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Billy Bragg (the A-Side)

Mastertapes, Series 1 Episode 1 of 14

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 30 October 2012

John Wilson launches a new series in which he talks to leading performers and songwriters about the album that made them or changed them. Recorded in front of a live audience at the BBC's iconic Maida Vale Studios.

Programme 1, A-side. 'Talking With The Taxman About Poetry' - Billy Bragg reveals how the self-proclaimed 'difficult' third album was written and created with a guitar he bought when he was out shopping for swimming trunks (he claims he still swims naked as a result)... he explains how a film about the James Brothers helped him write "There's Power In A Union'... and describes how Andy Kershaw's inability to shut up led him to writing 'Levi Stubbs' Tears'. And he plays excerpts from the album live in front of the audience.

In the B-side of the programme, it's the turn of the audience to ask the questions and Billy considers the state of protest songs today, reveals what music he is writing at the moment and explains what poetry he would discuss with today's taxman. That programme can be heard next Monday at 11.00pm.

Future programmes will include Paul Weller talking about The Jam's last album, 'The Gift'; Suzanne Vega recalls the making of 'Solitude Standing', the album that made her a worldwide superstar; and Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone takes us back to the seminal Zombies' record 'Oracle And Odessey'

Complete versions of the songs performed in the programme (and others) can be heard on the 'Mastertapes' pages on the Radio 4 website, where the programmes can also be downloaded and other musical goodies accessed.

Producer: Paul Kobrak.

  • The B-Side

    Billy Bragg answers audience questions about Talking with the Taxman about Poetry.

  • More about Billy Bragg

    Billy Bragg
    Watch videos and read reviews of Billy's recent albums on the BBC's Music pages. 
  • The John Peel Lecture

    Billy Bragg
    Billy Bragg explores how the pirates of radio become mainstream and in what ways broadcasters should reflect that.


Live tracks

Paul Weller at Maida Vale Studios

Watch and listen to exclusive live performances from the Mastertapes recordings.


  1. Image for Mastertapes


    John Wilson interviews leading musicians about the creation of an album they feel is one of their…

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