The news of a new Blur tour in 2023 got us reminiscing about Britpop – what seemed to us the golden age of pop music, the likes of which we may never see again. The UK was right at the heart of a musical revolution in the mid-90s and it was wonderful.
We thought we would indulge ourselves with an article dedicated to the history of Britpop and Blur – the chart battle with Oasis, the spats at the Brit awards, the gigs, the much-loved songs, the videos. Choose a side for the battle of Britpop and let’s revel in it.
We will also be looking ahead to the Blur tour, particularly the much anticipated dates for Blur at Wembley Stadium – and how you could get exclusive access for an unmissable night of classic Britpop!
A quick history of Britpop
Britpop wasn’t just about the music, it was a cultural movement, similar to the 1960s – where guitar pop ruled the airwaves, with bright catchy melodies and insightful lyrics. A combination of punk, rock & roll, glam rock and indie – a reaction to the darker grunge scene that was coming out of America at the time.
When Blur released their single, Popscene, in the spring of 1992, around the same time as Suede released their debut single The Drowners, is thought to be the birth of Britpop. In fact, Suede are often overlooked by the musical press when discussing Britpop, but their self-titled debut album was the fastest-selling debut album of all time.
At the time, Damon Albarn and the rest of Blur (Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree) were spending a lot of time hanging out in London’s vibrant social scene, centred around a club called Syndrome in Oxford Street. Bands would meet there, play their music on stage and hang out.
The movement was growing, but it was in 1993 when things began to escalate. Blur had toured America in ’92, during which Damon Albarn had grown resentful of American culture, particularly how it was beginning to infiltrate the UK. Blur’s second album, Modern Life is Rubbish, released in 1993, was a reflection of that. It was a bigger hit with fans, but Britpop was still just simmering, waiting for the moment to explode.
In 1994 Blur released their third album, Parklife, and it was a massive hit. Blur were then one of the biggest bands in the UK and British rock music became the dominant genre in the charts – inadvertently helped by the suicide of Kurt Cobain. Oasis released their debut album, Definitely Maybe, which took Suede’s record of best selling debut albums. The term ‘Britpop’ was by now in common parlance. It had officially arrived.
At the 1995 Brit Awards, Blur won Best Album for Parklife, beating Oasis and Definitely Maybe. The rivalry had begun…
Blur vs Oasis – The Battle of Britpop
Contrary to what came after it, Blur and Oasis were actually complimentary towards each other in the beginning. But a rivalry was stirred up in the media. It was North vs South. Upper Middle Class vs Working Class. Liam and Noel Gallagher were built for this kind of rivalry, calling Blur “Chas & Dave chimney sweep music”, while Blur retorted, referring to Oasis as “Oasis Quo”.
To be cynical about it, the rivalry benefitted both bands. There was a much publicised battle to get to number one, as Blurs Country House was released on the same day as Oasis’ Roll With It. Country House made it to number one, but both singles sold over 200,000 copies thanks to the publicity behind the rivalry.
During their ‘Number One’ performance of Country House on Top of the Pops Alex James wore an Oasis t-shirt.
Since the dust has settled on The Battle of Britpop, Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher have become good friends, and collaborated together on each other’s music. They don’t talk about the events of the mid-nineties, but they have a great respect for each other. Albarn commented “I value my friendship with Noel because he is one of the only people who went through what I did in the Nineties.”
The Peak of Britpop
By 1996, Britpop was everywhere. Pulp had released the album Different Class in 1995 and had made up the Big Four of Britpop with Blur, Oasis and Suede. They were far from the only ones though – Supergrass, Sleeper, Elastica, Shed Seven, Cast, The Lightning Seeds, Ocean Colour Scene and the Boo Radleys were all at the heart of this wave.
Britpop was reflected in the wider culture. TFI Friday, Three Lions (the anthem of Euro ’96), the NME, lad’s mags, bucket hats – even the politics when in 1997 the stuffy John Major was replaced as Prime Minister by a youthful Tony Blair. It all reflected the attitude and optimism of Britpop.
In 1997, Oasis released Be Here Now – one of the most highly anticipated albums of all time, on the back of 1996’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? It was a success, but not to the extent that everyone had predicted and hoped. Musical press at the time criticised it for being over-produced, taking away the raw grit of previous records. At the same time, Damon Albarn had got over his dislike of everything American, with their self-titled fifth album having major influences from the States.
This came at a time when Britpop was being challenged in the charts – the Spice Girls brought with them a fresh wave of Pop, while bands like Radiohead and The Verve were releasing music with more depth, which appealed to the public. These were followed by Stereophonics, Travis and Coldplay to signal a new era of British rock music.
The end of Britpop did not mean the end of Blur. They changed with the times, and Graham Coxon took on a more prominent role within the band’s makeup. He was the driving force behind the album Blur, bringing lo-fi and underground influences. This alienated many Blur fans, but critics, who gave it positive reviews, widely applauded the courage to reinvent themselves. Song 2, from the album, became their most recognisable songs in America, giving them a whole new audience.
In 1999 they released the album 13, featuring the hits Tender and Coffee & TV. It was a further step away from the Britpop sound, but again it received praise from music critics.
They spent the next two years touring, before hitting the studio again in late 2001. Before they had finished recording, however, Graham Coxon left the band – recognising that they “needed some time apart”. He went on to pursue a solo career, and while Blur kept releasing music after he left, the band members also pursued their own endeavours. Damon Albarn worked on the animated band Gorillaz, while Alex James worked with Sophie Ellis-Bextor and made some cheese.
The Blur Reunion
In December 2008, Blur announced that the original lineup would reform for a concert at Hyde Park – the preview shows at the Manchester Evening News Arena were the first times they had been on stage together for 9 years. They also headlined Glastonbury Festival that summer, and released their second greatest hits album.
It wasn’t until 2015 that Blur released their next studio album – their first one in twelve years. Shortly after they toured the album, however, they announced another hiatus, which has remained in place other than a brief reunion for a charity event in 2019.
Blur Tour 2023
In November 2022, they announced that they would be performing at London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th July 2023 – the only UK appearance for the foreseeable future. They added the second date due to the phenomenal demand of the first show.
It will be their first ever gig at Wembley Stadium, and promises to be an incredible experience with support from Slowthai and Self Esteem.
How to get tickets for Blur at Wembley Stadium
As we mentioned above, demand for the Wembley shows has been huge. Getting tickets is difficult. However, one option for you to consider is hospitality tickets. We offer a range of options from Club Wembley tickets, which will grant you exclusive access to a range of bars and lounges throughout the stadium, to the Golden hospitality package, which gets you access to an exclusive hospitality lounge, complimentary drinks (beers, wine and soft drinks) and access to the Club Wembley after-party.
Then there is also the option of a Private Box, with a full menu served before the concert, and nibbles, drinks and a 5-star service available throughout. The perfect setup for an unmissable night of great music and classic songs.
If you are interested in any of these packages, get in touch with us today.