Readers Lives – The Alternative Britpop 50 (part one)

Well, hello everyone.

Here we all are again.


After publishing my list of the “definitive” records of the Britpop era I asked people to let me know which records they would have included, because I knew that there was no way everyone was going to agree with my choices and that some people were going to be genuinely enraged about the absence of Babylon Zoo.

To make amends I invited you to submit the songs that you would have selected and here, for your delight and delectation, is part one of that project with songs from 1992-1995.


Are there rules?

Of course there are bloody rules.

I’m a rules kind of guy.

  1. Only records released in the UK between 30th March 1992 and March 30th 1998 will be eligible for inclusion.
  2. No single artist/band will be permitted to appear in the list more than twice.
  3. No trying to be “indier than thou” by selecting B-Sides, album tracks or bands that nobody has ever heard…like Swedish ultra-obscure, Cocteau Twins shaped, Komeda!
  4. No Reef.
  5. No Babylon Zoo.
  6. Absolutely no Babylon Zoo.

I am very grateful to my good friend Mr Nick Amies; journalist and author, who sent me not only his contributions but also his reasons why, which I have included in the piece.  Nick can be found on Twitter @nick_amies and @ShesElectricMov.  You should follow him…he’s a witty, thoughtful and erudite man.

Metal Mickey by Suede

14th September 1992


“When I heard this for the first time, I thought things were about to get really weird and twisted and, in a way, they did but not in the way I imagined (whatever that might have been). Things had been all baggy and druggy (including me) until this taught and speedy waif came poncing through the gaff with its outlandish and frankly ridiculous guitar. I loved it. And while I never wore an acrylic shirt open to the navel, I was a Suede devotee onwards”.

(Nick Amies, author and journalist)

It is interesting, to me at least, that despite the enormous success and massive impact of “Coming Up” at the height of the Britpop era it is the singles from “Suede” and “Dog Man Star” that were the most requested for inclusion in this list.  The reason for that should be obvious to anyone with even a passing interest in the movement…it was Suede who kicked down the door for the outsiders to enter the mainstream and who kicked grunge in the balls.

There hadn’t been a band like Suede…before?  Well, certainly not for a very long time and, arguably, not one like them who had shaped the entire environment they were in to their own ends so spectacularly.

This won’t be the last we hear from them in this list.

You’re in a Bad Way by Saint Etienne

1st February 1993


This got to number 12 in the charts, which makes Saint Etienne genuine pop stars at a time when most of the other (proto) Britpoppers were still scrabbling for record deals or shrieking with delight at a mention in “Holly’s Demo Hell” in the Melody Maker.

Their ability to blend sixties pop, dance and electronica and yet still find favour with the miserable sods who were moping around the dance floor at student nights up and down the country highlights just how infectiously catchy their music is.

Kent EP by Salad

June 1993


Four tracks from Salad…a band who live up to their name by never being anything other than fresh and completely natural.


The stand-out track, for my cloth/pop ears, is “King of Love” with a slinky bass line, a sassy vocal and spectacularly bizarre lyrics about Mungo, Madge and Midge jumping out on a white rum drinking King of love.  I’m not joking…go and listen.

Told you.

Salad are deliciously weird and I was so happy to receive more than one nomination for this offering.

Oh…they also have a new single out and a new album in the works which you can pre-order here.

Lenny Valentino by The Auteurs

22nd November 1993


“I loved House of Love and always thought that Luke Haines was the bitter and twisted brother of Guy Chadwick, the one who had been rejected and cast out for dissecting blackbirds in his bedroom or something. The Auteurs were bleaker but had the same off-kilter vibe and I loved the fact that Haines seemingly detested being a rock star and the entire music industry. Despite that, he made great music in The Auteurs and this, along with early Suede, led me away from the grunge and into the slightly dimmed light.”

(Nick Amies, author/journalist)

Given how much Haines despised the Britpop label and several of the bands we all adore and given the fact that this is the second time he has made it onto a list like this on this site I fear any chance of he and I becoming friends is…unlikely.

Not to worry.

