Skip to content

Billy Bragg – Talking with the Taxman About Poetry (1986)

December 22, 2020

[Album 821/1001]

Until now, with a time of 12 seconds, The Waterboys were the record holders.

From the start of the album (Fisherman’s Blues) to the 12-second mark of its opening track, that was all it took to seal the deal, say no more, I’m a fan, sold!

However, it appears that they may now have to settle for the silver medal…as Billy Bragg only needed about 9.5 seconds to completely & irreversibly convince me.

That’s less time than it takes Usain Bolt to run the 100m!

For during the first 9.5 seconds of Greetings to the New Brunette, you have:

– the vigorously strummed opening acoustic chords, underpinned by some gentle picking, a not-so-distant cousin of The Smiths’ Ask

– the tambourine hits on 2 & 4

– the unresolved minor 7th + pause before the bass arrives

– and when the lyrics kick in, do they ever, with the pleading single-word “Surely” or “Shirley”…I’m immediately reminded of Leslie Nielsen in Airplane* …and the rest of the album quickly becomes immaterial, I’m all in! 



Even if I’d somehow missed the first 9.5 seconds of the record, I have a feeling I’d still eventually be persuaded.

I suppose, technically, the persuasion started before the listening even began; the album title is such a curious conversation visual that I was immediately intrigued.

Elsewhere on the album, there’s plenty more to like, such as the (eventual) Frank Turner-esque Train Train and the delightful descending mandolin line on Wishing the Days Away.

After looking up the album credits for Talking with the Taxman About Poetry, it turns out there was a reason (or 3) that I was initially reminded of The Smiths’ Ask.

On Ask, I knew that John Porter acted as the producer, Kirsty MacColl provided vocals, and Johnny Marr played guitar.

And all 3 did more of the same here!


Verbalize the Positive

As a modification of the Sean Bean as Boromir meme, One Does Not Simply Reference Leslie Nielsen in Airplane and Not Share The Clip!


From → 1980s

  1. The worst thing musically for me about Covid was the cancelling/postponing of the three nights of Billy Bragg we had planned in August. He is a treasure, live he is a force of nature, I may be a fan.

    • I’m optimistic it’s just a postponement. I have a feeling that because I’m so late to the Billy Bragg party, I’ll be listening a fair bit to make up for lost time!

  2. Billy Bragg is kind of a big deal around here. I’m glad he’s on the list, and that he was so quick to your heart! Also, double-thumbs up for the Airplane reference. It’s been ages since we saw that film, maybe we should again.

    • I imagine there are parts of this album and the film that are equally timeless!
      Leslie Nielsen + Lloyd Bridges, just priceless

      • Oh for sure, and I’m sure some of it has equally not aged well at all. But that deadpan humour, a big part of what’s missing in films that think they’re funny today.

  3. jprobichaud permalink

    Huge Billy fan here. I’ve seen him live three times and would jump to see him again. So excellent. Such a storyteller. And yeah, I’ve also made that Frank Turner/Billy Bragg connection…

    • And if you find yourself in the same sentence as Frank Turner, that’s about as a high a compliment as there is in my books!

      • jprobichaud permalink

        Haha. I would have said that the other way around given that I knew Billy first but yes, it works both ways.

  4. 9.5 seconds to get some one hooked. That’s what I would call Ear Candy.

    • And I’m pleased it wasn’t just the initial sweetness that appealed, Deke – there was substance too!

  5. 9.5 seconds? that’s a good solid grab, right there!

    • I think you’d appreciate this one, Joe (if you don’t already know and quite like it) – it’s got lots of the likeable ingredients of Smiths records (Johnny Marr, John Porter, Kirsty MacColl) without any of that pesky singer who shall not be named!

  6. Love it when an artist can grab you right away. You just know.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: