The definitive Britpop story told in fifty records.
Who died and made me King?
If you are going to be like that I’ll change it.
A Britpop story told in fifty records.
This is, essentially, a listicle.
A few weeks ago a friend pointed me in the direction of a list someone had put together of the “best” Britpop records…it included both “Country House” and “Wake up Boo”. So, clearly, not the best of anything.
I determined to put together my own list…not of the “best” Britpop songs because that’s all about opinions right? Rather I thought I would try to curate a list that gave a flavour of the scene from start to finish. I can’t imagine that anyone is going to read this and agree with many, or possibly any, of my choices but I thought it might be fun. It hasn’t been fun…it has been a long and arduous task.
Before we get started here are the rules;
- Only records released in the UK between 30th March 1992 and July 30th 1997 will be eligible for inclusion.
- No single artist/band will be permitted to appear in the list more than two times.
- No trying to be “indier than thou” by selecting B-Sides and album tracks that nobody has ever heard.
- No Reef.
I’m not interested in ranking songs so, instead, I’m going to try and tell the greatest story still never really told in chronological order.
People, bands and songs are missing…but I had set myself a task of doing this with only fifty songs. I’m very sorry if your favourite isn’t here…unless your favourite is “Parklife” in which case I’m not sorry at all and I’m not sure this is the site for you.
Are you sitting comfortably?
So the story begins…
Popscene by Blur
30th March 1992
Rule one makes sense now right?
Baggy was dead and, as far as anyone could tell, so were Blur.
Very dead indeed.
“There’s no Other Way” was a corker of a single, “She’s so High” was dreamy and trippy and lovely…”Bang” was, if we have to be honest, rubbish. With the advent of the vile grunge scene and the omnipresence of both Kurt Cobain’s face and plaid shirts seemed to signal the end for a band who most people saw as scenesters…bandwagon jumpers…charlatans, but not THE Charlatans.
Then they went away for a little bit and came back with “Popscene”…a record that most people ignored at the time but that now, with the benefit of hindsight, we can all hail as the birth of a movement.
FURTHER READING BLUR
The Drowners by Suede
11th May 1992
Suede changed everything.
Nobody else looked like them.
Nobody else sounded like them.
Nobody else spoke about the things they spoke about.
Nobody else could have done what they did.
From the front cover to all three tracks that featured across the seven and twelve inch formats this record reeked of class, style, sex, sexuality, danger, familiarity and raised an ensign for those of us who didn’t hate ourselves and want to die to gather around.
A revolution in four minutes and ten seconds.
FURTHER READING SUEDE
Babies by Pulp
5th October 1992
Every “Best of Britpop” list ever will tell you that “Common People” is the “best” or the “definitive” Pulp record…they are all wrong. No song better captures the essence of Pulp and their contribution to the era than “Babies”. Re-released as the “Sisters E.P.” in 1994 it was, originally, a release on Gift records and it is this moment that I am celebrating here…with grunge covering everything in gunge it was a brave band indeed who would release a single like this and that is what Pulp have always been.
FURTHER READING PULP
Showgirl by The Auteurs
22nd Feb 1993
Luke Haines will not be happy.
Not be happy at all.
The Auteurs, despite Luke’s protestations, do play a part in the Britpop tale.
I saw them supporting Suede on their first tour of Scotland.
I don’t know if that is true.
It may be a false memory.
I’ve just checked…I did see them supporting Suede in 1992.
They were, of course, a completely different proposition to Suede…they were more delicate in some ways, more arch, knowing and, well, separate.
It isn’t just the Suede connection of course because they also featured in that issue of Select magazine alongside Suede, again, Pulp, Denim (more of them in a moment) and Saint Etienne (more of them in a moment too).
I know that a very narrow definition of Britpop, of the sort used by a certain British broadsheet newspaper, would exclude The Auteurs because they were the opposite of everything negative said about the era but the truth is that that definition tells half of a very different story to the one that we all lived through. On that basis “Showgirl” is in.
Middle of the Road by Denim
Rarely mentioned in the Britpop tale, despite featuring prominently in that issue of Select, Denim (the brainchild of indie pop legend and Felt leader Lawrence) released “Middle of the Road” and lyrically and musically it was about as Britpop as anything could be at a time when nobody knew what Britpop was.
It sounds like all the 1970’s bands that you weren’t meant to like but that you did anyway…the slightly cheesier end of the glam rock spectrum. It is catchy, funny and loving in its attitude towards seventies Brit rock. What Lawrence achieved here was to deliver a record that was the complete antithesis of what the record companies and music weeklies wanted…it was melodic, it was stylised, it was stylish, it was sharp and it was defiantly defensive of British pop and roll.