“Lenny Valentino” is a fabulous piece of pop music and, once again, it played a part in shifting the landscape away from the dirty mess of grunge and focusing the eyes of the music media onto what was happening at home.

Stay Together by Suede

February 1994


You were expecting “The Wild Ones”?

If this was my list I think I would have plumped for that too, but this isn’t my list it’s yours so you can blame yourselves.

Or congratulate yourselves.

“Stay Together” was a bold statement…no, wait, it was another bold statement from a band who, with only one album to their name, had already placed themselves at the heart of British pop history.  They were, at this point, the biggest thing to hit pop music since The Smiths…and for those of us who had been too young for them at the time they were already much more important.

Backed with two equally ambitious (audacious?) b-sides they delivered a single that had a near 8 minute run time and that was gloriously gothic and operatic in its sound and scale.  Nobody else would have dared release a record like this…nobody else could have released a record like this.

Girls and Boys by Blur

7th March 1994


Sitting at number three in my “Top Five Blur Singles” list* this, for the wider public (and not just the boxroom rebels and weirdos like me/us who were there from the start) was the moment when Britpop broke into the mainstream.  It was a top ten hit and their highest overall chart position…making it all the way to number five.

Single of the year in the NME and Melody Maker.

It made inroads into the American charts.

It was both a commentary on lad culture before lad culture was a thing and a post-Screamadelica foray into the world of dance culture by an “indie” band.

It was, in short, glorious.

I can remember hearing it for the first time as I sat on the floor of my first year student digs on the Evening Session and thinking to myself that it wasn’t like anything else I liked and that it wasn’t anything like Blur…but I loved it and it sounded like a record only Blur could have made.

Also…mad love for the cassette single which came packaged like a three pack of condoms.

*The top five Blur singles are, of course, as follows;

  1. For Tomorrow
  2. Popscene
  3. Girls and Boys
  4. Chemical World
  5. There’s No Other Way

You’re welcome.

The Changingman by Paul Weller

24th April 1994


“To be honest with you, I started here and worked back with Weller. I won’t lie and say I was a childhood fan of the Jam because I wasn’t and I only had a slight recollection of seeing him in cycling shorts or lazily punting on the Seine or something. This was what really caught my attention. Of course I knew who he was and how important he’d been but this was my Weller and not something I’d inherited so this one means a lot to me despite its ubiquity. The look, the sound, the poise, the attitude – as I said before, this is what many of us were looking for and he had it all at this stage. He was someone to follow – so I did. I now own everything he has ever done and love every manifestation”

(Nick Amies, author/journalist)

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first shall we?

Weller is a style icon.

No doubt.

But take a look at those boots!

Paul, darling, what were you thinking?

Following the pastoral wonders and delicate intimacy of “Wild Wood” was always going to be difficult, even for a songwriter as gifted as Weller, and only Weller disciples would have thought he had it in him to trump that collection of songs.

Trump it he did.

And how.

“Stanley Road” was, at the time an astonishing career high point.

Even now it stands as the equal of anything Weller has produced in The Jam, The Style Council or as a solo artist.

“The Changingman” was a romper, stomper, fist-pumper of a record with Weller sounding and looking as fierce, fiery and fabulous as he ever had.  It also put him right at the heart of Britpop…not as a father figure but as a contemporary.  No mean feat for a man who had all but been written off just a year or two earlier.

In my list of the fifty greatest/definitive songs of the moment I made mention of the fact that The Style Council were better than The Jam…a lot of people really didn’t like that.  To those people I would like to take this opportunity to say, I am not sorry…TSC were better than The Jam.  You’re welcome.

Dolphin by Shed Seven

13th June 1994


“I saw Shed Seven at the Norwich Arts Centre with Supergrass in support shortly before Change Giver was released (or perhaps just after) and went shoplifting for tight fitting Adidas t-shirts the very next day. It felt like something had clicked. All the bands that would become big over the next two years were emerging with vital music and despite the paucity of quality in some of the songs, the Shed’s debut has some stonkers on it and Dolphin for me is one of them. Why they remixed it for a 1999 re-release is beyond me: more time and more money does not make it better. What was captured in ’94 was raw and perfectly so.”

