This week in 1994, Blur released “Parklife”. 20 years later, The Guardian newspaper published a couple of pieces on Britpop that made my blood boil. Here’s the first, by Michael Hann, and here’s the second, by Paul Lester.
There’s loads to hate about the times as portrayed in those articles. Yes, a life of drug-fuelled showing off in the public eye is never going to be a lot of fun in retrospect. And when you look at what has happened to popular culture since, it does look rather like everything that’s happened post 1997 has been a race to the bottom in pursuit of the lowest common denominator. Not to mention embarrassing photographs taken at a champagne reception with an alleged war criminal.
What is happening during “The 20th Anniversary of Britpop” is a wholesale flushing away of babies with bathwater. Back in 1994 nobody felt the hand of history upon their shoulders. Those of us that were writing songs, crate-digging for interesting records, writing think-pieces in obscure publications, drinking and dancing and screwing, were too busy to have an eye on a future legacy. We had no idea what was around the corner, though we hoped it would be better than the road we’d been travelling along hitherto. What became known as the Britpop era was home to both a very simple concept (pop music made by people in Britain) and a whole host of disparate, occasionally conflicting influences. The bands that rose to prominence during the mid-90’s didn’t come from nowhere, although some of them seem to have risen without trace. They arose from a generation who sought to fashion the elastic jumble of pop culture’s past into something new.
It didn’t always work, and it wasn’t always brilliant. But the intentions of that generation, my generation, our generation, were good. One day someone will tell our side of the story.