A New England - Kirsty McColl
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vnzpg5GgQCo Version One
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SkdjsY6TKA Version Two
For the first time ever I can't make up my mind which vinyl version of the same song I prefer. One's for listening, the other's for dancing. So I'm playing them both, no bad thing in this case.
Version One the original single:
Kirsty McColl didn't write her biggest hit, "A New England", Billy Bragg did. The words however, are pure Kirsty, reflecting her favourite themes of love, vulnerability, fear of rejection and sense of dislocation.
Bragg's work has been described as falling into two categories namely political protest songs and love songs. While this is an oversimplification that ignores the strong poetic strength of his lyrics, "A New England" hints at the former with a rejection of right leaning nationalist ideology in the chorus and a context of social commentary around education and poverty while ostensibly being a song about breaking up.,
Like many others, (see the Ian McMillan story on April 22 post) Bragg was heavily influenced by the lyrics of Paul Simon, hence the opening quote from the Simon and Garfunkel song "The Leaves that are Green":
"I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song
I'm twenty-two now but I won't be for long....."
but the innocence and romance of youth is immediately undermined by hard reality:
"....people ask me when will I grow up to understand
why the girls I knew at school are already pushing prams...."
Kirsty's ditching her man, even though she loves him, because he doesn't give her enough time and isn't sensitive:
"I loved you then as I love you still
though I put you on a pedestal, you put me on the pill
I don't feel bad about letting you know
I just feel sad about letting you go...."
Could he be the one who's trying to change the world and "looking for a new England" as opposed to the line
"I don't want to change the world"
being just hyperbole where she's saying she's not asking for much - just love?
In Bragg's rendering, he's splitting up with the girl - "I'm looking for another girl" - which Kirsty rewrites, as "are you looking for another girl?", which, deliberately or not, suggests that she may be giving him a choice between his activism or her. Either way, there is a sense of underlying sadness, whether for what the world or England has become, or for their flawed relationship.
But maybe, in these times, we shouldn't take everything too seriously and just cheer ourselves up: so
Version Two, 12 inch Remix:
it's turn the volume right up, dance yourself stupid and get arrested time.
There are other versions of this on YouTube, all great also, but they aren't on vinyl but these are the main two. Both have a refreshing Beach Boys style harmonic break, 2 minutes and 4 minutes in respectably.
The first version is a sudden spring shower, the rain shining in the sunlight with rainbows all around, while the remix is a dance-outside warm monsoon unless, in these trying times, you're trapped indoors.
If so, I quote Richard Brautigan:
"I think I'll get up and dance around the room.
Here I go."