Lady Love Your Cunt by S*M*A*S*H
Angry, political, polemical, enraged and engaged, S*M*A*S*H were originally lumped in with the NWONW but they more than played their part in the story of Britpop. Completely disinterested in the Brit part and not particularly concerned with the pop part they instead raged against the machine and provided the anger that so many young people in the country were feeling after so many years of the same government and a flailing, if not failing, economy.
Bit of politics there folks.
I’m like the Ben Elton of Britpop bloggers.
He can’t write either?
That’s just rude.
FURTHER READING S*M*A*S*H
Hobart Paving by Saint Etienne
11th May 1993
Saint Etienne had already made a major impression on the cool kids with their flawless debut album “Fox Base Alpha” back in 1991 but with the follow up “So Tough” arriving in 1993 they played a crucial part in the beginnings of the scene.
“Hobart Paving” is classic Saint Etienne; classic yet modern, icy cool yet warm and soothing.
For Tomorrow by Blur
19th April 1993
Six songs in.
Only two songs permitted from each band/artist.
We haven’t even reached “Parklife” yet (the album, not the single!) and Max has already blown his two Blur choices.
Deal with it.
While “Parklife” and “The Great Escape” may well have been the “big” albums from Blur during the Britpop years the truth of the matter is that it is “Modern Life is Rubbish” that set the tone for the entire era…both musically and in terms of “the look”.
This was also the Blur record that even the likes of Paul Weller and Oasis acknowledged as being worthy of their praise.
It is a brilliantly, gloriously, defiantly and violently English pop record and, the young Max hearing it for the first time, it was a transformative moment…it changed how I saw myself, how I dressed myself and how I defined myself and I wasn’t alone.
FURTHER READING MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH
Sunflower by Paul Weller
5th July 1993
The Paul Weller Movement had passed without anyone paying too much attention and there were people who believed that Weller’s moment had passed…some people had been arguing that since The Jam disbanded (silly people who didn’t realise that The Style Council were better) and the relative “failure” of his first bona fide solo endeavour seemed to prove them right.
They were wrong.
“Sunflower” and its parent album “Wild Wood” saw Weller reborn as the Godfather of Britpop…a style icon and a musical inspiration in equal part. It is a delicate record that highlights Weller’s ability to forge his own new soul revolution…a marriage of the Mod bands he so adored like the Small Faces and the early Who singles and the soul singers he reveres. It would be easy to imagine Marvin Gaye singing this with the Funk Brothers providing the backing.
Wish I Was Skinny by The Boo Radleys
4th October 1993
Before that song and that album which, truthfully, I have never been able to bring myself to listen to more than once and which, to this day, I still have a near pathological hatred for there was a time when I really loved the Boo’s. That time was October 1993 and, specifically, it was this song.
It is a sweet and tender little song and better represents who Martin Carr was as a writer and who/what The Boo Radleys were as a band than “Wake Up Boo!” ever was. There is something quite upsetting about the fact that the role of The Boo Radleys in the Britpop story is defined by a song that, actually, doesn’t represent them at all.
Girl A, Girl B, Boy C by My Life Story
23rd October 1993
“Air Lyndhurst Studios was still in the middle of being built when Giles Martin invited us to record demos there. We thought we may never get another chance to record in a “proper” studio again so we demoed our three best songs; “Girl A…”, “Sparkle” and “Star Colliding”. When Mother Tongue Records picked us up they just put all three on the first record. It was always my intent to have them as the first three singles. It wasn’t a bad thing in a way, it just forced me to compose more songs, try to better myself as a writer.”
(Jake Shillingford, 2018)
Behold, the Crown Prince of Pop.
Kneel before Him.
Jake Shillingford, boys and girls, is THE front man. A master of the stage. King of the pop performance. A glamorous romper and stomper. A feather boa here. A pair of oh too perfect boots there. Eye-liner. Glitter. Attention to detail.
Oh…he also writes the most dementedly brilliant pop songs.
This one foreshadows the glories that were to come…orchestral manoeuvre’s in the brightest light of pops Heaven.
FURTHER READING JAKE SHILLINGFORD INTERVIEW
Bellyache E.P. by Echobelly
It wasn’t all cups of tea and stardust during the Britpop years.
Sometimes bands decided to deal with the stuff of nightmares, the dark materials, the horror and the wickedness of this thing we call life.
