A New England

Album: Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy (1983)
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Songfacts®:

  • This song was inspired by Bragg seeing two satellites flying alongside each other in the clear night sky on his way back home from the pub. He was searching for some romantic inspiration at the time but had to make do with wising on "Space Hardware" instead. He scribbled words about a poet besotted with a girl he does not yet know on some fish and chips paper.
  • Billy Bragg has admitted he stole the melody from the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy.
  • When Kirsty MacColl asked to cover this song, Billy Bragg wrote her an extra verse because it was a bit short for a single. MacColl was the daughter of the English folk musician Ewan MacColl. She is probably best known in the United States as the writer of Tracey Ullman's 1983 hit "They Don't Know." She was killed in 2000 while scuba diving off the Mexico coast. She was run over by a speedboat after pushing her sons out of its path. The speedboat was traveling too quickly in an area reserved for scuba diving.
  • MacColl's version reached #7 in the UK in 1985.
  • The song starts with the lyrics: "I was 21 years when I wrote this song/ I'm 22 now, but I won't be long." The Simon & Garfunkel track "Leaves That Are Green," begins with exactly the same lines. Bragg told The NME, in a January 2011 interview: "When I wrote the song, I never thought one day Kirsty MacColl would put it in the Top 10. I was 21 when I wrote it and I'm a huge Simon & Garfunkel fan so it seemed like a nice line to put in."

Comments: 4

  • Anne from Hartford, CtThe story described in the “fact” that heads this page has some truth to it, but the song that Billy brought to the dj was “The Milkman of Human Kindness”, not “A New Englend”. You can hear him tell the story himself on the podcast posted on his website (under the “music” tab). Listen to episode 3, around the 16 minute mark.
  • Lee from Sydney, AustraliaThe remarkable opening lines of this song are actually lifted direct from a Simon And Garfunkel Song, "Leaves That Are Green", which was the B-side of the Homeward Bound single (1966):

    "I was twenty one years when I wrote this song
    I'm twenty two now, but I wont be for long"

    LBB
  • Claire from Portsmouth, EnglandI don't know what the hell these lyrics are, but they are NOT the lyrics for A New England. The chorus is "I don't want to change the world, I'm not looking for New England...."
  • Josh from Marshfield, Maanyone else think this song sounds like the saturday night live theme song?
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