Billy Bragg Talking With The Taxman About Poetry

“By the time I made Talking With The Taxman About Poetry I’d developed the modus operandi whereby my songs were personal and political and sometimes they overlapped. In order to connect with people you had to give them some humanity. You had to meet people halfway. So these personal songs were as important to me as the political songs. In fact, you could argue I’m really a writer of love songs.
You know, in that period of Talking With The Taxman I came to be defined as a political songwriter. It’s a bed I made which I’m happy to lie in but it has been over the years, it has allowed people to dismiss me.”
Billy Bragg

Talking with the Taxman about Poetry was Billy Bragg’s third full-length album. It became his first top ten record and fused the raw and unadorned sound of his two previous albums, Life’s A Riot with Spy Vs Spy and Brewing Up with Billy Bragg, with more complex arrangements. A growing cast of musicians provided accompaniment, including The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr.

Producers Kenney Jones and John Porter also incorporated trumpet, flugelhorn, piano, mandolin and percussion in a panoply of instrumentation. The album’s title was taken from a Vladimir Mayakosky poem of the same name, which also appeared as part of the sleeve notes. Talking With The Taxman About Poetry brought Bragg to a new audience, both in the UK and in the USA, and was described by Rolling Stone magazine as being ‘as political as the Clash, as clever as Elvis Costello, as melodic as Ray Davies and as rocking as Chuck Berry’. Lyrically, Bragg continued to offer his atypical socialist musings but there was also a healthy smattering of unsentimental love songs.


Billy Bragg / Joe Boyd, Producer of Bragg’s fourth studio album, Workers Playtime / Sam Duckworth, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly / Mike Mills, R.E.M. / Mark Sutherland, Music Journalist / Professor Tim Wall, Birmingham School of Media / Presenter; Ian Camfield / Assistant Producers; Bruce Earwaker, Oliver Carter / Exec. Producers; Andy Ashton, Mike Walsh