Friday, 8 December 2017

Fantasy Cover Version #9 - if Billy Bragg covered "Half A Person"...

A blog series that you can contribute to...

Here's the gist. I want to hear about your fantasy cover versions. Simply make the case for the cover version that you'd love to hear but, fairly obviously, does not actually exist. And send me that case, here. By case, I mean explain why artist X covering song Y would be good, don't just send me their respective names.

Ninth guest contributor is long-time reader (longest, actually) and oldest, best mate, The Man Of Cheese. We discussed this over several pints (okay, and some vodka too), so apologies to TMOC if I've missed something, but here's the gist. And if you think this is also just a good excuse for me to post loads of Smiths songs, well, what's wrong with that? Anyway, The Man Of Cheese brilliantly suggests:

What about Billy Bragg covering Half A Person by The Smiths? Here's the original, recorded in the autumn of 1986 and first released in January 1987, as the b-side to Shoplifters Of The World Unite:

Now Billy has previous convictions for covering The Smiths - here's some early, straight-bat takes on Jeane and Ask, and a slightly later, slightly more nuanced interpretation of Never Had No-one Ever:

So Bill is clearly a Smiths fan, and demonstrably adept a delivering a cover version of them. What would he make of Half A Person's lyrical content? Now there was a time (mid- to late-Nineties) when Billy seemed a bit reluctant to sing his own older songs, on the basis that he no longer felt he could identify with them. How could he, by then a happily married, content man in his mid to late thirties, sing A New England or The Man In The Iron Mask with the same feeling, he argued (to unconvinced and slightly disappointed gig crowds)? Instead, he tried to work around this by updating the lyrics of some songs, to better fit him as he was then. So perhaps, just perhaps, instead of singing "Sixteen, clumsy and shy", he could change to "Sixty, clumsy and shy" ... because, incredibly, Uncle Bill will hit the big Six-O in twelve days time. Although applying for a vacancy as a back-scrubber at the YWCA as a 60-year old man might be lyrically problematic. But could an older Billy carry off the youthful heartache of Half A Person? I think so. Take a look at this much more recent interpretation of Jeane, and compare it to the earlier cover:

I think this shows that Bragg The Elder is more suited to a slower, more personal slice of Morrissey/Marr than ever. What do you think?

Thank you, The Man Of Cheese. As a fellow fan of both the acts in question, I predictably think this is a fantastic suggestion. I very much enjoyed some YouTube me-time choosing these embeds too.

Think you can suggest a fantasy cover version this good? Then please, try your luck and remember - the more you make the case, the better! The list of past submissions may inspire you.


  1. Yes, I can definitely imagine that, think it would suit Billy very well. Love those thoughts about updating the lyrics too. Perhaps he could be a washer-upper instead of a backscrubber, more likely to get away with that one.
    (And is that Samantha's hubby in the Smiths video - from one of my favourite childhood TV shows, Bewitched?)

    1. I was thinking pot-scrubber, so on similar lines.

      As for Samantha's hubby (Dick York), I don't know, as that's a fan-made video, not an official one, with no attribution to the source material. All of which is better suited to The Wedding Present (they had a song titled "Bewitched" and a video entitled "Dick York's Wardrobe"!)

    2. Oh.... you're getting me closer to coming round to the Wedding Present now!

    3. Here you go then - a live in the studio run-through of Bewitched

    4. Thank you. Well, I listened to it, and then the album version too, and I think I get what it is about them for others, but still it's just not flicking the switch for me (sorry...) Must say I did like the lyrics in this though, so at least that's something.
      The challenge continues! ;-)

    5. The blogosphere will get you there in the end.

  2. Good call.

    I would love to see Billy & Morrissey debate Brexit. I would die happy for that.