“Modern Life is Rubbish” had dragged Blur back from the brink of oblivion…and, at the same time, had helped deliver, a near fatal, blow to the cultural dominance of grunge. With Cobain and his cohorts on the retreat the kids turned back towards homegrown pleasures. Britpop was, by 1994, a thing…it had a look, a sound and an audience.
The times they had-a-changed and Blur were about to become, rather unexpectedly, the biggest band in the country…maybe even in the world.
The “Parklife” singles would represent the shift from pretenders to the throne, to Kings of the pop world.
Girls and Boys – March 7th, 1994
I have two memories about hearing “Girls and Boys” for the first time.
Neither one of them may be accurate.
Neither one of them may even be inaccurate…they may well be complete fabrications.
Funny how the mind works.
I am sitting on the floor of my digs in Paisley.
An attic bedroom in the home of Edna and Danny Stables.
My dad pays the rent which includes the washing, but not ironing, of my clobber as well as breakfast and an evening meal when I would like; Edna’s speciality is very crispy bacon with cabbage.
You access the room via a narrow stairway and it is furnished with a television, a bed and a long dressing table type affair against one wall.
Hold on, I’ll show you…
I’m listening to the Evening Session.
They are going to be playing the brand new single from Blur.
This, after about a year of modelling myself on the “Modern Life is Rubbish” look is big news. Blur have become the most important band in what passes for my life.
I am beyond excited.
A Casio keyboard.
A squelchy, squidgy, bass.
Like a disco record if that disco record had been made by people who thought that disco was the Village People.
I didn’t like it.
I am inside Stereo One in Paisley.
I have bought the new single by Blur, “Girls and Boys” on cassette because it looks like a packet of condoms…
I have also bought it on CD.
I am now back in my digs…an upstairs attic bedroom in the home Edna and Danny Stables.
I don’t want to damage the packaging on the tape because I am convinced it is going to be worth many hundreds of pounds in about six months time.
I put the CD on and listen.
I listen all the way through.
I don’t like it.
Why didn’t I like it in either one of these “memories”?
I do know.
That, to the young music lover, is the greatest crime a band can commit…to change.
How could they do that to me?
Next thing you know they won’t be wearing suit jackets and DM’s but will be in trainers.
But then a strange thing happened.
I decided to try again.
I liked it a bit better.
A little bit more.
I liked it.
I couldn’t get it out of my head.
This, it was clear, was Blur’s attempt to break out of the confines of the indie scene and become a genuine pop group…but on their terms.
No “oh baby, I like your gravy” or “I like the moon, when I eat it with a spoon, in June” (if Noel Gallagher is looking in, no, you cannot use either of those).
This was a blistering take on the vulgarities of the 18-30 holiday scene…the hedonism, the liberation, the sexual freedoms; it all sounded brilliant but awful at the same time.
“Streets like a jungle…”?
Take a walk down any High Street in any major, or minor, town in the UK and tell me the answer to that on a Saturday night.
To The End – May 30th, 1994
Backstage at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on the “Parklife” tour I sit on the left hand side of Damon Albarn as he tells the gathered throng of girls and boys who all adore him that their next single is going to be number one because Radio 2 and housewives will love it.
In the end, “To the End” only made it to number 16.
It was a gorgeous, grand, glittering and glorious pop song.
Laced through with strings and romance it was a song to break your heart and help you win the heart of the girl you loved.
Gosh, it’s 2019, let’s just live a little, yea?
The fact that they not only recorded a version in French but then recorded another version with the none more cool, or beautiful, Francoise Hardy (pronounced “Will you marry me please Francoise?) simply cements its place as one of the coolest songs they ever recorded.
What else do you want?
Parklife – August 22nd, 1994
Bit tricky this one.
Let’s do two versions to keep everyone happy.
“Parklife” is the sound of the summer.
It’s a jolly jape of a pop song.
The video is just such great fun.
It sits right up there beside “Country House” as one of the definitive sounds of Britpop.
Happy with that?
That’s all I have to say about “Parlklife”.
See you next time guys.
I hate “Parklife”.
I think it’s a bit rubbish.
Let’s leave it at that.
I’m not posting the video.
End of a Century – November 7th, 1994
For an album that is, correctly, regarded as one of the best of the era and, arguably, one of the best pop records by a British band ever the choice of singles is…questionable.
“End of a Century” is a lovely song.
Full of yearing and, again, romance.
A bit maudlin.
It reached number nineteen in the charts…which is about right, if not a bit generous.
“Jubilee” is more fun.
“This is a Low” is a masterpiece.
Both of them would have made better singles.
But, truthfully, there are not actually many big hits on “Parklife”…it is an album that works as a whole, it is difficult to remove individual songs and have them work outside of that whole.