Announcing their arrival with lines like; “I lie on a sea of nails and thorns” and “How I wish I was blindly loved” from “Bellyache” and “Sleeping Hitler” respectively it was obvious that Echobelly were not, and never could be, disposable heroes of pop. A serious band…but a band who, thanks to the gifts of guitarist Glenn, could set your feet to tapping at the same time as your heart was swelling.
FURTHER READING ECHOBELLY INTERVIEW
Stutter by Elastica
1st November 1993
A proper pop song. About erectile dysfunction. Two minutes and forty two seconds of spiky, sassy, sexy, punk and pop merriment. Despite your desperate desire for it to last longer, to give you more, it is, in fact, all you really need…which is what I keep telling Mrs Max.
I’m not proud of that “joke” but I thought it was worth throwing out there despite being obvious…and, crucially, not actually funny.
Hasn’t done Michael McIntyre any harm.
FURTHER READING ELASTICA
Her Majesty by The Supernaturals
Recorded in 1991 so outside the parameters of my own rules but, thankfully, not released until 1993…so nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.
This collection of 7 rough and ready demos reveals the magic and majesty of The Supernaturals in their rawest form.
The highlight is the earliest version of the brilliant “Stammer” which, here, is entitled “Her Majesty”.
FURTHER READING SUPERNATURALS INTERVIEW
Columbia by Oasis
There we were.
Now here we are.
I can’t tell you the way I feel…
You know why.
Of course I didn’t get my hands on a copy of this…I didn’t know who, or what, Oasis were until the first time I heard “Supersonic” four months after this white label demo dropped. Don’t try and pretend that it was any different for you.
We all know what happened next…Oasis became not just the biggest band in the world but, to all intents and purposes, the only band in the world for longer than any band has any right to be.
“Columbia” was quite the calling card. A rock and roll riot of soaring guitars, throbbing bass lines, primal drumming and a voice that would go on to become the voice of the generation.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
FURTHER READING DEFINITELY MAYBE
No Time by Whiteout
Oasis supported them on tour.
Oh yes they did.
They could have been contenders.
They should have been a household name.
Who knows why that didn’t happen.
It certainly wasn’t down to a lack of tunes.
Good looking chaps too.
Whiteout were the finest Britpop band to come out of Greenock and “No Time” is a stone cold cracker of a pop record. Incorrectly hailed as coming from Glasgow from the 1950’s bin man, Mark Lamaar on “The Word” in their television debut they look like the band you always wanted to be a member of but were never cool enough to get into.
Shagging in the Streets E.P. by Various
(Sad by Mantaray)
24th February 1994
At the start of 1994 “Britpop” still wasn’t a thing.
Well, it was a thing…but it was a thing with no name.
Like “Thing” from The Addams Family.
Before this thing became the thing the press tried to attach a different name to it…New Wave of New Wave. Say what you will about Britpop…it’s a much better label than that.
The Fierce Panda label released “Shagging in the Streets” as a showcase of the NWONW bands and succeeded in introducing the sharp kids to three bands who play a key role in the story of the time…Mantaray, S*M*A*S*H and These Animal Men.
The Britpoppiest of the three were Mantaray who, based on the sound alone, knew how important a decent pair of trousers were. Their contribution was “Sad” and it’s a lovely, and profane, bit of Mod-esque power pop of the sort that many, many other bands were about to become very rich off of the back of.
Return to Splendour E.P. by Various
(No. 11 by The Bluetones)
The NWONW was swiftly consigned to the dustbin of history and was replaced by a New Mod Revival.
The last Mod revival had been nothing short of an embarrassment.
“Return to Splendour” featured six bands and each one of them, with a single track, reassured the listener that this was not going to be the Merton Parkas and the Purple Hearts but was instead something that was taking the classic songwriting and dedication to melody of The Kinks, early Who and the aching (none more) cool of the Small Faces.
The Weekenders and Thurman will both appear later in this list but this E.P. marks a significant moment in the Britpop story…the arrival of The Bluetones with a little number called “No.11”. That song was, of course, “Bluetonic” which would be released as a single in 1995. It was here though that I first heard the dulcet tones of Mark Morriss and the perfect pop of the rest of the gang…a transformative moment in my pop life.
FURTHER READING THE BLUETONES
VHF 855V by Tiny Monroe
A bona fide lost classic.
Perhaps the only one of the so called “female fronted bands” who never really grabbed their moment in the spotlight. That is a crying shame because this single alone deserves to be in any list of the best Britpop tracks…oh, looky here, I’m doing that right now.
I’m very pleased to right the terrible wrong of Tiny Monroe being overlooked.
