August 26 1995: The Day That Britpop Died
NINETEEN years ago on this very day, all the way back in 1995, teenagers tuned into the chart rundown on Radio One to find out which of Britpop’s gargantuans were going to land the killer blow.
It was on the 26th August that Blur scored their first UK No.1 single with ‘Country House’ ahead of Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’.
Animosity had been high between the two camps, with Oasis hoping Blur would die of AIDS and generally dismissing them as Southern softies. Blur meanwhile sarcastically referred to Oasis as being like ‘Status Quo’, to which Oasis promptly started selling ‘Quoasis’ t-shirts.
It was puerile, pointless and a whole load of fun for people who like a narrative on their pop music.
Both acts released their new singles on the same day, both landing in the top two slots in a month that was erratic at best. While Britpop duked it out, the run-up saw Robson & Jerome’s ‘Unchained Melody’ at the top spot, as well as Outhere Brothers’ ‘Boom Boom Boom’, Take That’s ‘Never Forget’ and followed by Michael Jackson’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ and Shaggy’s ‘Boombastic’.
It was a weird and brilliant summer.
However, as everyone knows, the most irritating thing about the whole battle was just how poor both band’s singles were. ‘Country House’ was Blur’s vision of Great Britain gone too far; too bloated on lager. ‘Roll With It’ was Oasis dialling it in, from a body of work that had stronger LP tracks and B-sides. Oasis ploughed through and became stadium-fillers while Blur slowly collapsed under the weight of their own skewed look on the world, before retreating away, ready to unleash ‘Beetlebum’ and ‘Song Two’ at everyone from their follow-up, eponymous LP.
The release of the two records effectively killed Britpop stone-dead, with only Pulp and the Super Furry Animals managing to maintain any sort of quality control thereafter, with Elastica vanishing down a smack hole, Suede losing their grot-glamour and exchanging it for sickly, pristine Bowie tributes. Things were in such a bad way that Dodgy became headline acts.
The fallout from this Battle of Britpop opened the door for Embrace, Coldplay, Travis and a whole new dawn of overly sincere and overwrought indie rock, which in turn, transformed into something the NME briefly dubbed NAM (New Acoustic Movement) with the likes of Alfie, Turin Breaks, Badly Drawn Boy and Ben & Jason.
Britpop’s bombast reached the zenith 19 years ago, and the momentum kept Oasis going for a while, while Blur got a little lost, touring the very dubious ‘Great Escape’ LP. Of course, it being Blur, it had some fine moments, but so quickly they’d gone from sparky and sarcastic, to getting lost in their own creation, that you couldn’t see the boys who made ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ in the fug of Camden cocaine anymore.
Both Oasis and Blur suffered in the immediate aftermath of 1995, and would have to regroup to get their motors running again, while their Britpop pals all slid into the Andy’s Records 9p Bargain Bin. Oasis were almost certainly the more determined of the two, filling Manchester City’s old Maine Road stadium and Doing Knebworth in 1996.
However, it wouldn’t be too long before they released the pretty terrible ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘All Around The World’ and hauled the flabby ‘Be Here Now’ LP around the planet while hanging around with Tony Blair in Downing Street for a ‘Cool Britannia’ photo-op.
While Oasis soldiered on until 2009, when Noel finally left. The band were exhausted and going mental. Blur meanwhile, saw Graham Coxon throwing the towel in, leaving Damon to create numerous projects.
And here we are, in 2014, and still, Blur and Oasis have our ears. Be it Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds or wonderful DVD commentary where he’s revealing himself to be a pleasantly daft old curmudgeon or Damon Albarn’s magpie approach to music, with record labels (Honest John’s) and his million bands; Dodgy, Shed Seven, The Bluetones, Menswear, Powder, Sleeper and all the rest, have all but vanished apart from in the hearts of corduroy wearing thirtysomethings.
With Britpop celebrating a 20th anniversary lately, it can only mean one thing – teenagers are going to start fetishising it and starting up bands that sound like Octopus.
God help us all.