With BBC Radio recently commemorating 20 years since the break through of Britpop, it’s safe to say that pioneers of this ever-so-popular type of music indie rockers, Blur, are back on everybody’s radar. Now we have to wait and see if they are ready to compete again with the likes of Biffy and Co.?
Today, the band are celebrating being catapulted back into fame with the help of a land far from the tiny island of Britain that made them so popular. Over in Hong Kong, music industry tycoons are welcoming some of Britain’s biggest indie stars into their smaller venues, with cash rich cities like Macau dying to get their hands on the indie rockers.
It’s no wonder that the city can afford to host some of the 90s’ biggest rock stars – known for its casinos, Macau has been making mega moolah for some years now, which can only come as a bigger incentive for Damon Albarn and his crew to perform there.
But what was the fascination with Blur that made them such an icon of British culture? Back in the 90s, while grunge rockers Nirvana were rocking the teenagers’ worlds over in the United States, London-based Blur wanted to stick two fingers up at the dreary, pessimistic tones of the newest fad. So ensued Britpop – indie rock music based around British artists, where every member of the band was important (not just the lead singer, as had been the trend pre-1994) and where people would sing in their regional accents rather than conforming to the fake American accents of yore. Since the beginning many more successful bands have also emerged from Scotland, just think of Biffy Clyro, The Fratellis, Frightened Rabbit and Glasvegas to name but a few.
Of course, regional accent was a big factor for Britpop, and indeed geography may have been the reason for one of the biggest feuds in music history. Step forward, Oasis – inspired by The Beatles, and the north of England’s answer to Blur. Whilst rocking out was the core ethos of Indie, so too was not giving a stuff, and you couldn’t be a famous artist in the 90s without upsetting a few other music makers. And yet the musicians from Scotland kept out of the mud fight and carried on doing what they do best – focusing on their success. And let’s not forget, it was Biffy who brought back together the feuding Gallagher brothers in 2009.
While the music was always at the forefront in Scotland, the Brits went for each other making headlines through nasty comments and rude behaviour rather than their music.
The likes of Franz Ferdinand and Teenage Fanclub – also lovingly called the Fannies – were far too busy to squabble with their Rivals.
So how did this feud with Blur and Oasis reach its crescendo? In 1997, on the day that Oasis decided to release one of their biggest hits, ‘Roll With It’, Blur took the tactical decision to release ‘Country House’ at the same time. What ensued was one of the biggest chart battles in history, and Blur came out on top, rocketing to number 1 with 274,000 copies sold.
Of course, Blur let bygones be bygones, and today, the bands have ended their feud, with band members Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn both attending the same Teenage Cancer Trust and standing on stage together in 2013.
It’s good to see that Blur have now grown up a little since the days of slagging off Nirvana – and there’s no doubt that with their 20th anniversary and their new-found popularity in Hong Kong, the band will continue to prosper. It will be interesting to see which artists will be lining up to play in the far east to entertain the folks with British indie rock, so if you make it across there it might be worth checking if one of your favourites might be playing at the time.