In NJ they had a charismatic front woman and together with the rest of her chums in the band they recorded a clutch of great singles and one wonderful album, “Volcanoes”.
Here is what the late, great, John Peel had to say about them after seeing them at Glastonbury in 1994…
“The singer with Tiny Monroe, the first of these bands, strolled past our dishevelled caravan. She is, she told me when the spirit of research sent me flying across the grass, called NJ. NJ is, let me tell you, a wildly charismatic performer and Tiny Monroe live are much more robust than Tiny Monroe on record.”
Speeed King by These Animal Men
7th March 1994
Another cup of tea in Britpop…this time as an accompaniment to a lovely plate of amphetamines.
I once found myself backstage at a gig during the Britpop era and, as usual, I was stood on my own. In a desperate effort to appear quirky I used to carry copious amounts of sweets around with me, I was hoping that this would distract from the awful truth of my being a personality free zone. On this occasion I had a sherbert fountain. A long tube of sherbert with a liquorice straw for dabbing. I had finished the straw and was now simply dabbing my finger into the white powder and popping it into my mouth. After a few minutes of this a certain Britpop star appeared by my side and urged me not to be greedy. He had, understandably, mistaken my innocent white powder for another white powder of an altogether more potent variety. I tried to explain to him that I didn’t actually have drugs but sherbert but he wouldn’t have it. Why would he? It was the nineties, it was London, it was a gig…everyone was hoovering something up their hooters. Eventually I poured a small amount of my sugary delight onto his hand and he dipped his own finger in and soon realised that I had been telling the truth. He was astonished, disappointed and thrilled in equal parts.
Nothing to do with this riot of a single which came with a list of tour dates printed on a speed wrap…but it is my one and only drugs story.
FURTHER READING THESE ANIMAL MEN
Mark/Casino Girl by Shed Seven
19th March 1994
The week before this was released I had been in Lucifer’s Mill, Dundee, to see Shed Seven and Compulsion. Before the gig started I had sidled up to Rick Witter at the bar and asked him for his autograph…I didn’t have a pen or anything for him to sign so he found a pack of guitar strings and wrote “Roll out the barrel, love Rick Witter” on and that was it.
I wrote a piece on Shed Seven a while back and in it I said that I had already purchased this record before that gig…but according to Wikipedia that can’t have been true because the record was released after the show.
It is a wonderful debut single…guitars that rock and roll, a bass line that pulses and throbs, drums that pound faster than my heart after climbing the ladder of my little ones bunk bed and the voice of Witter soaring, swirling and slamming around your head.
Nobody in the press really thought that anything other than a brief moment in the spotlight was in the offing for Shed Seven…what actually happened was that they became one of the biggest acts of the era, one of the finest live acts and that they would take a near twenty year hiatus before releasing their finest album.
FURTHER READING SHED SEVEN
Insomniac by Echobelly
My favourite Echobelly single.
I take great comfort from multiverse theory at this moment in time (whatever time is) because it provides the notion that somewhere/place/time there is a world where “Insomniac” is number one in the charts…it has always been number one in the charts…it will always be number one in the charts…and I am married to Sonya…or Glenn…or both of them.
We are all very happy.
On a Leash EP by Salad
18th April 1994
Can we be honest with each other?
Salad were weird.
They didn’t sound like anyone else, they didn’t look like anyone else and they didn’t sing about the things that other people were singing about…and even when they did they did it their way.
That’s why they are brilliant.
Few things in life bring me as much joy as hearing Marijne sing the word “beefy”.
Simple pleasures from a complex and complicated band.
FURTHER READING SALAD
Delicious by Sleeper
9th May 1994
At almost any other moment in musical history Louise Wener would have been lauded as a radical, revolutionary, riotous figure…a game changer. She was a brilliant writer, a fine singer and had more charisma than a hundred Jordan Belforts on crack. She was a hero to young women on the fringes…an every-woman. She was a pin-up for anyone who could see. She was a bona fide pop STAR.
Sadly The Guardian and certain other mainstream media outlets (at the risk of coming over all “fake news”) have decided that the UK music scene of the mid-nineties was a safe haven for xenophobes, racists, flag wavers, little Englanders, sexists, bigots and that the music itself was lumpen dad-rock. That means that a band like Sleeper get lumped in with that view and don’t get the credit they, more than richly, deserve.
Ignore those voices.
Sleeper are magnificent.
“Delicious” is a funny, sexy, thrilling pop record…of the sort that only Sleeper could have thought of, let alone actually having recorded and released.
