Get ready for a long year of Brit Pop nostalgia, because we’re about to celebrate the 20th anniversaries of some of the era’s most iconic albums. Perhaps most notable among them is Blur’s Parklife, which perfectly captured the hyper-Londonicity of Brit Pop’s aesthetic, part mod, part Northern Soul, exceptionally druggy, and absolutely filthy with pop hooks. Also: those trainers, those haircuts. NME has an oral history of the record posted today:
Graham Coxon: “This is around the time I was falling in love with French music. There was a lot of French influence on songs like ‘To The End’.” Stephen Street: “‘This Is A Low’ is a strange one because we’d recorded the backing track but Damon didn’t have a final lyric for it. That sat unfinished for a long time until Alex bought Damon a present wrapped in paper that had all the Marine naval districts around the UK on it, and that triggered something in Damon. “There was also a song on the album called the ‘The Debt Collector’ and Damon was planning to write a poem about a nasty debt collector, and Phil [Daniels] was going to play the character reciting the story. But Damon hadn’t come up with anything he was happy with. At this stage we’d recorded ‘Parklife’ and were all thoroughly sick of it – it wasn’t sounding great. Damon was doing the monologue in the verses and doing fine, but we were thinking it had to be a single, so we’d been too meticulous about it and got thoroughly bored with it and put it to one side. Then we thought, ‘Hold on, why don’t we see if we can save ‘Parklife’ by letting Phil have a go at it?’ Phil came in one evening, we did three or four takes, and it saved the song.”
“To the End” is, incidentally, the best song on the record all these years later. Probably not a popular opinion, but its breezy take on the disaster of heartbreak still fills me with sadness and joy in equal measure.
Elsewhere, this piece in the Guardian from this week about some of Brit Pop’s second tier players is a pretty great, if at times depressing read, following up on the likes of Marion, Menswe@r, Dodgy, and the Bluetones, who were always vastly underrated if you ask me. Stereogum has their own “where are they now”, checking in with Blur, Elastica, Richard Ashcroft and company.