How Twitter could make Billy Bragg sign up for The X Factor

The famously political singer/songwriter on how hateful tweets could make him try a different career path

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In an interview to be broadcast this weekend on the Mary Anne Hobbs show on BBC 6 Music, Billy Bragg talks about his relationship with Twitter. One of the things that most upsets him on the micro-blogging site is the cynicism displayed by many of its users. Although he acknowledges his own cynicism he believes he has a healthier outlet for it in his music, from which he can receive validation. The negative messages he has received can be hard to cope with, as he admits to Hobbs:

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“If I was just starting out now and every time I formed a sort of political idea, I got the vitriol I sometimes get on Twitter, before I’d got my confidence, before I’d got my world view together, I might think I’d be better signing up for The X Factor.”

Bragg does have a rather lopsided relationship with Twitter. He has 148,350 followers but only follows 22 people. He claims this is because he sees it as a way of gathering information, and that he follows people he thinks have something interesting to say (which does leave a very large amount of people he thinks don’t have anything interesting to say).

Twitter accounts he picks out as favourites are Naomi Klein, The New Statesman, The Spectator and Johnny Marr. Though he admits that he is not keen to expand on his select group, “I have enough trouble keeping up with those 22.”

In the interview he also talks about a strange encounter with skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan in the canteen at Broadcasting House, engineered by John Peel. Bragg’s plugger had told him that Peel had invited him to meet with Donegan, but not why. When he arrived at Broadcasting House, Peel took Bragg and Lonnie Donegan to the canteen where they sat having a cup of tea and talking about skiffle and folk music. But not Peel, he just sat there drinking his tea, not saying a word.

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Afterwards, Bragg had to ask what was happening with the great DJ, upon which his plugger replied, “You don’t get  it, do you? Peel needed you there to speak to Lonnie Donegan because he’s so in awe of him he can’t bring himself to speak to him.”