Britpop, 15-20 Years After

Do you remember the first time?

(This suggestion provided by @dtl)

Your thoughts on BritPop, 15-20 years after it happened.

My first thought on Britpop, 15-20 years after it happened is “Holy hell, there is no way that Britpop happened 15-20 years ago”. My second thought is “Oh my god. That makes me old.”.

Britpop was my music. I’ve written before about how David Bowie was the best of all musicians and songwriters, and that’s true, but if there’s a genre of music that defined me in my formative years, it was Britpop. Never in my life was I so into music than I was during the peak Britpop era of around 1994 to 2000, buying more albums than at any other time and actually purchasing music magazines like Q and Select and NME and Melody Maker (RIP Melody Maker). At university in the late 90s I went to many, many gigs, and I attended the Glastonbury Festival in 1997 1, 1998 2 and 1999 3. Music was so important back then. I couldn’t revise without listening to it. I had CDs or the radio on all the time I was in and not watching TV. So much music, but almost all of it Britpop.

I owe a lot to finding out about it due to Radio 1, mainly John Peel’s show and Jo Whiley and Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session, but also because my younger sister seemed to get into it at about the same time and she’d obsessively buy music magazines that I’d get as, er, hand-me-ups. I don’t know why the sort of music appealed to me so much at the time, but maybe it was that the 80s soppy love songs didn’t and the early 90s seemed to be mainly American bands, terrible pop, and comedy records. I didn’t hate those, but I didn’t buy the records. Well, not many of them. Britpop was something different. Mainly guitar based music, bands with gorky looking singers who seemed poor and unwashed and not rich and massively popular. What was the alternative at the time anyway? Take That and The Spice Girls? Oh please.

For Christmas in 1995 I asked for my first album on CD. Actually, it was probably the first time I ever asked for any music at all. I’d a few compilation albums that came free with Q and Select, and I’d bought some singles, obviously, and I owned a few albums I’d bought second hand or were old records my parents passed down to me (David Essex and Showaddywaddy – oh yes. Stone cold classics, I’m sure you’ll agree, but not actually mine), but this was my first, chosen by me, new release album on CD: Different Class by Pulp. I almost wore it out.

I don’t think I’ve ever played any album more times than that one, not even Crepes & Drapes by Showaddywaddy. It was on repeat for weeks, and still years later was listened to a lot. I could recite the lyrics of every track, in order, from start to finish. It was fantastic. Why I chose Pulp’s album, I’m not completely sure. Of course I loved Common People – everyone did – but I think it may have been the amount of airtime John Peel in particular gave to them. I’d heard some of their slightly earlier stuff from His ‘n’ Hers (Babies and Do You Remember the First Time?) and thought they were great, and so that was probably it. Later albums were also excellent, and I eventually picked up a lot of their back catalogue too, but Different Class was, and still is, their best.

Like a gateway drug, I was into Britpop. Of course, I was probably already into Britpop, as I’d liked Blur and stuff previously, but didn’t realise it at the time. For what it’s worth, I was on the Blur side of the Great Britpop Battle of 1995. I wasn’t a big fan of Oasis and I’m still not, but they have some undeniably fantastic tracks like Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova. The “battle” was Blur’s Country House versus Oasis’ Roll With It, and with hindsight they’re probably equally good although at the time I much preferred Blur’s. Neither were anywhere near either band’s best work, however.

Once I was into Britpop, I was really into Britpop. So many excellent bands, most of which were really of their time and very few still exist in any real way today. Some might still be going, but their time has long past.

Britpop

Then, though, it was all Ash and Mansun and Space and Elastica and Sleeper 4 and Dodgy and so on. There seemed to be just so many bands around at the time, and you know what? Pretty much all of them seemed great. Most had a short life in the charts, and now some of the tracks that made it do sound a little embarrassing (I’m looking at you now, Space), but in the late 90s music in the UK was properly awesome.

15-20 years on, Britpop is long dead. Every so often a band resurfaces, perhaps even with new material or maybe just to tour for a bit or play Glastonbury just one more time, and I do wish that maybe, just maybe, the charts will suddenly be filled again with more The Bluetones, Kenickie and Menswear, but things move on and that’s no more likely to happen now than Erasure and The Pet Shop Boys doing it. Blur’s recent album The Magic Whip, although very good, isn’t really Britpop. It’s more like a Gorillaz album than a Blur one, both musically and stylistically. Even Glastonbury, for better or worse, is less guitar band heavy than it used to be. Kanye West performed in 2015. Kanye West. I’ve nothing really against his music, to be honest, but at Glastonbury? I was watching on TV and turned it over to watch Suede instead. I suppose it’s human nature to wallow in nostalgia once you reach a certain age.

Speaking of Glastonbury, I remember one person who just seemed to know everything about the music scene at the time. He still does, actually. @stokesie was a friend of a friend at Uni. He wrote for the Uni student newspaper, doing gig reviews and stuff, and just knew everything about every band doing the rounds at the time. I’m pretty sure he was friends with some of the bands too. Drunken chats with him about music were great, and when I bumped into him at Glastonbury he tipped me off about which bands were worth going to see and which were not. I think I spent most of that year glued to the Second Stage rather than the Pyramid Stage, as the Second Stage was where all the great bands he suggested and I enjoyed were playing. He writes for Q these days, such was his love for and knowledge of music.

I suppose no article about Britpop would be complete without some sort of playlist, would it? Here are some of what I consider the best of the era:

(Spotify link here if this doesn’t work for you)

I still listen to my old music. It amuses me that when I occasionally unearth an old CD single and I want to rip it with iTunes that Gracenote 5 has no idea who Nut or Mundy are. Who remembers them? Or Bennett? Or The Young Offenders? I do.

