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What writers can learn from Billy Bragg – the “sting in the tail” trick!

William Bloke CD

Do you want your writing to surprise and delight your readers?

Well, you can learn from UK songwriter Billy Bragg – known as the Bard from Barking.

billy bragg

I’ve been a fan of Bragg’s songwriting since the ’80s – and still love listening to his music and finding more writing treats!

I used to find his singing voice very nasal and flat – but his lyrics were so sharp and clever!

I thought he was witty and playful – sometimes caustic, sometimes funny.

As a student I would write down my favourite lines in a note book.

I loved his lyrics and song angles – especially this technique  I call “the sting in the tail”.

Billy writes a set-up line that “sucks you in”.

You think he is going to sing something “sweet and romantic ” – then he’s add a little “sting in the tail” that flows perfectly from the set-up words and yet totally changes the meaning.

One of my favourite “sting in the tail” songs is one of his lesser-known songs – a simple little ditty called Everybody Loves You Babe – from his album William Broke.

The lyrics actually say:  Everybody likes you  babe.

I could be wrong but I always thought the  Bragg song title  was a play on the old Dean Martin romantic song:

Everybody LOVES somebody sometime.

It even sounds a bit  saloon “piano ballady” – rather than his usual guitar-driven songs.

The sting in the tail technique:

Anyway, the sting in the tail technique works like this:

For example:

1. a romantic sounding line

Everybody love you babe

2. then some words that flip the meaning.

– but me

and another great line from the song.

1. a romantic sounding line

I’d hate for you to go 

2. then some words that flip the meaning.

– before I let you know

and even another one!

1. a romantic sounding line

I’m begging you to stay

2. then some words that flip the meaning.

– out of my way

Here’s a photo of the full lyrics for you to enjoy.

BB lyrics 2 ELYB

I’m enjoying a wonderful time house-sitting and pet-minding for a music friend who has an amazing collection of CDs of many of my favourite song-writers including Billy Bragg and Paul Weller.

lots of BB CDs

I love having time to get re-acquainted with these favourite songs from my youth – from the days when I played in uni bands! We were in Australia – but were influenced by that UK vibe!

Egg 2

Now I’m a writing coach and trainer – and I find all those hours poring over  Billy Bragg and Paul Weller  album lyrics and liner notes  can be put to good use in teaching various writing techniques.

word nerd CU

So remember – when YOU want to add some “edge” and fresh angles to your writing –  when YOU want to surprise your readers and delight them with your wit – try the sting in the tail technique.

Everybody will love you for it – including me!


If YOU have any favourite lyrics  (from any song-writer) – please share them in the comments section below.

The Jam T shirt

T and C and mod

If you like Billy Bragg and Paul Weller – here are links to other posts.

1. Get your year off to a better Start!

2. How Paul Weller can help you improve your writing – powerful description and understatement


4.Write like a movie camera – like Down in the Tube Station at Midnight

Also, here are links to more writing tips that can make your writing more “real” and engaging – and even entertaining!

I’m getting 2014 off to a strong start with my blogging too.

If you’d like to improve your writing: Here are some quick tips.

1.Release The Verb

2.How nouns can save your butt!

3.Use visual language

4.Parallel Structure

And here’s a link to the song. You’ll hear how good writing allows good delivery of the sting in the tail!

TB headline technique

If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.


I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.



tony biancotti



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