FURTHER READING SLEEPER
For the Dead by Gene
Gene were a band who divided opinions…there were those who couldn’t see past The Smiths lite accusations and then there were people, who had ears to hear and eyes to see, who understood that this was no tribute act but was, instead, something utterly brilliant in its own right.
For me it started right at the very beginning with number 1473 of 1500 of “For the Dead”…a double-A side with “Child’s Body” that saw me fall hook, line and sinker for all of Martin Rossitter’s not inconsiderable charms. He won’t be happy about being included in a list of definitive Britpop songs but I can’t discuss the era without including his band.
Not really sorry though.
FURTHER READING GENE
Violent Men by Marion
“The first thing I remember is the cold, the biting and unrelenting easterly wind in a Northern town. We were working in a recording studio in Rochdale called Suite 16, which was owned by Peter Hook at the time. It had “Peter Hook is a twat” spray-painted across the floor of the live/recording room. I loved working in that studio as there was an Indian takeaway directly across the road from it and one of the best second-hand record stores which used to rob us of our money each day were recording.
I was really excited about this recording session, which included an early version of “All for Love” (then called “Today and Tonight”) and “Toys for Boys”, so I knew this was going to be a great EP. When we tentatively played it to Geoff Travis at Rough Trade HQ in London it was a fantastic feeling to see him obviously concentrating very hard on what he was listening to. Then when the music finished and he instantly told us he wanted to put the songs out on Rough Trade Records as an EP with “Violent Men” as the single I knew that we were “on our way”. To quote Jim Morrisson “no we can’t turn back”, and when it comes to music you never really can…”
(Jaime Harding, October 2018)
The debut single from one of the most under-appreciated bands of the nineties.
A cult band who should really have sat alongside the bigger boys and girls of the era.
Heart and soul.
Hope for the hopeless.
One of the finest live acts of the era too.
This, their debut single, reveals everything you need to know about them.
FURTHER READING MARION
Trouble by Shampoo
18th July 1994
It’s my list.
I really don’t care what you think.
The truth is that Shampoo were all the best elements of Britpop wrapped up in all the trappings of the regular world of pop; glamorous, cocky, British, clever, devilish. I loved them then…I love them now.
And you, yes you, can kiss my shades if you disagree.
FURTHER READING SHAMPOO
Disappointed by The Flamingoes
“This was our attempt at writing a great anthemic indie single…gloomy subject matter married to an uplifting chorus. Fun fact: the “whoo-whoo” refrain wasn’t taken from Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” as stated by the NME, but was actually inspired by hearing wood pigeons in the back garden when I was a boy. I was very happy that Tom Wood granted us permission to use the wonderful image for the sleeve. I found it in a photography magazine in Ripping Yarns, Highgate – which is sadly no longer there.”
(James Cook, The Flamingoes)
“Disappointed” was the first single I remember buying where I thought I was ahead of the curve…I had ordered it from “Sleeves” in Kirkcaldy and when I went to pick it up I knew that I was the only person in my town who owned it. That made me feel pretty cool in 1994 but now it makes me sad…because it meant that this wasn’t the world wide smash hit it should have been.
FURTHER READING THE FLAMINGOES
Caught by the Fuzz by Supergrass
17th October 1994
A spiky, poppy, passionate, honest and hilarious little single, “Caught by the Fuzz” comes in at under two and a half minutes but its effects can be felt for weeks after. It’s a simple enough song and a common enough story but it is delivered with such ferocious swagger by the, then, still pubescent Oxford trio of Danny, Mick and Gaz that it seems like something bigger.
In an ideal world every band would be Supergrass I reckon. Or at least make the effort to do what they did so brilliantly; write pop songs that even the most beard stroking of Radiohead fans have to acknowledge are a million times more enjoyable than anything on the dreadful likes of “Kid A” or “Hail to the Thief”.
English Tea by Thurman
31st October 1994
My love for Thurman knows no limits.
I could have chosen any one of their singles…each is the match of the other.
I could have chosen any track from their flawless album “Lux”.
I could have chosen to post their name alone.
Dismissed by some as being chancers given their metal past… that just ignores the fact that we all move, evolve, grow, develop and even, occasionally, stand still or regress! I love Thurman for ditching one sound and embracing another.
Also…tea is the Britpop drink. Preferably with sugar.
FURTHER READING THURMAN
Come/Shirtlifter by Lick
Speaking of bands who should have been huge…
Lick are THE lost band of the era.
A charismatic front man in the shape of the delicious Gary.
Melodies to make yer.
Lyrics that were really saying something.
