Have You Heard? – (26) “Walk Away Renee” by Billy Bragg

You’ll probably know this song, if you do at all, through the Four Tops version.  A grand, rather desperate plea. There should be a “Just” in the title.  And here it is…

But I want to share with you a version that you may not have heard. More a poem, or just a monologue. By the Essex punk-folk bard, Billy Bragg. A simple tale of ordinary love lost.

Here’s the tune.

This is what I’ve just written about the song for my book on my musical journey.

” My favourite Billy Bragg moment is on a single from 1986, “Levi Stubbs’Tears”. Levi Stubbs was the singer from the great Motown soul band, the Four Tops. They had a hit single in 1968 called “Walk Away Renee”. It was originally recorded by a band called the Left Banke in 1966. The second song on the B Side of the Billy Bragg single was a version of “Walk Away Renee”.  Not the lyrics, but just the melody eked out on a lovely acoustic guitar while Billy tells a story of falling in love, and then being jilted . The tale of a gauche lad, who can’t get his words right, delivered with touching humour.

I said “I’m the most illegible bachelor in  town”, and she said, “Yeah, that’s why I could never understand any of those silly letters you sent me.”                                                                         

The break up hurts:

I went home and thought about the two of them together, 

Until the bathwater went cold around me…

What a powerful image of everyday love and hurt that is!

And…then one day it happened…

She cut her hair and I stopped loving her.

Comes out of the blue…

I love that line so much. Is it trivial, superficial, sexist, or just incredibly profound? Why should cutting her hair make any difference to a real love? And yet…

Especially when you are trying to escape the hurt. A simple lad. A simple love. But no different to the rest of us.  A universal love. A universal hurt. And a universal escape.

With that classic, rather grandiose melody, gently strummed in the background.

A piece of simple genius by yer man, Billy Bragg.”

What do you think?

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
This entry was posted in Music - Have You Heard? and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Have You Heard? – (26) “Walk Away Renee” by Billy Bragg

  1. Fabulous Post, John! I love the original Walk away Renee, and this Billy Bragg thing is awesome.
    I’ve always known I should never cut my hair.

  2. John S says:

    Glad you liked the Billy Bragg version, Resa. The whole hair thing could be a blog in itself, but I think I’ll steer clear!

  3. Lulu says:

    Love sucks!
    But those two songs are great, thx!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s