(Nick Amies, author/journalist)

For people who lived through Britpop two things will live forever in their memories…the intro to “Dolphin” and, possibly even more vividly, this image of Rick Witter.

Whippet thin, great hair, fag on and an attitude that positively reeked of “I really couldn’t give a flying one what you think of me.”  In many ways it is the defining image of the Britpop male…certainly before the New Lad arrived.  Like the original Mods there was something slightly camp about the early Britpop boys…a lot of preening and posing.  The dance moves were more Jarvis with all of his flamboyance than the sullen posturing of Liam and the monkey walk. 

Rick Witter captured all of that in one moment.

It is also one of the most recognisable intro’s to any song of the era.

Bongotastic mate, innit.

Live Forever by Oasis

8th August 1994


I know.

I know.

But listen…the “brief” for the original article was to tell the “definitive” story of Britpop in just fifty records and that no band could have more than two entries.  I wanted to finish with DYKWIM for reasons I explain in the piece and I couldn’t not include the white label of “Columbia”.

I couldn’t break my own rules.

Not even for this.

Let us now right this most heinous of wrongs.

So many things troubled me about grunge…the unwashed hair, the brutality and lack of charm in the music, the awful clothes and, most troubling of all, the dreadful hopelessness of it.

“I Hate Myself and Want to Die” was more than a song title, it was the very spirit of the scene.  Where fellow purveyors of misery like The Smiths and Morrissey infused their work with romance or humour the Seattle kids opted for nihilism.  It was this hopelessness that made the music turgid and the bands themselves hideously unattractive.

That may all just have been me.

“Live Forever” is the embodiment of the joy that great pop music can deliver like no other source.  It is a rallying call to the young and lovely, the romantics, the boys and girls with only fluff in their pockets to clamber out of the gutter and start aiming for the stars.

It is hope for the hopeful, hope for the hopeless and hope for the broken.

A thing of great beauty.

Staying Out For the Summer by Dodgy

3rd September 1994

“Somewhat maligned in some quarters as a novelty act or comedy band, Dodgy delivered some of the catchiest and iconic singles of the Britpop era – yes they did, don’t lie…you think so too. They weren’t fashionable, they weren’t cool or particularly good-looking and I think in thismost superficial of eras, that went against them because songs like this summer anthem are what memories are made of; festival season freedom encapsulated in song. And I dare anyone to listen to Grassman and not be blown away.”

(Nick Amies, author/journalist)

Of all the bands who did not make it onto the original “definitive” Britpop story who didn’t make it none, absolutely NONE, caused as much uproar as this one.

Let me just say two things;

  1.  I am really sorry that I didn’t recognise the contribution of Dodgy to the sound of the time in the original piece.
  2. I am really sorry that I didn’t recognise the contribution of Dodgy to the sound of the time in the original piece.

In many ways “Staying out for the Summer” is the sound of the era.

Speak to anyone who was there between 1992 and 1997 and they will all say, at some point, that it seemed like the sun was constantly sheeeee-ine-ing.  Of course that isn’t true…there was rain and wind and cloudy days…but I don’t remember a single day where the sun wasn’t shining.

So “Staying Out For the Summer” really is the song that captures the spirit of that lie.

Even now it is impossible to hear it and not feel the urge to grab the nearest bucket hat and dash into the back garden to soak up some rays…or something.

Love Spreads by The Stone Roses

21st November, 1994


“It was never going to be as good as we expected, was it? But when that opening guitar riff came in, the shivers of old ran up the spine and the hairs stood on end just like it was 1989 all over again. It was excessive and overblown compared to their unassailable debut material but it fitted the times and it rocked. And it was the fucking Stone Roses, man! No-one complained of John Squire’s obvious Jimmy Page obsession when they were cutting a fierce rug in a sweaty, churning maul at the front of a stage or in the scrum of a club. And that’s how it should be.”

(Nick Amies, author/journalist)

I can remember sitting on the floor of Dave Evan’s bedroom in Burntisland listening to The Stone Roses for the first time.


I hadn’t heard anything like it before.

I had heard everything that influenced it hundreds of times before.

