A New England

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"A New England"
Song by Billy Bragg
from the album Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy
ReleasedNovember 1983
Recorded2–4 February 1983 Chappell Music, Park Street, London
Songwriter(s)Billy Bragg
Producer(s)Oliver Hitch
Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy track listing
  1. "The Milkman of Human Kindness"
  2. "To Have and To Have Not"
  3. "Richard"
  4. "A New England"
  5. "The Man in the Iron Mask"
  6. "The Busy Girl Buys Beauty"
  7. "Lovers Town Revisited"

"A New England" is a song written and recorded by Billy Bragg, included on his album Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy, released in 1983. It became a hit single when covered by Kirsty MacColl the next year, and remains a signature song from the early years of Bragg's recording career.[1]

Background and composition[edit]

The opening lines of the song ("I was 21 years when I wrote this song/I'm 22 now, but I won't be for long") are identical to the opening lines of Paul Simon's song "Leaves that Are Green", which appears on Simon and Garfunkel's 1966 album Sounds of Silence. During a concert in Winnipeg, Canada on 27 September 2006, Bragg stated that Simon and Garfunkel had a strong influence on him and that he took the line from their song intentionally.

Bragg has said that the song had its origins in seeing two satellites flying alongside each other. Searching for romantic inspiration, he had to make do with "space hardware".[2] He told a BBC interviewer that he "stole" the melody from Thin Lizzy's Cowboy Song.[2]

Kirsty MacColl version[edit]

"A New England"
Kirsty MacColl A New England.jpg
Single by Kirsty MacColl
  • "Patrick"
  • "I'm Going Out with an 80 Year Old Millionaire"
ReleasedDecember 1984
Format7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, 12" picture disc
GenreNew wave
Songwriter(s)Billy Bragg
Producer(s)Steve Lillywhite
Kirsty MacColl singles chronology
"A New England"
"He's on the Beach"

Kirsty MacColl recorded the song the year after its release by Bragg, produced by her then-husband Steve Lillywhite.[3] It was her biggest solo hit, reaching number 7 in the UK Singles Chart[4] and number 8 in the Irish Singles Chart.[5]

Bragg's original version of the song had only two verses. MacColl thought the song was too short, and so Bragg wrote a further two verses for her, which she consolidated into one. Since MacColl's death, Bragg has included the additional verse in performances of the song as a tribute.[6]

Track listing[edit]

7" and picture disc[edit]

Side A
1."A New England"Billy Bragg 
Side B
2."Patrick"Kirsty MacColl 


Side A
1."A New England (Extended Version)"Bragg 
Side B
3."I'm Going Out with an Eighty Year Old Millionaire"MacColl 

Other versions[edit]

Melodic hardcore punk band Lifetime covered the song for the 1994 compilation album Music Does a Body Good. The Groovie Ghoulies recorded a version of "A New England" for their 1996 album World Contact Day. The song also appears on Too Much Joy's album ...Finally (1996).[7] The song has been covered acoustically by Jamie T (2006) and Jonah Matranga (2006).[8]

Cover versions[edit]

Year Artist Album
1984 Kirsty MacColl A New England
1994 Lifetime Music Does a Body Good
1996 Groovie Ghoulies World Contact Day
1996 Too Much Joy ...finally
2006 Jamie T If You Got the Money
2006 Jonah Matranga Split
2009 The Enemy Music for the People
2009 System Syn Rarities
2012 Young Statues Covers


  • "Billy Bragg – Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy (Vinyl, Album)". Discogs. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  1. ^ Fiona Shepherd. "Billy Bragg has new look, new tech, but the same message". Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Billy Bragg in an interview with Alan Thompson". BBC. Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Freeworld – Kirsty MacColl: Official Releases". Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  4. ^ "Chart Stats – Kirsty MacColl – A New England". Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  5. ^ "irishcharts.ie search results for A New England". Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  6. ^ "Freeworld – Kirsty MacColl: singles". Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  7. ^ "Finally – Too Much Joy". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  8. ^ "Jonah Matranga / Frank Turner – Jonah Matranga/Frank Turner Split (Vinyl)". Discogs. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2010.

External links[edit]