You said this would happen and you were not wrong.

July 9, 2009

In addition to my chronicles of Ronnie Lane’s time in Austin, I’m also working on a book that takes what I hope is a humorous (and very self-deprecating) look at my trials and tribulations in the dating world. For the most part it’s just for the kick of telling some funny stories that I’ve told friends for years, but if it ultimately proves to be an advice piece for any novices out there (and aren’t we all?), hey, all the better.

Of course, I tend to be a bit all or nothing when it comes to break-ups, pretty much entirely severing contact and any means of contact with a girl once a relationship is ended, because as I’ve come to realize too frustratingly before in my life — what’s the point? I’ve heard that dating is about who wins and who loses, but I think that becomes a lot more definite in the break up. Frankly, I’ve lost too many times in my life and it’s never a good kick.

Of course, it’s always funny what kind of music one reverts to in this mental state. As I mentioned a couple posts back, when my first girlfriend dumped me, I listened to the Beatles’ “I Need You” to a point of pretty much making everyone else in the house absolutely detest the Fab Four.

I remember when one of my college roommates split from a girl he’d dated for three years, he not only listened to Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane like it was Dr. Phil motivational recording, but actually had the audacity to say to me during one of his many spins of “Sunday Morning” — “You know, you never really realize what these kinds of songs mean until you’ve had that kind of heartache.” I would’ve punched him in the nose if it wasn’t for the fact that he was hurt enough as it was.

Transcribing a lot of the stories I’ve told for years has allowed to take an analytical look at myself over the years. Although I like to cast myself as the victim (who doesn’t?), I kind of see now that there were definitely some situations in which is I was a pretty thorough jerk. 

That said, I’ve also dated some head cases to varying degrees. What I find interesting as I transcribe some of these stories with my iTunes on shuffle, certain songs will come on and seem achingly appropriate (I swear to God, I’m ready to adopt Randy Newman’s “Lover’s Prayer” as my personal creed), even if they weren’t the particular tunes I resigned myself to in the bleak days following a break-up.

For instance, one song that always manages to take my breath away whether I’m in a happy relationship or enjoying singledom is Billy Bragg’s “Little Time Bomb.” I’ve said it countless times before, but I’ll say it again. For as much hoopla as Billy stirs with a political song, he’s absolutely unparalleled when it comes to transcribing feelings of heartbreak and frustration when it comes to the subject of love.

The song still finds its way to some of his live sets, but with far too little frequency for my liking. It also never gets the attention it deserves on compilations, unfortunately resigned to the position of a deep cut on Bragg’s exquisite 1988 record Workers Playtime. 

But if the song doesn’t perfectly capture the thoughts of a man jilted by a woman who’s obviously no good for him, but may be all the more attractive for that very reason, well… I don’t know what song would.

“He holds your letters but he can’t read them as he fights this loneliness that you call freedom.”

Of course, almost any line from the song is worth it’s own place in the book of wisdom, but I’ve always felt a special affinity toward that one. When the book comes out, you’ll read the rather humorous story (if I do say so myself) as to why.

Here are few versions of the song which all are fantastically wonderful in their own way.


Billy Bragg – Little Time Bomb (Demo)
From the remastered deluxe version of Workers Playtime, the lyrics here are almost there but are still being cleaned up. Part of me wishes he’d kept the expletive in (“If there are no losers, then what the f*ck is this?”) It’s one of those rare, very appropriate uses of the “F” word. 

Billy Bragg – Little Time Bomb
The album version from Workers Playtime — dig how much regality the horns bring to the otherwise stripped affair.

Billy Bragg – Little Time Bomb (live)
A recent live rendering for the iTunes Live series. Bragg is just alone with guitar here, but again, the song works on such a strong level with such little accompaniment. The repetition of the “In public, he’s such a man…” bit is particularly effective.

One comment

  1. “in public he’s such a man
    he’s punching at the walls
    with his bare and bloody hands

    he’s screaming and shouting and acting crazy
    but at home he sits alone and he cries like a baby”

    I find that line creeps into my head often, whether it’s appropriate or not. I’m always stirred by it.

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