It was devastating in its originality.

It was a hymn to everything I already…adored.

Cool kid was Dave.

At that point I was still singing along to “Victim of Love” by Erasure in front of my bedroom mirror.

I’ve got a lot to thank him for…I wonder if he’s on Facebook?


We had to wait a long time for “Love Spreads”.

Was it worth the wait?


Was it the record we all believe they could have made had they avoided drugs and record company squabbles?

Probably not.

You can’t spend your life wondering about the “what if’s…”

I should know…I still haven’t got over the girl I took to see The Beautiful South in concert when I was 16.

I wonder if she’s on Facebook?


Don’t I have a wife?


I won’t look for her.


Slight Return by The Bluetones

28th January 1995


Where did you go?

Truthfully they haven’t really gone anywhere.

They still play live.

Mark Morriss thrills with his solo material.

Adam Devlin amazes, amuses, astonishes and attacks us on the Twitter.

Sure there hasn’t been any new Bluetones material for a while now…but these things take time.


At the start of 1995 the wider listening public were introduced to the delicate, yet giddy, wonders of The Bluetones with this re-issue of “Slight Return”.  It was, in the eyes and hearts of many of you, an act of near wanton and perverse wickedness that I didn’t include this in the original “definitive” list.  Once again I can’t apologise…the heart wants what the heart wants. 

There is a strong case to be made for the argument that it is The Bluetones who really capture the spirit of Britpop for many, the beer soaked, Burberry clad, new lad boorishness of the scene that the media most closely associate with the era isn’t really what it was about for people like me. 

The camp peculiarities of Pulp, the openly, for the times provocatively, gay Gary Cosby of Lick, the dark therapies of Echobelly, the experimental wonders of Strangelove, the situationist glories of David Devant and His Spirit Wife, the raw power and pomp of The Flamingoes, the guitar pop thrills of hidden gems like Soda and the beauty, craft and guile of the frilly shirts of The Bluetones are the real joys of the time.

Sleep by Marion

13th February 1995


I’ve written a lot about Marion.

The week that “Sleep” was released ended the way that nearly every week between 1994 and 1997 ended, with me and my best friend Chris lurking in the Wee Red Bar at the Edinburgh College of Art on the Saturday night at The Egg.  The Egg played soul, indie and, oh joy of joys, all the weirder and more wonderful bits of Britpop…I think they had a strict no Oasis policy but things like Marion and The Bluetones were deemed acceptable.  When “Sleep” started to force its way out of the speakers I yelped with delight and told whichever hip art student lovely I had managed to convince to take to the floor with me that “I love The Smiths”.

I don’t know why.

I think it was the harmonica…it sounded a bit like “Still Ill”.

I think it was also the fact that the girl was incredibly cute.

Whatever happened to her?

Well, boys and girls of the Britpop universe, that particular girl looked at me with what I can only describe as contempt and spent the rest of the night dancing, flirting and snogging, yes snogging, Chris.

Good times.

Kung Fu by Ash

23rd April 1995





What a player.

All Gallic charm and insouciance.

The upturned collar.

The ability to control not just the ball but the atmosphere itself…I don’t mean the mood of the crowd, I mean the actual atmosphere.

He was that good.

I don’t have any skin in the game of English football…save for a soft spot for Bristol Rovers because of my love of my friend Ben…so the fact that he played for Melchester Rovers, or whatever they are called, doesn’t really come into it for me.  It’s all about the grace, style, elegance and all consuming desire to be the best player and absolute belief that you are the best player that matters to me.

I also love the damaged ones.

The ones with a hint of danger.

That’s why Maradonna is better than Ronaldo and Messi combined.  He was the best player in the world while consuming industrial amounts of cocaine, carrying a few extra pounds and generally not being particularly good at the “job” of being a footballer.

Same thing with Cantona.

He didn’t need a cryo-chamber and green tea facials to be the best player in the world at that point…he was French, he was arrogant and he was happy to launch himself into the crowd to deal with boorish ghouls who were hurling abuse at him.


As for Ash and Kung-Fu…well, it’s a diverting little guitar pop song and lots of people really like Ash.  I’m happy for them.