Seymour Stein wanted them so bad that he issued instructions that they must be signed.
A great album lies in the vaults…it is the match of many of what are considered the definitive albums of the Britpop years.
“Come/Shirtlifter” was the first release from Lick and it gives you everything you want from a Britpop record and a little bit more on top for you to savour.
I love them.
You should love them too.
FURTHER READING INTERVIEW WITH LICK
Waking Up by Elastica
13th February 1995
The Stranglers were not happy about this.
Anything that upsets anyone in The Stranglers is a good thing ’round these parts.
Just never really liked ’em.
Anyhoo, “Waking Up” is a Britpop floor filler and, in my humble opinion (not really, I’m a prideful sort), it is the best of their singles. Like so many other Britpop classics it also makes mention of having a cup of tea…which confirms my suspicion that the whole scene was created by those clever people at Tetley.
Leather Lips by Elcka
13th March 1995
Taking its cue from “Disintegration” era The Cure “Leather Lips” is the other side of Britpop. Darker, more debauched and deliberately disturbing Elcka were a band who could be found in the seedier sections of Soho…or at least that is how it sounded.
Later singles were possibly more Britpop in their sound, particularly “Boho Bird”, but “Leather Lips” is the song that best captures who Elcka were…at least at that moment in time. Following a support slot for a certain Mancunian miserablist that saw them playing in front of huge crowds both here in the UK and in the USA it really did look like they were going to become a big deal. That, for a variety of reasons, didn’t happen but I remain hopeful that there may be one more moment in the sun (or in the shadows) for Elcka.
They deserve it.
FURTHER READING ELCKA
Yes by McAlmont and Butler
15th May 1995
Oscar Wilde once said that only a fool didn’t judge a book by it’s cover.
I normally find myself in complete agreement with Oscar on most things but if we took that maxim literally then we would conclude that the contents of this single from former “Thieve” David McAlmont and guitar virtuoso Bernard Butler would be the sound of whale song or easy listening jazz…a sort of Britpop Enya.
Thankfully the duller than dull cover art masks the fact that what is actually contained within is one of the most gloriously thrilling, mind bendingly magnificent, soul scorching, heart breaking, pieces of songwriting ever committed to vinyl (other formats are available) and we should be grateful for its existence.
Common People by Pulp
22nd May 1995
I really don’t know what I can add.
It must all have been said a hundred times by a thousand people…all of them more qualified and more erudite than little old me.
Let me see if I can think of something.
“Common People” is, possibly, the single greatest moment in British popular music history.
Enjoy the rest of the piece.
FURTHER READING PULP
Inelegantly Wasted in Papa’s Penthouse Pad in Belgravia by The Weekenders
3rd July, 1995
Oh come on.
The title alone merits a place in this list.
The project of Blow Up! main man Mr Paul Tunkin, The Weekenders were to last for just three singles and one mini-album but by gum what a three singles they were. “All Grown Up”, “Papa’s Pad” and “Man of Leisure” were each lovely things.
But the real treasure here is found with the B-Side “Watching the Clock” which is the sort of thing that makes you think, if only for a few minutes, maybe this mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, ain’t so bad after all.
Check it out.
FURTHER READING THE WEEKENDERS
Finetime by Cast
3rd July 1995
The best band ever to come out of Liverpool?
My sincere apologies to all of you who hold a different, and incorrect, opinion on this.
The problem for the members of The La’s who were not maverick, genius, Lee Mavers was that he was also…how to put this delicately…a bit unreliable. As a result bassist and backing vocalist John Powers decided that it might not be a terrible idea to form his own band while the world waited with baited breath to see if Mavers would ever release another note of music.
It wasn’t a terrible decision.
It was a great decision.
Cast produced a series of great singles and this debut highlights the not inconsiderable talents of Powers as a singer and songwriter in his own right.
She Said by The Longpigs
19th July 1995
“There’s no clothes I can buy
Make me feel like myself
So I put on clothes
To make feel look like someone else instead”
Every single lonely, boxroom rebel, outsider, weirdo and miserablist across the world understood immediately.
“She Said” is a fine example of quite how broad a Church Britpop really was…for all the silly thrills of Thurman, for all the over Loaded laddism of Oasis at times, for all the mockneyisms of “Parklife” it was, at its heart, a scene that drew in the grotesque and lonely like me and made us feel part of something.
Hearing Hunt sing “There’s no one I can talk to, like I talk to myself” was a comfort, like the soothing balm of Gilead.
A heart breaker.
A soul saver.
