Pop rivalries are as old as time – well, if time began somewhere around 1960. Mod or rocker? Stones or Beatles? Joy Division or New Order? And of course, the infamous – Blur or Oasis?
Twenty five years ago this week, back when the Top 40 was actually really important, the bands duked it out in the pop charts. Oasis entered the ring with their single Roll With It while Blur fired back with its ode to middle class weekend retreats Country House.
The race to the top was dubbed The Battle of Britpop as the event captured both the public and media’s imagination – coverage extended from national newspapers to the BBC. The night of the result, ITV evening news made it the lead story.
Blur emerged victorious in the charts on August 14, 1995, with Country House selling 274,000 to Oasis’ mere 216,000. The northerners would have the last laugh though, with their acclaimed album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? selling over four million copies and becoming the third best selling album in British history. Their successful single Wonderwall allowed the Gallaghers to break America – something Blur never managed.
Surprisingly, the battle wasn’t the work of a crafty PR man, but Blur lead singer Damon Albarn who pushed the release of Blur’s single to coincide with their rivals’. The bands had long been considered both music and social rivals, with Oasis representing the more working class, rough-and-tumble north while the more middle class boys Blur represented the South.
The feud, fuelled by fans and the press, reached various extremes throughout the 90s with Noel Gallagher telling a reporter that he hoped Albarn and Blur guitarist Alex James “would catch AIDS and die.”
Two decades later, things have quieted down between the pop rivals. Oasis no longer exist, thanks the Gallaghers’ love/hate (probably just hate, to be honest) relationship and fast, Rolls Royce fuelled lifestyle brought the band to an end. The brothers still perform, albeit separately, and continue to slag each other off in the press.
After an eight year break of cheese making, animating bands and one off Glastonbury reunion gigs, Blur returned earlier this year with their newest album, the Magic Whip.
But what’s the deal with it all? It’s not just simply rock stars slinging insults between sips of champagne.
For many, Britpop marks the time when they were teenagers, sneaking into clubs underage and devoting their spare time to seeking out new music. For the generations that followed, the scene left a lasting impression as one of the last “cool” exports of Britain.
Despite whatever age you might be, Britpop left a last legacy on the social landscape of Britain. Instead of looking back in anger, we’re taking a look at the different legacies Cool Britannia left behind.
It’s kind of weird, for some of us at least, to say the Britpop is a quarter of a century old. But reality bites, and it is.
The scene emerged in the early 90s as a response to the Nirvana fuelled American grunge music taking over the radio. After Kurt Cobain’s death, British bands like Oasis, Pulp and Suede found themselves taking off in the national spotlight and relighting a sense of national pride across the country.
While Britpop was being hailed as new, the genre found its roots in the swinging 60s of its parents era. Bands mimicked the swagger and catchiness of both the Beatles and The Rolling Stones’ guitar riffs while lyrics harked back to seaside bucket and spade towns and life in the suburbs.
Followers found themselves throwing away their plaid flannels for mod haircuts, Harrington jackets, and Adidas Superstars.
The music scene had Damon, Jarvis and Liam. But the art scene had the YBA’s – the Young British Artists.
Contemporary art was ushered to the mainstream by galleries and art dealers like Charles Saatchi and White Cube, who saw promise in the talent emerging from Goldsmith’s and other universities. They would go on to promote works by Damien Hirst, who caused shockwaves with his embalmed cows and sharks and Tracey Emin and her intimate installation, My Bed.
Today, thanks to the YBAs, fine art is once again a part of popular culture with attendance at museums such as the Tate reaching record numbers.
Jarvis Cocker has retired to the comfy confines of Radio 6 to dictate good taste to the masses while Noel Gallagher achieved Rock Star Elder Statesman status a few years ago, giving his grumpy, informed opinion on everything from new bands to political scandals. So there’s not much new music wise coming from that side.
Inspired by the decade before them, the 00s saw the return of the great British guitar band. The Libertines, being the most obvious choice, lead by rake Pete Doherty embraced the national pride set out by Blur. Arctic Monkeys followed in fellow Sheffielders, Pulp’s footsteps, releasing clever social critiques to critical acclaim. And not leave the Wonderwall crowd hanging, Coldplay and Travis filled the gap for the soft, longing ballads.