A New England

Written by Billy Bragg

Chords

akoustic prepared two versions of this song:

Lyrics

I was 21 years when I wrote this song
I’m 22 now but I won’t be for long
People ask me when will I grow up to understand *1
Why the girls I knew at school are already pushing prams

I loved you then as I love you still
Though I put you on a pedestal you put me on the pill *2
I don’t feel bad about letting you go
I just feel sad about letting you know

I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
Are you looking for another girl? *3
I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
Are you looking for another girl?

I loved the words you wrote to me
But that was bloody yesterday
I can’t survive on what you send
Every time you need a friend

I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them but they were only satellites
It’s wrong to wish on space hardware
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care

I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
Are you looking for another girl?
I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
Are you looking for another girl?

My dreams were full of strange ideas *4
My mind was set despite your fears
But other things got in the way
I never asked that boy to stay

Once upon a time at home *4
I sat beside the telephone
Waiting for someone to pull me through
When at last it didn’t ring I knew it wasn’t you

I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
Are you looking for another girl?
I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
Are you looking for another?

I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
Are you looking for another girl?

Looking for another girl?
Looking for another girl?
Looking for another girl?

Girl?
Girl?
Girl?

*1 originally, "when will you grow up to be a man, But the girls I knew at school…"
*2 originally, "they put you on the pill"
*3 originally, "I’m just looking for another girl"
*4 Note: This section was not in Billy’s original song – those verses were written specially at Kirsty’s request since she thought the song was too short as it stood to release as a single.

Note that on the original version, and on the BBC session from 1995, Kirsty appears to sing ‘jeans’, and this was published in Smash Hits as the correct lyric. On the BBC session from 1991 with Billy Bragg she clearly sings ‘dreams’.

Billy said in an interview with ‘The Big Takeover’, “There’s a new cover of ‘New England’ by a band of which I can’t remember the name, and it’s the KIRSTY version – I don’t know if they’ve ever heard my version! But they do the same arrangement as the Kirsty cover, they do the three verses, and instead of doing, ‘Last night beside the telephone, I waited for someone to pull me through, And when at last it didn’t ring I knew it wasn’t you," which is the last verse of the Kirsty version. Instead they sing, "And when the bastard didn’t ring, I knew it wasn’t you," which is a better line! I don’t know if they misheard it or did it on purpose, but I prefer that, actually. It’s funny, when I wrote
that song, I didn’t really think that anybody would ever hear it. It never crossed my mind.”

More thoughts originally published in the 1998 book ‘Still Suitable for Miners (the Official Biography)’ by Andrew Collins (Virgin Books ISBN 0-7535-0232-1: “written after seeing two satellites flying alongside each other in the clear Northants sky, the central conceit of the song lies in the claim that the singer doesn’t want to change the world, merely get a shag. It is not hard to hear the irony. Billy is desperate for some romantic inspiration, but the two shooting stars in his song turn out to be satellites. “Is it wrong to wish on space hardware?” he asks. No, seems to be the adaptable answer. Here is a poet trapped in a modern world, so besotted with a girl he does not yet know, he is prepared to cast all broader ideals aside in favour of domestic utopia.

When Kirsty MacColl recorded ‘A New England’ in 1985 and took it into the Top Ten, the paradox of the chorus was rinsed out by a pop arrangement and a sweet voice, but the way Billy plays it, with the lone Duane Eddy guitar and that plaintive quality to the vocal, says it all.

Appearances on Various Artists CDs

‘A New England’ appeared on a Rhino Records 1992 compilation called ‘Stiff Box’ which fills up 4 discs with the best of the Stiff recordings (including Tracey Ullman’s ‘You broke my heart in 17 Places’), ‘A Hard Night’s Day’ (A History of Stiff Records) and also ‘Stiff, Stiffer, Stiffest: A Stiff Records Collection’ and most recently ‘Born Stiff’, a Salvo release. The track also appears on the compilation album ‘Diving for Pearls’ which also features Paul Quinn, Stone Roses, Mari Wilson, Sugarcubes& Department S. ‘Sound of the Suburbs’ (Crimson 1998 with Lou Reed, XTC, The Jam, Bow Wow Wow).

It featured on ‘Hits Album 2’ (1985), and on ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 1985’ (Queen, Kate Bush, Go West, Feargal Sharkey). It has also turned up on assorted 80s nostalgia trips: double CD set ‘Alternative Eighties’, ‘Hardest Hits Volume 1’ (1991, SPG Music SPG 002) along with acts such as The Puppets, Scary Thieves, Jon Saint James, and The Mood, ‘Into the Eighties’ (1995) and on a Union Square set, ‘Essential 80s’ (2002) – both also include Tracey’s ‘They don’t know’, ‘Alternative 80’s’ (Sony 2002), a Music Club collection called ‘Back to the Eighties’‘, Best of the Eighties Volume II’, as well as a 6 cd box called ‘Best of the Eighties’, ‘Greatest Ever 80s’, ‘More 80s’ box set and a nine CD boxed set called ‘20th Century Hits for a New Millenium (170 hits 1950-1999)’, ‘Cult Classics of the 80s’ (XTC, Talk Talk, A Flock of Seagulls, Spandau Ballet), ‘Cool Britannia’ 3 CD Set ("Britain’s best songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s"’), ‘London Legends’ – issued free with the London Standard in 2004 – and ‘Only Fools and Horses – the album’. Latest sightings on a double CD on V2 called ‘Inspired – the World’s Greatest Covers’, and the BBC Radio 2 ‘Playlist’ triple set from 2006.

‘It is on ‘Guitar Club Classics’’ (SPV 2000 with the Pixies, Primitives, Joy Division, Dead Kennedys.) and ‘Modern Madonnas’ (2000, Sheena Easton, Belle Stars, Wilson Phillips, Deborah Harry), plus the thrillingly named ‘Rock Ballads’ on Disky 873662 along with ‘Baker Street’, ‘Bette Davis eyes’, ‘Love is a battlefield’, ‘Missing you’, ‘The man who sold the world’ and ‘2-4-6-8 motorway’, ‘The Very Best Love Ballads vol.1’ with Gerry Rafferty, T’Pau, George McCrae and Peter Sarstedt, and a pretty decent Grapevine double CD set called ‘Storytellers: an album of classic folk and roots’ which has Mary Chapin Carpenter, Janis Ian, Billy Bragg, Sharon Shannon, John Prine, Paul Brady and Emmylou Harris. ‘Inspired’, "The World’s Greatest Covers", has ‘New England’ alongside Jamie Cullum, Feeder, Lulu, saint etienne and Manfred Mann. The video appeared on ‘Video Hits 1’ (1987) VC4004, the ‘Decade of Music Video 1985’ and on ‘Video Stars of 1985’ (WNR1085). The list goes on and on and on …

Original Version

There are loads more clips on YouTube … !

Cover Versions

There are so many of these they have their own page

A New England (sheet music)
A New England (sheet music)

Related Pages

Kirsty Songs

Other People's Songs