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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Australian Charity Releases Album of Cat-Themed Ballads to Promote Feline Welfare
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An Australian animal charity is helping save the nation’s kitties one torch song at a time, releasing a feline-focused musical album that educates pet owners about how to properly care for their cats.

Around 35,000 cats end up in pounds, shelters, and rescue programs every year in the Australian state of New South Wales, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Microchipping and fixing cats, along with keeping closer tabs on them, could help reduce this number. To get this message out, the RSPCA’s New South Wales chapter created Cat Ballads: Music To Improve The Lives Of Cats.

The five-track recording is campy and fur-filled, with titles like "Desex Me Before I Do Something Crazy" and "Meow Meow." But songs like “I Need You” might tug the heartstrings of ailurophiles with lyrics like “I guess that’s goodbye then/but you’ve done this before/the window's wide open/and so’s the back door/you might think I’m independent/but you’d be wrong.” There's also a special version of the song that's specifically designed for cats’ ears, featuring purring, bird tweets, and other feline-friendly noises.

Together, the tunes remind us how vulnerable our kitties really are, and provide a timely reminder for cat owners to be responsible parents to their furry friends.

“The Cat Ballads campaign coincides with kitten season, which is when our shelters receive a significantly higher number of unwanted kittens as the seasons change,” Dr. Jade Norris, a veterinary scientist with the RSPCA, tells Mental Floss. “Desexing cats is a critical strategy to reduce unwanted kittens.”

Listen to a song from Cat Ballads below, and visit the project’s website for the full rundown.

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ABBA Is Going on Tour—As Holograms
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AFP/Stringer/Getty Images

Missed your chance to watch ABBA perform live at the peak of their popularity? You’re in luck: Fans will soon be able to see the group in concert in all their chart-topping, 1970s glory—or rather, they’ll be able to see their holograms. As Mashable reports, a virtual version of the Swedish pop band is getting ready to go on tour.

ABBA split up in 1982, and the band hasn't been on tour since. (Though they did get together for a surprise reunion performance in 2016.) All four members of ABBA are still alive, but apparently not up for reentering the concert circuit when they can earn money on a holographic tour from the comfort of their homes.

The musicians of ABBA have already had the necessary measurements taken to bring their digital selves to life. The final holograms will resemble the band in the late 1970s, with their images projected in front of physical performers. Part of the show will be played live, but the main vocals will be lifted from original ABBA records and recordings of their 1977 Australian tour.

ABBA won’t be the first musical act to perform via hologram. Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Dean Martin have all been revived using the technology, but this may be one of the first times computerized avatars are standing in for big-name performers who are still around. ABBA super-fans will find out if “SOS” still sounds as catchy from the mouths of holograms when the tour launches in 2019.

[h/t Mashable]


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