There are many fine versions of Billy Bragg songs around, Kirsty MacColl’s ‘New England’ and Dubstar’s ‘St Swithin’s Day’ to name but two. However I am going to go for The Redskins with their version of ‘Levi Stubb’s Tears’. This version is from an East German TV show (before the wall came down) and features on a rare EP I have somewhere in storage. The Redskins always had a love/hate relationship with Billy, their SWP allegiance clashing with Bragg’s role as (their words) Neil Kinnock’s publicity officer. Despite being a huge Bragg fan, I do think this version is better, the percussion and trumpet solo take it to a different level.
My next choice is by a band who were one of the main influences on The Redskins and for many were ‘the only band that mattered’. To say The Clash liked a cover is like saying Trump likes a photo op. ‘I Fought The Law’, ‘Pressure Drop’, ‘Armageddon Time, ‘Brand New Cadillac’ and others, all made it on to vinyl. However I’ve chosen a track from their incendiary debut album, bringing their love of reggae to a new generation of white youth; with lyrics of alienation and oppression more Strummer than Strummer. I expect this will be unique amongst all our choices as being released in the same year as the original was a hit ,1977.
My selection for day 6 is a traditional American folk tune tune, with claims in various sources to defining versions by both bluegrass artist Bill Monroe and foundation bluesman Lead Belly. I was reminded of the tune in recent years through the Billy Bragg/Joe Henry compilation “Shine A Light”. Their version of “In The Pines”, along with other standards such as “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Any More” & “Midnight Special”, would all be worthy entrants to this summer’s collection . But for me the defining version of this song is Nirvana’s, released posthumously after Cobain’s passing with the 1993 album “MTV Unplugged”.