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How Time Changes A Song: Billy Bragg's "A New England"

In 1983, Billy Bragg released "A New England," a young man's song that began with the lyrics:

I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song
I'm twenty-two now, but I won't be for long
People ask me, "When will you grow up to be a man?"
But all the girls I loved in school are already pushing prams...

Bragg's original rendition had him singing solo, backed only by an electric guitar -- a pretty unusual arrangement in any era, but decidedly odd in the musical climate of the early 80's. The studio version was dripping with reverb, sounding a bit like Bragg was performing in a bathroom. Here's a live performance from the 80's (when Bragg was in his mid-twenties) showing the song's early, punky sound:

Billy Bragg - A New England

Read how the song changed over the next twenty-five years after the jump.

In 1985, Kirsty MacColl released her cover of the song and reached #7 on the UK charts. Bragg had slightly rewritten the lyrics for her, changing the narrator's perspective to be female and adding a verse. MacColl's version was a hit, but was decidedly cheesy:

By 1988, Bragg was in his 30's and the song was very well-known. The song had become a sing-along:

In a 2007 show (at age 49) in Berlin, Bragg performed the song as a jokey sing-along, frequently stopping and chatting with the audience. Like in many modern performances, he also included the extra Kirty MacColl verse, in memory of her death in 2000.

At 2008's NME Awards, Bragg and Kate Nash performed a medley of Nash's "Foundation" and Bragg's "A New England" with Bragg now 50 years old and Nash aged 21. Bragg's guitar is now acoustic, and there's a full band in evidence, but the song's "I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song" introduction is still intact:

I still think I prefer the original (widely available on the Bragg compilation "Back to Basics"), but he sure has kept things moving over twenty-five years playing that song. It's nice to see that the song's original lyric and perspective still make sense decades after their debut. All hail Billy Bragg!

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Everything You Need to Know About Record Store Day
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iStock

The unlikely resurgence of vinyl as an alternative to digital music formats is made up of more than just a small subculture of purists. Today, more than 1400 independent record stores deal in both vintage and current releases. Those store owners and community supporters created Record Store Day in 2007 as a way of celebrating the grassroots movement that’s allowed a once-dying medium to thrive.

To commemorate this year’s Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21, a number of stores (a searchable list can be found here) will be offering promotional items, live music, signings, and more. While events vary widely by store, a number of artists will be issuing exclusive LPs that will be distributed around the country.

For Grateful Dead fans, a live recording of a February 27, 1969 show at Fillmore West in San Francisco will be released and limited to 6700 copies; Arcade Fire’s 2003 EP album will see a vinyl release for the first time, limited to 3000 copies; "Roxanne," the Police single celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will see a 7-inch single release with the original jacket art.

The day also promises to be a big one for David Bowie fans. A special white vinyl version of 1977’s Bowie Now will be on shelves, along with Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78), a previously-unreleased, three-record set. Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Neil Young, and dozens of other artists will also be contributing releases.

No store is likely to carry everything you might want, so before making the stop, it might be best to call ahead and then plan on getting there early. If you’re one of the unlucky vinyl supporters without a brick and mortar store nearby, you can check out Discogs.com, which will be selling the special releases online.

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Jim Henson's Labyrinth Is Being Adapted Into a Stage Musical
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Henson Company

More than 30 years after its cinematic debut, Labyrinth could be hitting the stage. In an interview with Forbes, Jim Henson's son and Henson Company CEO Brian Henson shared plans to transform the cult classic into a live musical.

While the new musical would be missing David Bowie in his starring role as Jareth the Goblin King, it would hopefully feature the soundtrack Bowie helped write. Brian Henson says there isn't a set timeline for the project yet, but the stage adaptation of the original film is already in the works.

As for a location, Henson told Forbes he envisions it running, "Not necessarily [on] Broadway, it could be for London's West End, but it will be a stage show, a big theatrical version. It’s very exciting."

Labyrinth premiered in 1986 to measly box office earnings and tepid reviews, but Jim Henson's fairytale has since grown into a phenomenon beloved by nostalgic '80s kids and younger generations alike. In the same Forbes interview, Brian Henson also confirmed the 2017 news that a long-anticipated Labyrinth sequel is apparently in development. Though he couldn't give any specifics, Henson confirmed that, "we are still excited about it but the process moves very slowly and very carefully. We're still excited about the idea of a sequel, we are working on something, but nothing that's close enough to say it's about to be in pre-production or anything like that."

While fans eagerly await those projects to come out, they can get their fix when the film returns to theaters across the U.S. on April 29, May 1, and May 2. Don't forget to wear your best Labyrinth swag to the event.

[h/t Forbes]

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