History by The Verve
18th September 1995
Just a few minutes ago I watched Richard Ashcroft being interviewed on the BBC breakfast news show. He was wearing an outfit that can only be described as…challenging. Worse than the clobber was the presence of the dial-a-cliche sunglasses. Worse than the clobber and the shades was his ludicrous “performance”…it was, to be frank, embarrassing.
You have to forget that.
You have to forget his peculiar response to the suggestions that a suspicious package may have fallen from his pocket on Soccer a.m.
You have to forget the latest album.
Because, back in 1995 Richard Ashcroft and the rest of the gang in The Verve released “A Northern Soul” which was an album of such heart-breaking beauty and balls out rock and roll swagger that it nearly ended popular music forever.
You can forgive a man anything who can commit to vinyl a line like this one from “History”;
“In every man, in every hand, in every kiss you understand…that living is for other men.”
Living is for other men…my entire world view, at least when I was young enough not to know any better, summed up in one line.
I forgive you Richard.
FURTHER READING THE VERVE
The Young Own the Town by Soda
20th November 1995
“The title of the song says it all really! It captures the spirit of what we were feeling and no doubt what a lot of other people around the country were feeling too. The spirit of youth! It was our debut single for Mercury. It was a top ten hit for us and single of the week in Melody Maker.”
(Carl Lonsdale, Soda)
What a band.
What a story.
Blistering pop and devastating tragedy.
A song like “The Young Own the Town” should be lodged in the minds of everyone who was a part of the cultural phenomenon that was Britpop…that it isn’t is not the fault of the band, the song or the individuals, it is the fault of radio stations and newspapers who define the era by playing “Country House” and “Wake up Boo!” at every given opportunity.
“The Young Own the Town” is a better song than “Wake up Boo!” and it is a far better song than “Parklife”…you can cleanse your musical palate right now by listening to it right now.
FURTHER READING SODA
You’ve Got it Bad by Ocean Colour Scene
It wasn’t released as a single until 1996.
But a demo was released in 1995 so I’m having it.
Accusations of dad-rock or Noel-rock have hung around O.C.S since the moment they set foot onto the main stage of pop.
Truthfully, I was never a huge fan…I liked some of the singles and I liked the way they looked but never enough to actually buy any of the records or go and see them in concert.
Then a strange thing happened one night in Brixton.
I saw them headline the last night of the 2018 Star Shaped festival.
It was beyond magnificent.
With each song I found myself singing along to every word…a smile as wide as the Thames plastered across my face, arms draped around the shoulders of strangers stood next to me and my feet tapping to the beat, beat, beat.
It was one of the best live performances I’ve seen.
“You’ve Got it Bad” nearly took the roof off of the old Brixton Academy and now I’m not sure how I managed to get through the nineties without falling head over heels for this lot.
I can only apologise.
Atomic by Sleeper
Featured on the soundtrack to the film version of the inexplicably successful novel “Trainspotting” this cover of the Blondie classic manages to do something that happens so rarely in pop…match the original.
Only ever released as a promo 12″ I think this could well have been a number one hit for Sleeper. It is impossible to hear it and not turn whatever surface you are standing on into the dance floor of Studio 54.
Cut Some Rug by The Bluetones
29th April 1996
One of a clutch of singles taken from the flawless debut album “Expecting to Fly” this is simply further evidence that the best band of the era was The Bluetones.
No, I’m not joking.
I think if you sit down and listen to that album it is impossible to come to any other conclusion.
“Cut Some Rug” also includes the words “blitzkrieg”, “doodlebug” and then rhymes them with the title of the song. I like both of those words and I don’t want to know anyone who doesn’t…or who doesn’t love The Bluetones.
FURTHER READING MARK MORRISS INTERVIEW
12 Reasons Why I Love Her by My Life Story
11th August 1996
Few things in life are perfect.
Twitter and Instagram are cluttered up with people in awful clothes taking a ridiculous number of photographs of themselves who think that they are perfect…council Kardashians…but they are not.
They are ridiculous.
Any parent you meet believes that their little one is perfect…they are not, they are perfect to you but to the rest of us they are, usually, a bit dull. I include my own little one in that…she’s perfect to me, but I reckon most other people probably think “She’s a nice little girl” at best.
True believers hold their own God or Saviour as perfect…they may well be but we don’t have any evidence that they even exist.
Few things are perfect.
I would like to suggest that only one thing is perfect really…”12 Reasons…” by My Life Story. It is the perfect pop song. Absolutely without flaw. From the sleeve to the thrills and spills of the song itself everything about it is just…perfect.