Sparky’s Dream by Teenage Fanclub

22nd May 1995


“I unashamedly love Teenage Fanclub and when Grand Prix came out in the middle of Britpop and they managed to nail it with tunes like this, it was like waking up to find everything on your Christmas list at the bottom of your bed. For a band that has been part of my life for over 30 years, and one which has produced music much better than their 1995 output before and after this, this is still my go-to tune for TFC whenever I put together a Britpop set or mix. It just has that chiming joy which went with the feeling that the world was changing. Briefly it did and I believe songs like this made it so.”

(Nick Amies, journalist/author)

Before there was Britpop there were the Fannies.

During Britpop there were the Fannies.

After the passing of Britpop there were the Fannies.

It really is that simple.

Teenage Fanclub were the darlings of the Byres Road indie kids for the longest time and could have remained the sort of cult concern that The Pastels are but they had grander visions and, unlike The Pastels, a genuine desire to get better.  To avoid being just another indie band or one of those bands that people name-check to show how much indier they are than thou they set about writing and recording songs of great craft, filled with melodies that would have made The Byrds turn green with envy and that you just couldn’t ignore.

No doubt there will be people reading who question their place in the Britpop pantheon but this isn’t the place for that conversation, this is a readers choice free for all and so I can only thank Nick (see above) and the handful of other souls who requested (by which I mean demanded) the inclusion of Teenage Fanclub.

London Girls by Stephen Duffy

12th June 1995


“Yes, it’s Tin Tin Duffy. He of very early Duran Duran and The Lilac Time. Yes, he is known for naff 80s stuff, pastel suits and shoulder pads. And yes, this is an absolute Britpop banger (as is Sugar High from the same eponymously titled 1995 album) which cynically dissects the Camden scene and the wannabees who infested the Good Mixer in the hope of copping off with Alex James (many of whom probably did given that he was quite the slag). A chameleon of many scene and eras, Duffy knew his target audience and this tune is beautifully pitched; both scathing and loving in equal measure. Maybe it was too close to the bone as it was and is quite widely dismissed.”

(Nick Amies, journalist/author)

I have a memory of receiving a copy of this free from Indolent Records.

Is that possible?

Did anyone else out there receive a promo copy of this through the post in 1995?

It definitely happened to me.


Maybe there was a Sleeper track on the other side?


No, I wasn’t taking drugs at that point in time.

Or any point in time.

I’m terribly boring.

Moving on.

Stephen Duffy was, of course, in Duran Duran before they became really famous.  Anyone with ears knows that Duran Duran were bloody marvellous so just having gone to school with, stood at a bus stop next to or owned a record by them makes you alright in my book.  To actually have been IN Duran Duran (and not in some awful sexual way) makes you fantastically cool.

So there Britpop snobs.

Max likes Duran Duran.

Deal with it.

“London Girls” may be the most Britpop song of the era…”…evacuate provincial suburbs, back to halls…”, “…all the pop stars in your pub, they think they’re London girls…they know the colours…think there time will last…”, “…Camden Town on Tuesday lunchtime…”, “…la la la la la, la la la la la, la la la la…”, “…don’t forget cos you’re the latest hotshot, Britpop, poet lau-re-ate…”.    What more do you want?

It’s full of loving contempt for the scene and the music business in general…wickedly funny…wonderfully catchy.


Afrodisiac by Powder

17th June 1995



I don’t know how to approach this.

My own thoughts are that Powder were…chancers.

I never really liked this song either, although I do have a place in my heart for “20th Century Gods” but I think that’s mainly because of the rarity value of my 7″ copy of it.

While we are here…I never really liked Lodger either.

Anyway, you asked for it…so here it is.

Olympian by Gene

15th July 1995









Gene were bloody good you know.

It is a great shame that they didn’t achieve what they should have…which, in case you are wondering, was to take a seat at the top table with the likes of R.E.M.  


I’m not joking.

Not even a little bit.

“Olympian” is one of very many songs that highlight just how magnificent they were, highlighting Martin Rossiter’s ability to write lyrics that caress your soul and make your heart beat a little faster and the rest of the band’s mastery of melody, hooks and riffs.  


