In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them.
Talking about Boris Johnson...
“He wanted to include Kirsty’s cover of it. Here’s the thing: I listened to his Desert Island Discs and, as he was playing The Smiths, I was thinking: ‘He’s going to play ‘A New England’ – he’s going to play one of my songs and kill my reputation! This is going to be awful! But he didn’t – phew! (Laughs) You put out these songs and never know who’s going to hook onto them. I bumped into [austerity architect] George Osborne when he was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and he exclaimed: ‘Billy Bragg!’ at me, before singing: ‘I was 21 years when I wrote this song/I’m 22 now…’ You can’t choose your fans!”
In 1987, NME readers voted you the second Most Wonderful Human Being. Who beat you?
“I wonder how those readers feel now about making Morrissey the Most Wonderful Human Being.”
“I got used to coming second to Morrissey and The Smiths. That was par for the course in those days. That was cool. Their standard was so high that getting anywhere near them was good.”
You wrote a statement in 2019 condemning Morrissey for spreading far-right ideas. Can you separate the man from his art?
“As someone who writes political songs, there are plenty of people out there who are Tories who like my love songs, so clearly you can do that. I struggle. I’m OK listening to The Smiths, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to listen to his solo albums anymore – although I wasn’t much of a fan of those anyway.”
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