Becoming More Like Alfie by The Divine Comedy
18th August 1996
The second song in the list that pays homage to Michael Caine (the other being “Delicious” by Sleeper…with its “Get Carter” reference) and the first record in the list that serves as my introduction to the wider contemporary Britpop scene…
Stood on my own at the 2017 Star Shaped Festival date in Glasgow the first song spun by one of the DJ’s was this…it came on straight after Salad finished their set. I can remember thinking then, “These are my sort of people”. I’ve since met a few of the Star Shaped clan and I’m pleased to report that they are my sort of people.
This would have been a terrible reminisce if they had been awful people.
I’m not sure it’s much of a story even with their being lovely.
Back to the song…it is, as one would expect from Neil Hannon, a beautiful, blast of baroque pop that makes you glad you got up in the morning. There is something so comforting about his voice, even when the tales he sings are so terribly sad…there is a warmth and a tenderness to every aspect of his work. I reckon he might be a genius.
The Beautiful Ones by Suede
14th October 1996
Re-re-wind to 1994 and the departure of Bernard Butler following the “difficult” recording process of “Dog Man Star”.
The crowd so no.
How can the band carry on.
This is Marr leaving The Smiths…and we’ve all seen how that has turned out.
Teeth were gnashed.
Grown men wept.
Those tears would become a river when the band announced that they had chosen to replace Bernard with a child.
Well…he was really bloody young.
This was going to be a disaster.
Then everyone heard him play on the Dog Man Star tour and we felt a little more optimistic.
Then we heard “The Beautiful Ones” and the tears dried and a cry of rejoicing was heard across the nation.
Chasing Rainbows by Shed Seven
4th November 1996
Things falling apart.
Hopes and dreams.
Those boys from York know how to tug at your heart strings as well as how to drag your feet onto the dance floor.
This is a bona fide Britpop anthem…don’t let on but I reckon its sung with more fervour and passion than any rendition of “Wonderwall” ever manages.
Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve
1st June 1996
Because The Droning Bones don’t have enough money they took all of the pennies that The Verve would have made off of this record…which seems fair.
The fact that this was never off of the radio and was a massive hit for the band around the world played no part in the actions of the worlds oldest and least interesting band…nope, even if the song had sold three copies in Wigan they would have taken the same principled stand.
It’s not about the money when you are Mick Jagger.
All about the principles.
The tide was beginning to turn against Britpop by this point in time but The Verve bucked the trend by releasing not just this mega-selling single (possibly their finest moment) but also by shifting approximately three hundred and fifty billion copies of “Urban Hymns”.
The video is also one of the most iconic of the era…even the hilarious parody video that accompanies the Fat Les “song”, “Vindaloo” cannot rob it of its impact. While we are on the subject of Fat Les…IT’S NOT BRITPOP.
Hundred Mile High City by Ocean Colour Scene
21st June 1997
I’ve very deliberately avoided including links to videos in this piece…because it would take ages! But in this instance only a video can explain why this song deserves its place on the list…
D’You Know What I Mean? by Oasis
7th July 1997
We started with Blur back in 1992.
They won the “Battle of Britpop” but, I think we all know, Oasis won the war.
A few weeks after this was released Noel Gallagher would accept an invitation to a shindig inside number ten Downing Street as the newly elected Prime Minister gathered a gaggle of celebrities for champagne to thank them for their support during his election campaign.
I think the moment you see your heroes inside the Prime Ministers gaff you know something is up. That’s not a criticism of Noel or anyone else who attended, at that point in time the entire nation believed that his New Labour vision was going to deliver a period of improvement the likes of which had never been witnessed before…hope was in the air. But, I think it’s fair to say that Blair, despite his Ugly Rumours past, was always an establishment figure and rock and roll isn’t really about that…it’s about kicking over the statues. I know that’s ridiculous because many of these same pop stars and rock and rollers are multi-millionaires…but I’m quite a naive soul and a romantic one to boot.
There were other Britpop songs long after this one, including more from Oasis themselves, but I think it’s a nice moment to use in order to draw an arbitrary line in the sand and say “This is the end of Britpop.” Other people will talk, rightly, of the comedown of Pulp’s “This is Hardcore” as the musical full stop on the era but for me, today, things end in July 1997 with the cocaine fuelled madness of “Be Here Now” and the sound of Liam out-sneering himself as he calls on his people to let him open his big mouth, stand by him, hope, think, know, fade in, fade out, get better and to never go away.
Britpop deserves something as grand, epic, mad, cocky, wild and demented as this as its end point…I’m happy to oblige.