Notes:

  1. Mud.
  2. Worse mud.
  3. OH GOD SO HOT.
  4. I vaguely remember one of the music magazines lamenting how there were so many indie bands with “er” on the end of their name, and they were all rubbish. Except “Tiger”. Tiger? Who are they?! Exactly.
  5. The service iTunes uses to recognise the CD and automatically name the tracks on it.

Nightcore

You know the score.

Once upon a time, I was looking for a particular music track on YouTube. I don’t remember which one but it was quite obscure, so not many matches came back. One that did, however, was something with the same title with the word Nightcore added. That and the thumbnail was of an anime girl. I’d discovered the rabbit hole that is Nightcore Versions of Songs. And oh my is it deep.

Things I have since discovered about Nightcore include:

  • They all have pictures of anime girls. There is no reason for this.
  • Most of them are simply pitch-bent mixes of the original track.
  • If the song exists, it’s highly likely there’s a Nightcore version.
  • Nightcore is bloody awesome.

Let us take a journey. Starting with, of course, Journey:

Boom! See? It’s incredible. And it’s just one of many versions of the same song that’s been Nightcore’d up. Next, perhaps something a little more… metal?

Continue reading “Nightcore”

David Bowie

Spaceboy, you’re sleepy now.

I don’t remember the first time I heard a Bowie song. He was always just there. My mum liked his music so it got played sometimes when I was a kid, but I don’t know the actual first Bowie track I heard. What I do remember was hearing Life on Mars? and Starman when I was little, and of course I loved Labyrinth. Fashion, Fame and Sound and Vision were memorable from my childhood too, even if perhaps – at the time – I didn’t know who sang them.

I never really got into music until my late teens, and by then it was mainly Queen and Britpop. Bowie was there (not least because of Under Pressure), but not pervasively, and although I liked his stuff I was still probably in denial that I really, really, liked his music simply because well, my mum liked it.

Then, in the mid 90s, three things happened that opened my ears properly to him: The Buddha of Suburbia, the Bowie and Pet Shop Boys’ Hallo Spaceboy, and Little Wonder. Here was David Bowie not like David Bowie was before. He wasn’t my mum’s David Bowie any more. Suddenly, I was drawn to listen to everything he’d ever done. I remember borrowing Outside from the local library and being in awe that this album was almost a Bladerunner style story in musical form. I’d never known an album like it. As well as Hallo Spaceboy, which I already knew, We Prick You and The Hearts Filthy Lesson stuck with me and have done ever since. The whole album is incredible, but somehow is perhaps the his least mentioned.

With the floodgates open I was a massive fan. I can honestly say there has never been anyone in music who has been so diverse, so creative, and so talented. I can’t name a single track of his I dislike. Even the “comedy” songs like The Laughing Gnome are still great. He’s far and away my favourite singer, songwriter, performer… whatever you need to mark him as. And do you know something? I don’t even think he’s that fantastic a singer. Sure, he can sing, but so many people have a better voice. But it’s not about how he sings – it’s all about what he sings.

David BowieI, like many others, awoke on Monday morning to the news that he’d died. After the shock, and it was shock because he wasn’t that old, wasn’t (publicly) known to be ill, and always seemed he be around forever, reinventing himself every couple of albums – after that, I was sad. I was very sad. Famous people I’ve never met die all the time and I’m not sad. Terry Pratchett died last year and I was sad, but David Bowie? Terribly sad with actual tears. However stupid that may seem, and I can’t explain why exactly. He wasn’t my friend. I didn’t want to be him. He didn’t change my life. He seemed to genuinely be a thoroughly nice man, and he was always there, always in my music collection. Always the go-to whenever I wanted to listen to music. Even when I put iTunes on shuffle his tracks turn up one time in three: It’s actually become a joke with my wife and my colleagues. She even says it’s my “David Bowie Pod”. As I listened, of course, to him on random on the bus on the way to work, Where Are We Now? from The Next Day started playing, and melancholy properly sat in. I hadn’t realised how sad the song was before.

And here’s a reason to be properly sad: There will never be any new David Bowie songs.

Just last week he released what would be his final album – Blackstar. I’ve listened to it yet, but was pointed at the video for the track Lazarus. It’s below, unless Youtube have taken it down, but don’t watch it if you’re likely to feel down due to Bowie’s death. He’s saying goodbye and it’s really upsetting.

RIP David Bowie.

iTunes Insight

(shamelessly stolen from The Jim Manka-Taylor Project)

Directions: Open iTunes/iPod or Windows Media Player to answer the following. Go to your library. Answer, no matter how embarrassing it is.

How many songs:
1559

Sort by song title
First song: Absolute Beginners – David Bowie
Last song: 1984 – David Bowie

Sort by time
Shortest Song: Hello, MOM – Kyle Gabler
Longest Song: These Dreams – Robbie Williams

Sort by album
First Song: Aladdin Sane – David Bowie
Last Song: World of Goo soundtrack – Kyle Gabler

Top 5 Most Played Songs no cheating
Lights – Editors
Meddle – Little Boots
Come and Gone – Snuff
Give Me Daughters – Jonathan Fire*Eater
Smile, it’s Sugar – Spare Snare

First 5 songs that come up on Shuffle
The Scientist – Natasha Beddingfield
Mark of the Devil – Pulp
My Virtual World of Goo Corporation – Kyle Gabler
I’m Feeling Fine – Bugsy Malone OST
Something Changed – Pulp

Search
1. Sex‚ How many songs come up: 8
2. Death‚ How many songs come up: 3
3. Love, How many songs come up: 68
4. You‚ How many songs come up: 178
5. love and you, How many songs come up: 16