I dunno…but it must be bloody close.

Sick and Tired by The Cardigans

25th September 1995


In a devastating blow for The Guardian newspaper I can exclusively reveal that, yes, The Cardigans were Britpop.

I know.

How can a scene that included so many female singers, guitarists and songwriters, Asians, Afro-Caribbeans, LGBT folks and now FOREIGNERS be the hotbed for the sort of  narrow, close-minded, xenophobic, sexist, flag waving, jingoism that spawned Brexit?



The Cardigans.

More Britpop and in tune with the soul of the British character than a lorry load of Keith Allen’s and Alex James cheese.


Sixties infused and enthused.




The best British band not actually from Britain?


Very possibly.

Mis-Shapes/Sorted for E’s and Wizz by Pulp

25th September 1995



Pure rock and roll.

Tasty geezers.


Refusing to bow to the man.

Here they are releasing a single that includes instructions for folding your own speed wrap, that names both ecstasy and speed in the title and that spawned a furious tabloid outrage.

You wouldn’t get the likes of Pulp pulling off something like this.

Hold on a minute.

The ‘phone is ringing.

Be right back.




That was Star Shaped DJ and Jarvis Cocker obsessive Lipgloss Jill.

According to her it wasn’t Oasis who did all that stuff what I just went and spoked about before…it was Pulp.


The nineties were mental.

In the Name of the Father by Black Grape

10th October 1995


“Perhaps only Britpop because of when they appeared, Black Grape were (are) unlike any of the other bands associated with the movement. I was (am) a huge Happy Mondays fan and when Shaun Ryder returned, it was a resurrection worthy of great celebration – and Black Grape brought the party tunes to the shindig. I remember this and Reverend Black Grape totally shaking things up and pushing everyone to even greater madness and hedonism.”

(Nick Amies, journalist/author)

Rising from the ashes of the Happy Mondays…ashes which, interesting, one could smoke, snort, inject, inhale or simply look at and get higher than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai…Black Grape were as anarchic, as poetic and as of the moment as the Monday’s but were something totally unique and separate.

At this years Star Shaped festival they sent the crowd into a frenzy of wanton abandon with their funk, hip hip-hop beats and lyrical flashes, pop sensibilities and chaotic whole.  

A magical mess of a band.

Let’s All Go Together by Marion

14th October 1995


Second entry for Marion on this list which shows quite how much love there is in the Britpop room for this band…and, specifically, for lead singer Jaime Harding.  The reason for that love isn’t difficult to figure out; “It’s not your shell they’ll love, it’s the smile inside.” he sings on “Let’s all go Together” and it is, yet another, example of his ability to write things that give voice to the fears, hopes, dreams and troubles that live inside of you.

We should be grateful that Jaime has made it through some difficult years and that, at long last, Marion exist in the now and not just in our pasts.


Pimlico EP by Pimlico



A short career.

Dismissed by John Harris as “Britpop also-rans”…which is funny because John Harris is an almost journalist who almost wrote a book about Britpop before he remembered he really wanted to be liked by the boys and girls at The Guardian and started dismissing bands like Pimlico as “also-rans”.


Pimlico were nothing short of the sort of short, sharp, sneering and sexy pop band that the world needs…the fact that they didn’t go on to become bigger than The Beatles isn’t anything to do with their songs. The truth is that the Britpop marketplace was heaving with bands and sorting out the diamonds from the rough was impossible for kids like me at the time.  

Is it too late to apologise to Miles, Andy, Pete, Alex and Wes?

I don’t think so.

I reckon they would make a splendid addition to the Star Shaped 2019 line-up…just imagine the reaction to “Barnet” or “Queenie”!

Let’s all close our eyes and pray to the Gods of Britpop that we all get the chance to make amends to a great band soon.

One thought on “Readers Lives – The Alternative Britpop 50 (part one)

  1. I’m so happy you included Olympian by Gene. From the moment i heard them perform it live,without knowing the songs name,just totally absorbed by it. My wife also loved it and yes was our song for our 1st dance at our wedding!


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