One of the B-sides of the 12" of “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” I bought in 1986, Billy Bragg’s version of “Walk Away Renee” is a basically a spoken-word-with-guitar piece about a short relationship.
It begins with a great, sad joke:
She said, “It was just a figment of speech.”
And I said, “you mean ‘figure.’”
And she said, “no, ’:figment,’” because she could never imagine it happening.
But it did.
And the rest of the song is Billy describing the entire arc of the relationship while Johnny Marr plays an exquisite instrumental version of “Walk Away Renee” on acoustic guitar.
At one point, there’s a great pun on “eligible” & “illegible” that’s impossible to put into words, and at the end, Billy moves on.
It’s positioned as a b-side throwaway cover, but it completely resonated with me in 1986. In its own small way, I think it’s as moving and profound as anything he’s ever written, including the classic A-side.
Fan-made video for “Walk Away Renee"
My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist: