Billy Bragg emerged out of punk carrying the battered standard of punk idealism and his guitar…

Chris : I was massively into Billy Bragg, which came later of course. He once did a private gig for me which was a real moment. I’ve had two great private gigs and this was one of them.  I was doing a film with Billy Bragg many years after I first got into him. It must have been when there was a campaign for the pubs and licensing for musicians to play the pubs and Billy was campaigning for this. So we decided to make a film with him. I got in touch and we did a film in a pub with a local band and he told us what he thought about the campaign.

To get an intro for the film I said why don’t you be busking and I will walk past and put a penny in your hat and I will say hello Billy and that’s how we will start the programme. It was getting dead late and Billy lives in Dorset on the coast, so we were driving back that way and we were going through Blandford and there is one subway there because it’s a really small town. We stopped there to film and we were going down the subway late at night and we were were going down with the cameraman and the soundman with Billy with his guitar case and he leant against the wall and said what would you like me to play? I asked if he would play New England. And he did. For me! In a subway. And it was great – and I was like, wow! it just happened! and I got out of the subway and I was skipping around shouting, you will never believe what just happened! he just played New England for me in the subway…!

JR : Did you give him any money?

Chris : Yes! ten pence!

Chris : The other really cool private gig was this year I was doing another thing for the BBC about the Pistols playing in Plymouth on the Anarchy tour (Dec 21/22nd 1976) and I interviewed Glen Matlock at his house in South London and he played Pretty Vacant on his acoustic just for me. That was two cool gigs where I was the only member of the audience. Glen was a really nice guy. He was slow to warm up but once he got started he was great. He could tell we were really in to it!

JR : I guess over the years he has become slightly suspicious of people.

Chris : You could sense that. The Pistols blamed him for ages. Didn’t McLaren come out with some crap about Glen liking the Beatle or something daft. We were there at his place all morning and he was really quite candid. He told me loads of things. Apparently him and Lydon didn’t get on from the outset, loads of interesting stuff.

JR : Lydon was amazing in the punk period but probably not easy to work with!

Chris : He upsets lots of people (laughs). Didn’t he marry the publishing millionaires.

JR : He lives in Malibu

Chris : What are we doing wrong! (laughs)


For number 5 in Chris Packham’s top 10 punk and post punk songs please go here 

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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