style and self-belief, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' new album, Who Built The Moon? alters the singer-songwriter’s course following a two-year creative collaboration with renowned producer, DJ & composer, David Holmes. 

Now in its fifth year, the Glyndebourne Tour Art Competition invited young visual artists to submit an original work inspired by the theme of Deception, a common thread in all three of the operas in this year's Tour.

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Jon Ronson by Emli Bendixen

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REM frontman Michael Stipe has reflected that the band's seminal album, Automatic For The People, concerns topics of “mortality and dying,” but he further notes, “mortality is a theme that writers have chosen to work with throughout time." 

To mark 150 years as a performance venue, Brighton Dome is seeking memories from across its rich history. Submissions will help inform new heritage displays which will go on show when the refurbished buildings re-open in late 2018.

One of Mali's leading musicians, and descended from a line of Khassonké griots (traditional troubadors), Habib Koité is back in the UK this October for the first time in a decade, and he will be joined by longtime band Bamada for a concert in Brighton.

Denai Moore was in Brighton earlier this year for full-band shows at The Great Escape festival. Now she's coming back in the city with new album We Used To Bloom, which she calls 'a declaration of growth, a break-up letter to her demons and a love letter to the liberated self'.  

Hallelujah!  Your saviour is at hand. If you're concerned about a life with global advertising, multinational control, climate change, the threat of nuclear war, supermarket domination, and all the constant controversy caused by the US President's outpourings, this is for you. 

Filmed over a one year period at East Mountbatten Hospice, Isle of Wight, this new multi-screen video work - on show at  Fabrica, Brighton, next month - addresses the taboo subject of dying and current attitudes to palliative care.

Brix & The Extricated has – in the words of an old Fall lyric – something of a “track record”. 

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