The mid-90s was a golden era for British music, with several fine bands all coming good at the same time.
There was, though, little camaraderie among the practitioners of what came to be called ‘Britpop’ – as evidenced by the 1995 chart war between the top two bands of the genre, the arty pop-oriented middle-class Londoners Blur, and the proletarian Northern rockers Oasis.
The mutual sniping of the two groups came to a head in August 95 when Blur moved the release date of their single Country House to 14 August – the same date that Oasis were releasing their single Roll With It.
When asked if the comparison was valid, Noel Gallagher of Oasis replied “we’re The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and they’re the fucking Monkees“.
Country House made it to #1 on 26 August. But while Blur won the battle, Oasis ultimately won the war, with their bad-boy chic and classic rock shapes leading to global domination.
It was over the weekend of 10 and 11 August 1996, that Britpop peaked.
When Noel, Liam, Bonehead, Guigsy and Alan White played Knebworth Park in front of 125,000 people each night. Over two and a half million people tried to get tickets. It was (at the time) the biggest gig in UK musical history.
A year later, Oasis’ third album, Be Here Now, came out and became a symbol of everything that would go wrong with Britpop. Too many drugs. No quality control. Songs that were nine minutes long because nobody was telling Noel Gallagher they shouldn’t be.
The trouble was, it sold 350,000 copies on the day it came out and became the UK’s fastest-selling album ever . . .
Every young band in Britain wanted a piece of that action, and the record labels queued up to sign Oasis-clones – anything with sunglasses, a wonky walk and a Supersonic fuzz pedal – by the skipload. The borders of Britpop were flooded.
In short order the scene stopped being about artful arch-British pop music and became an endless parade of Noelrock dullards. And in the end, Britpop drowned on its own dreary rock vomit.