“Can you remember what you were doing at the height of Britpop? Perhaps you were running the country? Bands like Damon Albarn’s Blur furnished the soundtrack to the early Blair Years, ‘Cool Britannia’ and all that’.
Er? No, except they didn’t did they?
Britpop was at its zenith between 1992-1995 (at its peak around 1995’s Oasis Vs Blur feud) all firmly within and during the Conservative years of John Major’s government and by the time Blair gained power in 1997 and attempted to co-opt the sound and cool factor for New Labour propaganda it was, as a scene pretty much on its way out and maturing into something quite different in the face of mainstream media hype and anyone who used the term ‘Britpop’ to describe their musical tastes in ’97 would have been seen as being rather naff and possibly a bit of a poseur than a fan.
It’s true though that both Pulp & Blur released what I think are their best albums of that scene around that period. Pulp with the wonderful ‘This Is Hardcore’ in ’98 and Blur with ‘Blur’ in ’97 but that was a last surge of creativity as things seemed to come to a natural halt with the bands who’d been slogging away and ever changing their style since the 1980s C86 shoegazing movement, then hurriedly through both the ‘Grebo’ & ‘Baggy’ fashions. Some clearly worn out after the slog of getting onto Top Of The Pops and noticed by the NME long before the Britpop craze reached its peak, others were keen to shift indie on into other areas and reinvent themselves for a new decade such as the a more clearly ‘rock’ based sound which was finding favour during a resurgence in the generic ‘Alternative’ music scene which would dominate for most of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Most of the leading lights of ‘Britpop’ actually split up in the years 1997/1998 (their ranks include such stalwarts as- Sleeper, Lush, These Animal Men, Menswear) so it can hardly be said that Blair rode in on a wave of Cool Britannia rather than he attempted to go for a paddle as the tide was going out. I’m not sure where this myth originates but I think it could very well be with Blair, after all New Labour were brilliant at self-promotion and smarmily latching onto things which seemed to offer some semblance of credibility with the young voters. Or maybe we remember it that way because we’d like to think that the biggest explosion in creativity and self confidence in a sort of British identity for the modern age which whilst nostalgic was undeniably ‘now’. For a time we couldn’t go wrong in everything from fashion, music, film (Trainspotting springs to mind), art (the YBA’s ‘BritArt’) and even Comedy, touted as being the ‘New Rock n’ Roll’ at the time oddly enough. Maybe we’d justrather pretend that it didn’t happen under the watch of a Prime Minister so characterless he was often portrayed as having grey skin and a nerdy voice by the Spitting Image to the cartoonist Bell. So Blair got all the glory and in the process he possibly killed Britpop, without anything to kick against anything approaching the angst which often sees a rise in such creativity soon fizzled out as Noel Gallagher supped champers with Tony and Albarn legged it to Iceland for a bit in a sort of self imposed exile.
Politicians of any stripe pretending to know or care about pop culture are just as embarrassing as the shyster talking heads for hire and self professed street culture experts who propagate these half remembered things as facts on TV items and thoughtful articles (such as this one).
As for what I was doing during Britpop, well for the latter half I was pretending to be at Art College whilst doing very little to be creative and wore the then appropriate ‘Indie Kid Uniform’ of charity shop long black overcoat, clumpy boots and floppy home cut fringed hair.