MId 90’s Britain - Cool Britannia, Blur v Oasis, 60’s revival, mad for it!
Firstly, let me narrow down exactly which period I’m talking about as things could get muddled and – as someone who used to alphabetise his vinyl collection and order his CDs across two 180cm Ikea Billy cabinets - structure and order in music are important to me.
The beginning of Britpop was in 1992 when Blur launched their non-album single Popscene onto an uncaring world. Popscene wasn’t ‘baggy’ or ‘Madchester’ or ‘grunge’ or even 'Shoe-Gazing'; it was something noticeably different. Blur spelt this out further the next year pushing the single ‘For Tomorrow’ from their album ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’. They were all about Doc Martens, dog racing and Kink’s style whimsy. Britpop was born.* So 1993 is our start.
And the end? Well, it would be a neat book end to close Britpop down with Blur’s 1997 back to basics Blur album. By that time, Tony Blair and New Labour were in power and Cool Britannia was already a jaded concept. It had run its course and was now just embarrassing.
Probably though the actual end came the summer before when Oasis played their two huge Knebworth gigs. Britpop couldn’t get any bigger. There was nowhere else to go.** It seemed a celebration but also a fin de siècle party for a lost age. A final round of drinks before time was called.
So 1993 – 1996 it is then (or 93-97 if I find a good track and need to bend my own rules).
The Charlatans – Just Lookin’
The Charlatans by the mid 90's had a groove. I saw them a couple of times in the 90's. Great gigs. I love this song for the guitar sound, the guitar solo and the fact that it ROCKS.
Teenage Fanclub – Neil Jung
Saw the Fannies a lot in 1990's. Although they came out of the grunge scene, they produced probably the best Britpop Album in 1995 - Grand Prix. I loved this song and the lyrics always seemed a little personal to me. I did have a girlfriend. She was a lot younger than me.
Ride – From Time to Time
I only saw Ride only once - on The Leave Them All Behind Tour 1992. This one comes from 1994 from Carnival of Light. From Time To Time is one of my favourite Britpop songs but also, one of my favourites anytime, anywhere. Magical, hypnotic, great harmonies.
Radiohead – Street Spirit (Fade Out)
I remember someone telling me in 1993 that they liked Radiohead. I bought Pablo Honey and thought it shit and so avoided them for the next year. I probably caught the last part of their set at Reading 1993 waiting for Blur. And then - whilst browsing in the Virgin Store in Brighton - they were playing The Bends in 1994. Those last three tracks! Wow! Stunning. And this one, magical and so perfect. They were never this good again.
The Blue Tones – Slight Return
Yeah, I stretch the envelope to 1997 with this one. It takes me back to the Amex Sports and Social Club which had a juke box. I used to play this all the time. Jingle-jangle perfection.
Oasis - Rock n Roll Star
There's not much to say that hasn't been said. The mighty Oasis coming out of the blocks with Track 1 of their debut album. They didn't mean this ironically they fooking meant it, man. I never saw Oasis. Or did I? Maybe at The Boardwalk in 1992 before they were famous. But I was pissed and there was a girl.
Morrissey – Spring Heeled Jim
Morrissey, Prince of the Losers in the 80's, was still big in the 90's. I love this track and the authentic scally-wag voices in the background "And they caught 'im, and they said he was mental!"
The Boo Radleys – Wake up Boo
Every morning in the mid 90's you would wake up listening to Chris Evans. His theme song was a bastardised version of this ditty "Wake up! Chris Evans on the Radio...". Cheerful, infectious - a classic. (Though I do prefer their earlier shoe-gazing incarnation).
Blur – Girls and Boys
This is the song that really kicked off Britpop. Blur's 1993 album 'Modern Life is Rubbish' didn't produce any hit singles. I was a big Blur fan and saw them loads of times in the 90's. And then I turned on Top of The Pops in March 1994 and there's my favourite band bouncing around in tracky tops and trainers to this weird song that combines 80's beats with thrashy guitar and amazingly catchy chorus. I remember this as the soundtrack to Tim in Budapest in April 1994.
Sleeper – What Do I Do Now
I saw Sleeper once definitely in Brighton circa 1995 or 1996 as they toured The It Girl. They were shit to be honest. I may have seen them earlier as they supported Blur in either 1993 or 1994 but can't remember. Anyway, although the singer was attractive she was pretty talentless but occasionally (this song, Sale of the Century) Sleeper came out with a bloody good song. You can't ask for more, can you?
*Some might argue Suede had something to do with it as well but as I thought then – as I think now – they’re just derivative Bowie wannabes, they don’t count. And they’re shite. End of.
** As evidenced by Oasis supporting U2 on their Pop Mart tour in the States. From playing to hundreds of thousands to being the support act to half empty stadiums. It kind of rams it home.