It’s fair to say that on the whole, most of us can’t get enough of nostalgia. The desire to revisit key moments in cultural history will always evoke strong positive memories and the association of what went on over those periods of the past.
When it comes to the relationship between what we deem ‘retro’ and the world of music is constantly repeating. Indeed, the music industry lives for the association, helping shift units and sell out anniversary tours.
When it comes to Britpop, an era that ran ostensibly from the early 90s up until the end of the decade, it appears that this period in musical history is still one that generates a great deal of fond recollections and the wealth of quality music that was created over those years is still highly regarded.
Perhaps what is most stark about the Britpop era is the fact that it not only sent shock-waves through the British psyche; it did the same in the US, across Europe and beyond. This is perhaps the greatest compliment you can give to that time in the chronology of music.
Throughout the 1980s, a wave of English acts broke the prized American markets. What followed was something of a lull, which was broken by a new breed of bands that saw their influences, in turn, come from previous generations of hugely successful British acts.
It would be fair to say that the Creation label had a great deal to do with the jump start needed to create the necessary publicity to push their top act – a Manchester band by the name of Oasis.
Even before they had even made a release, Oasis were selling out major venues. Such was the (well deserved) hype that surrounded the band. It turns out that they were very much the engine that Britpop would run off in the coming years.
Fronted by the ubiquitous Gallagher brothers, Noel and Liam, their raw energy excited the UK’s youthful market. Their debut album, Definitely Maybe, was soon flying off the shelves. The bad boys of Britpop’s marketability led to a raft of acts being signed to meet the insatiable need that was starting to form.
Battle of the Bands
Keen to further boost sales, a somewhat contrived rivalry was formed between Oasis and southern outfit Blur. It led to the bands’ antics growing out of the music press news into national coverage, which generated additional revenue.
Indeed, the original fodder for the battle of the two bands related to the fight for the number one single between Oasis’s anthem Roll With It and Blur’s Country House. The latter incorporated Damien Hirst’s visual style, which made the video itself a cult classic. It incidentally shows just how adding music to video can prove crucial when you want the two to gel well. It turns out that Blur won that particular battle, with sales of over 250,000 within the space of a single week. However, Oasis would ultimately win the war with their albums consistently outselling Damon Albarn and co.
The Supporting Cast
Much as during the 1960s heyday or British success across the world, fronted at that time by The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, had the likes of The Kinks, Pink Floyd and The Who to back them up in the overall piece, so did Britpop.
Arguably it was Suede who really kicked off Britpop with their debut album preceding Oasis’s debut by 18 months, and one mustn’t overlook legends such as Radiohead, Pulp, The Verve as well as earlier acts who secured additional spotlight from the Britpop scene, like The Stone Roses and The Charlatans.
Depending on which social commentator you care to quote, the whole ethos of Britpop either fueled or was fueled by a sense of the UK turning over a new leaf. Buoyed by the departure of Margaret Thatcher and welcoming in Tony Blair, for a political age that appeared to be full of promise.
Other cultural areas were also blossoming afresh. The art scene was reborn through the likes of Damien Hirst, and the fashion scene brought with it a sense of ‘cool’ that had perhaps evaded the nation for the best part of three decades.
In 2020, the Britpop era’s musical impact is still lauded and very much revered.
Acts fed off this influence, and the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay and Keane took on the baton. Even today, outside of the COVID-19 era that has put a lot of our lives on pause, the many acts that comprised the Britpop umbrella continue to play to crowds and still shift countless copies, and streams, of those classics that still (on the whole) sound as fresh as they did all those years ago.
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